When a client dies, lender can make or break trust

A consumer’s death during his or her lease term isn’t a common occurrence, but how the lender responds to the needs of the consumer’s family members makes a lasting impression.

Automotive News became interested in learning about programs for deceased lessees after we heard about a captive that required the lease customer’s widow to pay off her husband’s payments -- now.

We don’t know the details of the husband’s lease contract or if his payments were up to date, but the widow felt abandoned and disappointed by the captive. She already had a vehicle and couldn’t afford her husband’s payments on her own. On top of coping with a major loss, she had to deal with a potential financial crisis.

Mercedes-Benz Financial, on the other hand, will in some cases allow family members to return the leased vehicle and relieve them of future payments.

The likelihood that a consumer dies during a lease term is so low that relieving deceased clients’ lease payments is unlikely to hurt a lender’s bottom line. More important to the lender is consumers’ trust. By simplifying the decisions, and potentially taking a substantial payment off a family member’s plate, Mercedes-Benz is solidifying that trust across the deceased client’s family.

Other lenders would do well to review how they treat consumers during their time of grief.

You can reach Hannah Lutz at hlutz@crain.com -- Follow Hannah on Twitter: @hm_lutz

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