That's probably just what the owner of one local mortgage brokerage firm told himself recently when he decided to leave me hanging there for almost three months like a dried up Christmas wreath in March. No big deal. A minor casualty. He was an idiot with marginal credit, anyway. Or something like that.
In my unrelenting pursuit of a refinanced mortgage, I didn't get the refinancing in the end, so I guess he got the last laugh. Or did he?
It all started in August, when my wife and I got a call from one of dozens of hungry mortgage brokers begging to give me the ultimate dream mortgage when rates were at historic lows. For the sake of this column, I'll call him "J."
Certainly, we were interested in lower mortgage payments and maybe even a shorter term on my loan. He assured us that he would be able to get us a great rate and that the whole process would take no time at all-and would cost us no money up front. "Fine," we said. "See what you can do."
He came back with incredible rates and a promise that, barring any unusual, unforeseen difficulties-and he didn't think there would be any-our loan should be approved within a few days, and we could close within a week.
At least two weeks, an appraisal and lots of paperwork later, he regretted to inform us that we couldn't get that rate. But maybe he could try again-if we'd be willing to pay a slightly higher rate. You see, given our situation, we wouldn't be able to get a conventional loan, he told us. So it may be the higher rate or nothing. Again, after a lengthy wait, no deal.
Once more, he said he would try at still a higher rate-rates had gone up since we last talked, he noted. This company surely would take us, he said, and we should know within 72 hours at the latest.
Then a really odd thing happened.
Seventy-two hours passed, so I called him and left a message. Several days later, I tried again. I called him every weekday for more than two weeks after that. Still no reply. One day, his associate put me on hold for 11 minutes before finally telling me J. was still on the phone with an important call. And one evening I got a hold of whom I thought was J. until he told me he was J.'s son and that he'd gladly leave a message for me.
After three weeks, I finally received a generic loan-denial form with no explanation or apology, just a signature at the bottom. Finally I reached J.'s assistant, who said he knew nothing about his proposed deal with me, but that he would see what he could do. "Oh, and by the way," I asked, "does J. have a son who works there?" "No," the assistant said.
A day later, the assistant came back with an interest-rate proposal that actually was five basis points higher than my existing mortgage. And I never did get to speak to J. again.
As far as I can see, J. made only one serious business mistake. It's not that he should have landed me a new mortgage at a reasonable rate. I can live with the fact that I couldn't refinance my mortgage. What I can't live with is his total disregard-and dishonesty-toward me, the customer. But even that wasn't his big mistake.
His big mistake - and it's one made by more local companies than I can count - is that he obviously viewed me as just one lousy customer. He couldn't make money off of me, so he treated me like dirt. But so what? He had plenty of prospects in line without me.
What he didn't seem to consider was that I know lots of people and that I meet dozens of new people each week and that I may have an audience of 23,000 executives who read what I have to say. And that I may feel compelled to share my experience, my dismay, with each one. The multiplier effect holds true here, without question, which is why you should treat every customer as if he or she maintains a global circle of influence.
But the same holds true when you treat a customer with kindness and respect. If someone treats me well, I always spread the word.
Indeed, it's called word of mouth, and it can prove the most significant and cost-effective result of good customer service. By treating your customers right-even if you don't make a sale right now-chances are that you've now created an ambassador whose testimony will prove more effective to more people than a sales pitch from your best sales representative.
J. didn't get it. He wanted the sale, but not the customer. He wanted the revenue without the relationship. What he's getting in the end is probably more than he bargained for.
But I'll let his son be the judge of that.
In the meantime, I thank you for your patronage this year and wish for all of you a happy and healthy holiday season and a prosperous new year.