Angela Hurst: Pandemic Was Time to ‘Focus on the Total Customer Experience’


PERSON OF THE WEEK: The pandemic-related mortgage moratoriums are coming to a close and mortgage servicers, lenders and their third party providers continue to brace for a flood of foreclosures – but the situation may not become as bad as some predict.

One factor that will help smooth out this potential wave of defaults for servicers and lenders compared with the 2008 crisis are the technologies that are now used to enhance loss mitigation and the foreclosure process. Another factor is how adequately mortgage companies and their partners are prepared. To gain some perspective, MortgageOrb recently interviewed Angela Hurst, senior vice president, RES.NET, the technology arm of US.RES.

Q: We have experienced one of the most challenging periods in our industry’s history. With each day ahead, we are seeing more hope on the horizon. How are you helping your customers prepare for the future and the “return to normalcy?”

Hurst: The path ahead is what the focus has been and will continue to be and understanding that the desire is not to settle into what today looks like. The disruptions we have all experienced call for folding in change to our daily lives and the rules of engagement. 

The challenge is identifying and understanding what the pressing issues are now and addressing them. Prioritizing will vary depending on your location. A company in the South and/or Midwest will not have the same needs as one in California or one in Puerto Rico. There will not be a one size fits all solution; empathy and understanding should be at the forefront of every situation.   

Researchers indicate that up to 90 percent of our decision-making is unconscious. Gone are the days where a heavy reliance on face-to-face interactions helped move projects and relationships along. There’s been a lot of pivoting of communication styles and strategies.  What we have learned in preparing our customers for what lies ahead is that to speak to their needs, it takes careful listening and deliberate action. 

Q: Moratoriums and market forces caused the reduction of volume and revenue. How did RES.NET take advantage of this time to prepare for the future and helping its customers? 

Hurst: We really honed our focus on the total customer experience. We looked at every aspect and took a much greater effort to enhance the user interface, because every user has a different encounter based on individual needs. We want users to have a positive experience and feeling when working with our products. It is important to not only focus on what your solutions can do for the user but also how the individual feels when using them. Functionality has to be just as important as the user experience. 

We work with institutions that vary from mortgage servicing to private banking, in size and operational style. And trying to please the masses can be challenging. To combat that, the design and development team worked diligently during this time to radically change the look, feel and functionality to support our varying customer base and their changing needs. 

We redesigned dashboards, enhanced workflows and reporting capabilities to support the business and its stakeholders, while providing added tools. The functionality allows for greater personalization so that the system can pivot depending on what that user needs the system to do. This presents a unique experience and especially one for a technology company.   

Q: Why is it important for other providers to use this time to reflect on their offerings and invest in their systems?

Hurst: What it all boils down to is defining what your key differentiator in the market is.

In our case, the greatest driver is the customer.

You can say you have the best solution on the market, but if that system does not do what the customer needs, it is not going to support their business.  

In addition to the overall experience, it is customer loyalty.

Your company’s biggest cheerleaders are most often your current customers. If you cannot maintain the customers that you have, then the prospect for future customers may be grim.

Q: What strategies have you employed and encouraged others to employ to overcome obstacles in the last 12-18 months?

Hurst: We have worked hard to redefine our internal mindset to re-invigorate our culture. The overarching goal is to have the kind of culture that fosters employee creativity and problem-solving collaboration. Avoiding Groupthink ensures sound decision making practices.

It is important that our employees feel empowered to find solutions for any challenges they may incur. To be able to hear about a specific problem someone may be experiencing and find a solution to solve it gives employees a true sense of ownership. We do not want anyone feeling paralyzed in an otherwise impossible situation. Everyone wants what is best for the customer, and there really are never any bad ideas.

Q: The industry has witnessed a lot of change in terms of personnel in the past few months. Many individuals who were considered the backbone or anchors of the industry have left the space or retired. What impact will this have on the future?

Hurst: All industries are seeing people reassess their career choices. This presents a unique challenge, however, when the knowledge base that these individuals have is no longer ready to be shared with new arrivals on the scene. For the tenured and experienced that remain, this presents a great opportunity to become a mentor and share the knowledge you have with new people. Help them understand what you love about the industry and your profession – help them become energized – so they too can find their “sweet spot” and become the future leaders in the industry.

Q: There have been many lessons learned about continued readiness and how to always be prepared. Do you believe that we must have a failure to learn a lesson and become better?

Hurst: Mistakes help us recognize changing circumstances and teach us to clarify what we really want or need. Undoubtedly, mistakes have been made, but we have all learned from them. No matter what happens, you must have solid business continuity or disaster recovery plan in place. And having plans in place are of no use if you don’t practice them. Remember school fire drills? You practiced and knew what to do in the case of an actual fire. Always be prepared and it is better to err on the side of caution. No one will fault you for that.

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