Our corporate identities or "brand equity" will become increasingly more valuable as our customers are faced with more choices of products and services. The rapidly changing face of business can create a great deal of customer confusion as to which companies actually provide a value-added proposition. Never before have our customers had such a high degree of information accessibility. What are the implications of this new technology? How will it define who we are and what we do? The days of the exclusive title and escrow provider are numbered. This being the case, we must embrace technology to survive and thrive in the New Millennium.
There are three distinct areas where technology will influence competition in the title industry. First, internal and external communications. Technology has made it possible for us to communicate our message and identity to employees and customers on a local, regional, national, or international basis with consistency and accuracy. This enables us to establish, maintain, and reinforce our operating cultures and value-added propositions with employees and customers daily. Antiquated and fragmented marketing channels will give way to electronic communications through real-time interfaces.
Second, consolidation of the customer, which has occurred on two fronts: through acquisition and accessibility. Arguably, the absolute number of customers has declined as consolidation among the ranks of lenders, realtors, and mortgage originators has continued. Further, geographical barriers have been torn down. Historically, customers differed from state to state or region to region. That is no longer the case. Immediate access to our customer base wherever they are located makes the world, i.e. our marketplace, much smaller, and in turn, more competitive.
Third, the speed of creative change and innovation. Technology has dictated a changing work place and workflow environment. Title companies that employ an integrated view of the customer gain a significant competitive advantage. The measured standards of customer service are in a constant state of flux. However, it is customer service that remains the key to protecting and expanding market share. Technology is the focal point of customer-focus. Workflow patterns, single-seat work stations, imaging, data mining, telephony, and last but not least, the Internet are at the confluence of this new customer-focused company.
The title insurance industry has spent millions of dollars on technology but little effort has been devoted to creating a delivery system that is flexible and customer specific. As the lines between title insurance, escrow, and real estate-related products and services are reshaped, it is essential we become customer-focused to remain competitive. We must provide products and services that fit customer’s ever-changing needs. By listening to our customers and understanding their goals and direction, the successful company will create customer loyalty through exemplary customer service standards. Knowing the customer and what drives their strategic and financial goals will allow us to customize products and services that positively impact their revenue base and their profitability.
The notion of selling products and services devoid of customer-specific input and direction is prehistoric. Ours is a business of people and relationship management. The development and delivery of products and services must be based on an intimate understanding and high degree of knowledge and information acquired from the customer"specifically." The company of the future will not merely be a vendor of diversified real estate products and services but a revolutionary, an innovator providing business solutions and creative ways to enhance a customer’s financial performance. In our customer’s "Field of Dreams," build it and they will come " make them more money, and they will come back. See you in cyberspace.
Frank P. Willey