How Mortgage Services Can Stay Ahead of the Customer Satisfaction Curve

By Craig Martin, Director-Mortgage Practice AND Paula Bibik, Sr. Research Manager-Financial Services

With the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) poised to implement mortgage servicing rules early next year, the threat of investigations and significant fines for non-compliance further raises the stakes of failing to provide a quality customer experience. Banks that consistently deliver a high level of service and have the processes and procedures in place to comply with the new CFPB requirements will certainly be ahead of the game.

The proposed CFPB rules are heavily focused on billing and payment processes; clarity of communication; and the quality of a mortgage servicer’s customer service when they are contacted. The chart below indicates how the proposed requirements align with key factors measured in our 2012 U.S. J.D. Power and Associates Primary Mortgage Servicer Satisfaction Study.

We offer the following actionable tactics to help servicers address performance improvement initiatives, and remain ahead of the customer satisfaction curve before the new CFPB guidelines are implemented:

Billing and Payments

For the majority of mortgage servicing customers, the billing and payment process represents the entirety of their relationship. When servicers avoid errors and provide correct and timely information that customers understand, the relationship is generally positive for both parties.

1.  Leverage online communications and electronic billing to improve the customer experience

The study indicates that over half of all customers still receive a paper bill despite the fact that those customers have the lowest average satisfaction in the billing and payment factor and the majority of customers pay their mortgage bill electronically. Online communications and billing are becoming a way of life. According to a recent Pew Research Center study (1) 80% of American adults use the internet, and 88% have a cell phone, with nearly half of the adult population (46%) being smartphone owners. As adoption of these various technologies continues to rise, traditional concerns related to security and the desire for paper documents are being replaced by a preference for greater convenience and timely information. Servicers should continue to promote this option to customers and educate them on the benefits of adoption.

2.  Utilize multiple touch points to communicate billing

Problem prevention is the name of the game. Overall satisfaction declines by over 100 index points (on a 1,000-point scale) when a problem is experienced. In the study, nearly one third of respondents said they experienced a problem in the past 12 months. Some of the most common issues are related to Billing and Payment and while contacting customers via multiple channels to alert them of an upcoming bill or change may seem unnecessary, over-communicating ensures transparency and demonstrates that mortgage servicers are making every effort to keep customers informed. Start early with a billing and payment guide at the beginning of the relationship when customers are likely to be more engaged. When changes occur in the future don’t rely on just one method of communication. A statement stuffer may get tossed in the trash, but if you combine it with online messaging and other channels you improve the chance the information will be received and prevent the need for a call.

3.  Ensure that the online payment process is easy

The majority of customers pay their bill electronically, yet almost forty percent of respondents in the study that pay electronically indicated that making an online payment is “not very easy”. The Billing and Payment Process satisfaction declines by 168 index points when customers say their online payment is difficult to make. To help improve the process ensure the website is reliable and consistently available; easy to navigate and use; and provides clear instructions on payment options. Taking the time to educate customers can pay dividends. Among homeowners surveyed who receive a welcome packet that includes billing and payment information, almost three quarters say that making an online payment is “very easy”.

THE BOTTOM LINE:

When it comes to mortgage servicing, Benjamin Franklin’s immortal words sum it up well, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. To the extent that companies can approach the proposed CFPB guidelines as an opportunity to prevent problems, and become more efficient they will experience a win-win situation of both complying with regulations and improving customer satisfaction.

 [1] The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project’s February Tracking Survey conducted January 20 – February 19 2012.

For more information, or to purchase a copy of this 2012 U.S. Primary Mortgage Servicer Study , please contact: Holly Zagresky at (248) 680-6319 or via email at Holly_Zagresky@jdpa.com

 

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