Leaders in the title industry have all experienced housing market downturns in the past. In response to previous downturns, many title companies focused on becoming more efficient, sourcing new lines of business, and looking for ways to differentiate themselves from competitors.
As businesses navigate today’s challenging market, many are looking for the best way to position their business for the future. At ALTA Springboard 2023, Qualia’s Director of Title Strategy, Alex Brown, moderated a discussion featuring title industry experts, Jim Blair IV, CEO at Fig, Kathy Kwak, COO at Proper Title LLC, and Julia Malueg, Managing Counsel at Redstone Title Services LLC. They shared their insights on identifying operational improvements to build for the future.
Have a deep understanding of your customers to provide better service
Many title companies focus on customer service to differentiate themselves from their competitors, improve their business reputation, and gain new business—especially during periods of lower transaction volume. Taking the time to understand customer needs can help title companies prioritize how to invest their limited resources. Kwak said, “I’m not going to be able to figure out how to be operationally efficient without understanding what our customers’ needs are.” She added that at her organization, she relies on her sales team (who are communicating with customers and prospects daily) to provide invaluable insight into customer needs. From there, Kwak’s team is able to design processes that work for customers.
When designing customer-facing processes, it’s also important to understand customers’ technology preferences during closings. Blair said his team at Fig uses technology to provide customers with a wide range of closing options. “We’re focused on meeting customers where they’re at with technology, having options so they can choose their own story, and leveraging technology to deliver that experience.” This strategy enables Fig to work with many types of customers regardless of their comfort level with technology.
Leverage technology to deliver a ‘flawlessly executed process’
The real estate industry is always evolving due to changing customer needs and market conditions. To weather these changes, title companies need to continuously evaluate and improve their processes. Malueg said that her team regularly meets with internal team members and business partners to evaluate processes. During these meetings, they ask questions like, “what does your process look like? How is my process impacting your process? And what can I fix on my side to make your life better?” These regular meetings have enabled Malueg’s team to identify process improvements that have dramatically improved efficiency. For example, Malueg shared that these conversations helped her team create better processes with their lenders and underwriters, which led to faster turnaround times.
Blair’s team takes a similar approach when evaluating processes. He said his team examines their current processes and maps them to their existing tech stack. After that, they look at additional opportunities within their technology to make processes more effective. This approach enables his team to get the most out of their technology while also creating a better customer experience. The result is a smooth process that dazzles customers. “What looks like magic on the outside to our customers…is just a flawlessly executed process.”
Master change management to make processes more effective over time
Designing new processes is just one step toward creating a resilient title operation. After that, business leaders must use an effective change management strategy to ensure that employees understand new processes and adopt them long-term.
When implementing new processes, Malueg encouraged leaders to focus on employee experience. She said that employees need to believe in new processes and that any changes need to benefit the employees themselves for them to be successful over time. Malueg explained that updating processes can be a “painful conversation” and that it can take time to get right. But, she shared that in her experience, going through these exercises resulted in consistent processes and better operational efficiency.
Change management can be an often overlooked component of improving processes. Blair said that after building new processes, leaders need to “almost double the amount of effort” when rolling out processes to their larger team. One strategy he suggested was creating advocates from multiple parts of an organization. For example, he encouraged leaders to involve “trainers and complainers to get buy-in across the board.” In doing so, leaders can identify employee concerns and help them understand the rationale behind process improvements. Getting employee buy-in early on can make process improvements more effective over time and make employees comfortable with the idea that change is needed to propel their company into future success.
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