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 July 1, 1999

Access to information puts consumer in charge

As our economy has shifted over the last decade — from service and products-based to information-based — the roles of the various players has changed as well. Gone are the days when nervous consumers would walk timidly into a financial services office, (glancing around like scared deer at a watering hole frequented by lions), only to be treated as though they were mere pawns on the economic chessboard of life.

Consumers are now in charge.

In the previous economy, where information was controlled by service providers who were paid for its distribution, consumers were relegated to the passive role of recipient. They received services, such as mortgage loans, and in return for these loans they paid the providers commissioned fees.

A large part of the services was information that was often confusing, closely held, arcane, cryptic, and almost mystical in its interpretive potential. Perhaps the most challenging part of accessing this information was determining price/value issues that allowed true comparison-shopping for such services.

Today, consumers are no longer deprived of access to information about services. Web access, extreme competition, and a breakdown of geographically based competition in favor of electronically based competition have all contributed to a new economic model.

In this new arena, service providers (such as mortgage lenders) have a new level of price and value competitiveness that they need to demonstrate to earn the consumer’s business. If they don’t, the consumer now has choices that extend beyond the borders of one town, city, county, state or even country.

Intelligent consumers and service providers now have an opportunity to redefine the basis for services being offered to the public. Consumers now can accurately and precisely define their needs to a service provider who can, in return, provide those needs on a virtually customized basis, and at a price point far below yesterday’s fees. True capitalist competition is now upon us.

The enlightened provider

Service providers, such as mortgage lenders, are paid to provide products and services to consumers. With the changing economy, and the according change in the role of the newly empowered consumer, these providers need to modify their approach as well. Their new role is now one that combines information development, information filtration, and strategic advisor.

Service providers are now providing real service.

In the previous economy, service providers were largely passive conduits of information between a hierarchy of end-sources for services and a passive consumer who was supposed to be grateful for whatever bones of true service happened to be thrown their way. Customers would, for example, come into a mortgage lender’s office and be told of a few options for loans that may be available to them as long as they measured up to a firm set of criteria determined by industry shamans in a galaxy far, far away.

Today’s relationship is different.

Today, the mortgage lender is far more likely to come to the consumer rather than require that the consumer come to them. Today, the lender may offer hundreds of loans, through dozens of sources, through a wide spectrum of qualifying criteria, and all at a price to the consumer that is a fraction of yesterday’s bloated fees.

Yesterday, the focus of the mortgage lender was to befriend and please the real estate agent that may be referring a customer to them. The customer, all too often, became ancillary and almost secondary to this relationship of pleasing the referring source rather than the end-customer.

Today, the enlightened mortgage lender no longer sees himself or herself in a subservient role to the real estate agent, but rather in the role of strategic teammate with that agent to serve the higher needs of the real focus of their relationship — the customer. This places the emphasis in the proper place; the satisfaction of the consumer’s needs and wants at a refined level and a fair price.

Who says the world isn’t getting better?

Al Killeen is president of Highline-EquiTrust Mortgage Corporation. He has also served as 1998 Colorado Mortgage Lenders Association President; 1998 Rocky Mountain Mortgage Lenders Alliance President and 1994-1995 Colorado Mortgage Lenders Association Ethics Chairman.

As our economy has shifted over the last decade — from service and products-based to information-based — the roles of the various players has changed as well. Gone are the days when nervous consumers would walk timidly into a financial services office, (glancing around like scared deer at a watering hole frequented by lions), only to be treated as though they were mere pawns on the economic chessboard of life.

Consumers are now in charge.

In the previous economy, where information was controlled by service providers who were paid for its distribution,…

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