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Why customer service is key to a successful Notary business

Why customer service is key to successful Notary business article

Updated 10-4-22. Customer service is a concept as old as business itself. It’s also a simple concept in most jobs — but not for Notaries Public. For most jobs, if you focus solely on providing customers with exceptional service, they will remember and keep doing business with you. And in today's market, where customers use online services like social media, Yelp and Angie’s List to help them rank the performance of service providers, superior customer service has become one of the most important keys to success for any business.

But for Notaries who use their commissions to earn income — whether full-time or part-time — giving stellar customer service comes with a special set of demands.

Consider the task of a mobile Notary hired by a signing service to handle a loan-signing assignment. That Notary often serves up to four customers: the borrower, the signing service, the title company and the lender. And if you’re hired by an attorney to notarize a set of adoption documents, at minimum, you’re serving the attorney, the client and the child.

At the same time, all Notaries have another “boss” — the state that issued their commissions — and must always follow their Notary laws and regulations when performing their duties, even if sometimes, dealing with a situation means telling the customer “No.” 

And there’s still another customer: the general public, who relies on the integrity of the notarial act.

The self-employed Notary must engage in a constant balancing act between doing what’s necessary to make a signer, a title company or a signing service happy and following their duty to the public. That’s especially true when times are tough and competition gets tougher. The National Notary reached out to a number of experienced Notary entrepreneurs asking them to share the business practices they find essential for flourishing in today’s challenging market.

“There is no magic bullet”

One of the most important lessons that experienced Notaries agree on in today’s market is that there’s no “magic bullet” or secret formula to success. A person can’t simply expect to get their Notary commission and then sit at home waiting for signers to knock at the door and offer enough assignments to earn a good income.

To market a successful Notary business takes ironclad integrity balanced with patience, an ability to handle complex multiple instructions and dedicated effort to building a reputation that draws the best job offers. Notaries who demonstrate personal integrity, flexibility and willingness to put in extra effort to perform impeccable services are the ones who build reputations that ensure success.

The Best And Worst Customer Service Practices For Notaries

Here are some basic tips from experienced Notaries — along with warnings about what mistakes to avoid — to help you build a good business reputation.

​​“Over time, companies get to know and like the work you do,” said David Krause of Expert Notary Services in Seattle, Washington. “I don’t think there’s any shortcut for that. I do what needs to be done, and don’t scream or yell when there’s an issue. Instead, I look for a solution.”

A key for Krause is proactively fixing mistakes and solving problems. During a recent signing assignment, he discovered he’d made a mistake on one document. He contacted the escrow officer, described the situation and offered to take the document back to the signer and have it notarized correctly. Everyone makes mistakes, Krause noted, but clients appreciate it when you take a proactive approach to fixing them.

Today’s market is far more challenging than when Krause became a mobile Notary in 2005. But by providing exceptional service, he positioned himself to thrive in the post-housing bubble environment. Krause says he works to build strong relationships not only with signers, but with the schedulers at companies he works with — the people looking for Notaries who will provide professional service with no problems. By getting schedulers to see him as someone who makes their jobs easier, he’s continued to thrive in a shrinking market.

Meeting the client’s needs

Many self-employed Notaries deal with clients via the Internet or smartphones, and that can make clients seem like disembodied entities. But successful entrepreneurs like Shannon Ziccardi of A+ Mobile Notary/A Quick Note in Lake Forest, California, never forget that they are dealing with people who are trying to get their jobs done.

Part of meeting the client’s needs is keeping your skills and knowledge sharp, staying current with new laws and regulations affecting your Notary commission and maintaining any certifications and training you require for your business needs, Ziccardi said.

Working as a Notary Signing Agent brings additional complications from lenders, signing services and title companies. All of these businesses have their own instructions that must be followed to successfully complete loan signing assignments, and these companies rate Notaries on their ability to follow directions along with the borrower’s experience with the Notary. A Signing Agent has to balance all of these demands in order to build a successful business — and it’s not easy.

“Each hiring entity I work for is different. Each has a different agenda and wants a different thing. It’s important to adjust,” Ziccardi said.

He added that it’s especially important to remain adaptable if you’re a Notary signing agent who plans to work with many different types of transactions, such as refinancings, home purchases, or estate planning documents. “You can stick to one format if you work for one entity, and handle one type of loan only,” he said. “But if you handle different things, there’s a whole gamut of situations you’ll have to deal with.”

Sometimes, dealing with a situation means telling the customer “No.” Many signers, despite good intentions, don’t always have a clear understanding of the rules Notaries must follow. This means some requests have to be turned down because the Notary can’t do it without violating the law — and afterwards the Notary has to deal diplomatically with a frustrated customer.

But Notaries can’t break the rules for anyone — especially not for money. Offers from dishonest signers or businesses of extra pay in exchange for “favors” such as ignoring proper procedure when notarizing may be tempting. But no amount of cash is worth breaking the law. Many Notaries who agree to improper offers find themselves facing lawsuits, loss of commissions and even jail time for being greedy or simply failing to realize that a request was illegal.

