From interest rate volatility to servicing liquidity issues to bursting refinance pipelines, mortgage lenders have weathered the coronavirus storm fairly well, STRATMOR Group says in its latest monthly Insights Report.  But lenders must retain the lessons they’ve learned, especially when it comes to customer service, according to the mortgage advisory firm. The May report features an article by Mike Seminari, “Creating a Customer Centric Culture in a Brave New World,” which offers advice on how lenders and servicers can make positive changes realized during the pandemic permanent.

“It turns out customers are happy with the service they’ve been getting since the pandemic hit,” Seminari writes. “Work from home fulfillment teams have not only increased productivity, they’ve also provided more white-glove service to each borrower. For the mortgage industry, this pandemic has meant ramping up borrower communications, finding creative ways to virtually attend closings, and tapping into the emotional needs of borrowers.”

Seminari shares insights from STRATMOR Group’s recent Customer Experience Workshop where the most asked question by attendees was: “How do you create a shift in company culture toward customer-centricity?” According to Seminari, there are three steps lenders can take to build toward a customer-centric company culture: recognize the gap, measure the gap and operationalize the solution. He offers tactics for lenders in taking these steps, including:

Make everyone an owner
“Borrower satisfaction tends to diminish when any single department attempts to lead and execute the customer experience alone,” Seminari writes. “Departments need to partner and collaborate with other departments and bring more employees into the conversation, especially in a way that gives them a vested interest.”

Focus on the positive

However, as more employees are included and graded on their performance, there could be a tendency to blame one another for loans that experience problems, which is extremely counterproductive. To avoid the blame game, lenders must focus equally — if not more so — on positive employee feedback and not on negative criticism.

“Positive feedback creates an environment where people feel safe making — and taking ownership for — an occasional error because they are consistently being recognized for their good work,” the report says. “Every employee impacts the customer experience, directly or indirectly, so every employee can benefit from hearing positive feedback.”

Treat employees like customers

“Lenders also need to realize that the overall employee experience feeds the customer experience,” according to STRATMOR. As J.W. Marriott famously said, “Take care of associates and they’ll take care of your customers.” If employees know they are valued, they’ll want to share that feeling with customers.

A new study is also featured in the May report: the COVID-19 Homeowner Experience Report. The study shows the results of a survey, conducted April 27 to April 30, 2020 by STRATMOR Group and CFI Group (CFI), on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on 1,000 homeowners who have their mortgages with the nation’s top servicers. According to the report, 44 percent of borrowers are at least somewhat concerned about their ability to make their mortgage payments in the next 90 days. What’s even more alarming is that most of them are unclear where to turn for help. Thirty-six percent of borrowers have no knowledge of government assistance programs, while 25 percent are not sure if the government programs apply to them.

The results of this study indicate the level of concern homeowners have with making their mortgage payments. It also provides insight into the factors impacting the homeowner’s ability to continue making their payments. In addition, the study signals the potential for a significant financial impact to lenders that do not carefully deal with these consumer concerns.

Click here for the May 2020 edition of STRATMOR’s Insights Report.

Lisa Grote 

Original Article