Barry Hays: Intelligent Personal Assistants Will Play Larger Role In Mortgage Servicing

PERSON OF THE WEEK: Barry Hays is co-founder and senior vice president of TeleVoice, a provider of contact center technology to the mortgage servicing industry. MortgageOrb recently interviewed Hays to learn more about what the innovations in contact center technology are that servicers will likely be leveraging over the next year, including how intelligent personal assistants (IPAs) will impact contact center operations.

Q: Technology always seems to be evolving. What technological changes do you see on the horizon for mortgage servicing contact centers?

Hays: Contact centers have seen a lot of technological change in recent years, and that trend will continue in 2017.  In fact, we will probably see a further acceleration of innovation in contact center technology. The mortgage industry quite reasonably avoids “bleeding edge” solutions, preferring to implement technologies that have proven successful in other industries. The focus will be on solutions that can deliver both improved customer satisfaction, as well as greater operational efficiencies.

Based upon comments we are hearing from many in the industry, we expect to see an emphasis on enhancing the Web channel with greater functionality and more creative options for connecting borrowers with agents when assistance is required. For inbound calls to the contact center, there is growing interest in speech-recognition-based interactive voice response (IVR) solutions, replacing or augmenting existing touch-tone-based applications. Behind the scenes, more robust contact center analytics will aid management in staffing decisions and also in assessing the effectiveness of contact channels.

Q: How will greater personalization play out in the contact center?

Hays: The giants of the Web, companies such as Amazon and Google, have proven the value of customizing content based on the unique characteristics of each user. Personalization has huge advantages for both consumers and the companies with which they do business. Interactions, whether on the Web or by phone, are more efficient; consumers are able to complete transactions faster and easier.

The same philosophy applies to borrowers contacting their servicers. By assessing the specific characteristics of the borrower’s loan, IVR applications and Web solutions can deliver content that is best suited to the borrower’s needs. Personalization recognizes that one size does not fit all. Rather than drag a caller through multiple layers of IVR menus or a common set of Web options, those options most likely to address the borrower’s questions can be front and center.

Q: What will drive the use of chat in mortgage contact centers?

Hays: The mortgage industry as a whole has not really embraced Web-based chat solutions, but 2017 will likely see more originators and servicers experimenting with chat. Chat promises significant efficiencies by allowing a single agent to interact with multiple consumers simultaneously, often using a library of “canned” messages to address common questions. It’s a technology that has proven itself in various consumer-facing industries. Whether chat can be truly effective in the mortgage industry is a little uncertain. Given the complexity of consumer questions, can an agent really effectively juggle multiple conversations simultaneously? Will the promised efficiencies really be there? That said, 2017 will be a year in which a few in the industry give chat a try.

Q: Speech-recognition-based IVR systems have not been widely used in the mortgage industry. Do you see that changing?

Hays: Speech recognition technology has improved considerably in the past few years. Recognition engines are much more accurate, and speech-recognition-based IVR solutions are delivering on the promise of more conversational interaction with the caller. However, speech recognition solutions are significantly more expensive than touch-tone-based systems, in terms of both the initial system cost, as well as the ongoing support costs. Consequently, the tried-and-true touch-tone systems have dominated in the industry. That may be changing. With consumers’ increasing use of speech recognition technology in their cars, on their phones and in their phone interactions with an increasing number of companies, consumer expectations may drive servicers to embrace this technology.

Q: What are IPAs, and how might they impact contact center operations?

Hays: IPAs are the now-familiar applications such as Apple’s Siri that promise to handle a lot of common tasks for users. These speech recognition applications allow users to use verbal instructions to play music, retrieve a weather forecast, get directions and even order pizza.

Most commonly, these apps are used on our smartphones and in home-hub appliances such as the popular Echo from Amazon. Other major players in this field are Google, with Google Home, and Microsoft, with HomeHub.

It is only a matter of time before we see IPA apps that expand into the contact center realm. Imagine sitting in your living room and saying, “Alexa, make my mortgage payment.” Clearly, there are huge hurdles with authentication, as well as interfaces with the system of record, but IPA technology will likely evolve in this direction. We are still at a very early stage with these tools, but looking down the road a few years, IPAs may give borrowers one more way to connect with originators and servicers.

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