With mortgage activity at record highs and properties selling like hotcakes, mortgage brokers across the country are feeling the heat of a booming market. Keeping up with demand is now a big challenge, forcing many brokers to prioritise working smarter over working harder. MPA spoke with the broking industry’s most experienced Kaizen expert and Loan Market’s head of business improvement Michael Zavelberg for his top tips on boosting productivity using the art of “continuous improvement.”
What is Kaizen?
Often translated to “Improve for the better” or “continuous improvement,” Kaizen is a Japanese philosophy based on the idea that small improvements made over time can create significant improvements in the long run. Developed by Toyota in the 1970s, the system was widely adopted by the manufacturing industry before more recently being taken up by a range of service industries, such as those of banking, insurance and healthcare.
The system has been highly successful in transforming the productivity of businesses across the globe because of its focus on engaging all staff members, Zavelberg told MPA.
“They get the people involved that do the work, not just the managers,” he said. By working with the staff of the company to map out the processes involved and see whether they align with the customer experience, the business aims to create leaders who have taken on the principles of Kaizen and have been able to streamline the systems and processes of their business and cut out any time-wasting activity.
Zavelberg shared the following tips for broker business owners looking to drive better efficiencies within their businesses.
Understand the customer experience
While Google reviews are often a good starting point, they don’t always enable a deep understanding of the customer experience, said Zavelberg. He recommended conducting surveys with carefully chosen questions around what the business did best and what it could improve on next time. A monthly examination of client feedback could help a business gauge the effectiveness of any changes implemented.
Create a clear vision of what you want the customer experience to be
It’s important to have a good idea of what you want the customer experience to look like, said Zavelberg. This should be something the whole team should understand and work towards through every step of a transaction. If customer feedback doesn’t align with the intended customer experience, the process should be examined by the whole team in order to drive a better outcome.
Read more: Broker success strategies for managing client expectations
Get the whole team together to map out the current processes of the business
Some business owners expect to lock themselves away in a closet to map out the processes of a business, but the result never lines up with reality, said Zavelberg. Instead, the whole team should be involved in mapping out all of the processes of the business in order to paint the whole picture of what is going on. This requires a level of leadership that encourages staff to be open about their experiences and contribute to strategies moving forward.
Identify any pain points of the business
By getting staff involved, even small business leaders can be surprised by the pain points that are uncovered when mapping out the processes. Zavelberg recalled a meeting he had with a company of just three, in which a staff member said it took them 50 minutes for data entry and a further 20-30 minutes just to print out the documents. Surprised by this inefficiency, the leader questioned the staff member for not mentioning it earlier - and the staff member replied, “I thought you already knew.” After this meeting, it took only a few days for the situation to be fixed and for the process of printing to be expediated.
Align the processes of the business with the customer experience you wish to create
Removing waste is a big part of improving efficiency through Kaizen. This could be a simple matter of eliminating the need for double checking or ensuring no-one operates on assumptions. Zavelberg said technology should be examined when looking at any process bottlenecks. It is also important to determine whether staff have the right skills, knowledge and tools to create the customer experience the business aims for. If not, what training could be provided to ensure the team operates at its best?
Read next: Digital processes provide a foundation from which brokers can grow
Meet weekly with staff to discuss
One of the central themes of Kaizen is that improvement is a continuous process, not something that should be looked at on a yearly basis. Zavelberg said it was important to set aside weekly staff meetings for working on the business so that leaders and team members could continue to eliminate waste and implement more efficient processes that align with the intended customer experience. This should then be measured against customer feedback to ensure the company is moving toward its goals in real time.