Ziccardi described a time several years ago when he was asked by a mortgage broker to notarize the signature of a person lacking proper ID on loan documents in order to expedite a closing. Ziccardi refused the request.

“I told him that he wasn’t just talking to a regular Joe on the street — he was talking to a Notary and what he was asking was highly illegal,” Ziccardi said. He complained to the escrow officer working on the transaction, warning that the broker was asking for illegal notarizations and was likely to get people involved with the loan in trouble. He urged other Notaries to walk away from anyone asking you to break the law.

“I think this kind of thing has happened to almost all Notaries at one time or another. But you don’t want to work with people like that,” Ziccardi said.

Notaries must sometimes make sacrifices in their personal lives to succeed in business as well. Though working as a self-employed Notary doesn’t require clocking in and out at an office, you have to be prepared to sacrifice free time during nights and weekends to make yourself available to the customer base in your area. That means being flexible and willing to take on tough assignments.

“There’s a lot of work out there for mobile Notaries, but it all ties in to being flexible,” said David M. Green of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, who does a lot of general Notary work in addition to loan signing assignments. “Often, you will be offered work on short notice or irregular hours and you have to be rarin’ to go.”

Building on customer service

Meeting your clients’ needs and making their jobs easier does have a very important benefit: They refer you to others.

Green, who also provides bookkeeping, insurance and tax preparation services, does a lot of work for local hospitals and nursing homes. Because he is available at night and on weekends and will meet clients wherever they need, he gets a lot of new business through referrals.

At every assignment, he makes sure to hand out his business cards and let clients know he provides a variety of services. And they often remember him come tax time or when they need insurance.

Green once got a call from a signer at 9:30 p.m. who needed a document notarized quickly in order to get an insurance payment from a car accident. Green invited the signer to his home to perform the notarization immediately. The signer not only promised to come back to Green with additional business but wrote him a strong online testimonial praising his work.

Lana Brown of All Around Town Mobile Notary Service in Los Angeles, California, shared how providing quality notarizations led to one of her clients, an attorney, inviting her to join a marketing referral group for small businesses called LeTip, where small business owners and self-employed professionals recommend other members to customers who need specific professional services.

“I’m the only Notary in my group, and my client base grew from that,” Brown said. All because she provided one client with great service.

Courtesy and professional conduct

At its heart, top-notch customer service is all about your interaction with people, and people remember how you treat them. All of the Notaries we spoke with emphasized the need to be courteous and not get upset with signers. This is especially important if you are a mobile Notary or signing agent who travels to signers’ homes. Often a Notary signing agent is the only person a borrower will have face to face contact with during a loan document signing. How you behave with that signer will affect what the signer thinks of your service as well as your reputation with companies offering assignments.

“It can be something as simple as smiling and greeting your customers with a firm handshake. Introduce yourself to them when you meet face-to-face for the first time, even if you’ve spoken to them by phone previously,” says Sonita Leak, a mobile Notary, signing agent and marriage officiant based in Greenville, South Carolina.

As a signing agent who handles loan signings at different locations throughout the day, one of Leak’s most important practices with clients is staying in constant contact. If she encounters a delay during one notarization, she always takes time to contact other companies and signers she’s scheduled to meet later in the day and let them know what’s going on. She always texts a confirmation to let signers and companies know when she’s coming.

Brown, too, always keeps in contact with clients throughout the course of assignments. “We’re not like phone or utilities companies, who can show up anytime during the business day,” she said “We are expected at a certain time, so if I’m going to be late, I always communicate.”

One thing Notaries we spoke to emphasized was that you don’t want to make a bad impression on potential business contacts through social media. Many businesses seek out Notaries on social media sites and online discussion groups.and online discussion groups. Inappropriate conduct or language online toward companies, signers or other Notaries can come across as unprofessional and can hurt your reputation and potential to find new clients. Even if you’re not criticizing a particular company, it’s easy to appear negative and difficult to work with.

Leak advises Notaries to treat all their business contacts with courtesy, adding that it doesn’t matter whether a company contacts you only once or twice per year, or on a regular basis.

“Even if you’re experienced, don’t be condescending or patronizing. Be friendly and professional,” she said.

Be passionate

Ziccardi offered what may be the most important advice for anyone who wants to work as a Notary, whether they work in retail, an office, or are self-employed part-time or full time — choose a career that you are passionate about. He became a Notary after decades working in the restaurant industry, and loves the opportunity to get out from inside a building, travel and meet signers throughout his business area.

“I spent thirty years doing something that was okay and made me a good living, but I wish I had become a Notary sooner — I’d have been happier longer,” he said. “If you do what you love, you never work a day in your life.”

David Thun is the Assistant Managing Editor at the National Notary Association.


Add your comment

Tina Chinn

10 Oct 2022

Hi, I have a question not so much a comment.. I was wondering with all the new technologies and the ability to e-sign documents does that limit opportunities for Notaries to obtain lucrative clientele? Tina Chinn,

Amber-Nichole Hess

18 Oct 2022

Having been a notary for 3 1/2 years I pride myself in remaining Customer centric forward. It has truly been one of the keys to being successful.


19 Oct 2022

Enjoyed reading this NNA article. Practical tips and advice to enhance my notary services.

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