Change Is Good: Exploring New Uses For Existing Technologies

BLOG VIEW: Only a few years ago, cell phones were – well – phones, plain and simple. Today, they are much less phones and much more hand-held computers linking us to the entire world. The intended purpose of cell phones has evolved into a broad range of uses that most of us did not see coming but, now, cannot imagine living without.

There’s a lesson the financial industry can learn in the evolution of the cell phone to the smartphone: Rather than pigeonholing technologies into static categories, we would do well to explore ways that we can extend their functionality into new areas. In turn, this would expand the ways users can accomplish necessary tasks more easily.

For example, can an interactive voice response (IVR) application make it easier for borrowers to self-serve on a servicer’s website? Or how about a servicer’s website facilitating phone conversations between borrowers and customer service representatives? On the surface, the technologies seem unrelated, but let’s explore a couple of ways we might build bridges between disparate systems to create an improved customer experience.

Using The Phone to Fix A Web Problem

One of the challenges of providing borrowers with access to their loan information via the Web is that they frequently forget their passwords. As we force borrowers to use strong passwords, requiring combinations of letters, numbers and special characters, users are much more likely to forget them. One survey indicated that almost 70% of users forgot passwords that were too long or complex.

Obviously, standard password reset functionality on the Web can prompt users to request a password reset with a temporary password transmitted by email or text. However, an astonishing number of borrowers opt to call servicers’ 800 numbers instead to request agent help in resetting their passwords. For many servicers, password resets represent a small but steadily increasing percentage of their call traffic.

How about putting an older tool to work to help these borrowers? When Web users click the “Forgot Your Password” link, we can offer them options: Use the servicer’s Web-based reset protocols (security questions, temporary password via email, etc.) or call a password reset 800 number. A simple IVR application can authenticate the borrower, reset the password and speak a temporary password to the borrower. For those users who inexplicably prefer to pick up the phone when they forget their passwords, this simple IVR application can solve their problem 24/7 and reduce the burden on the call center.

Using The Web To Fix A Phone Problem

Now, let’s look at another kind of borrower frustration and how we can bridge technologies to deliver a solution. Consider the borrower who prefers to access account information on the Web. Our user logs in, explores the available account information, but finds that his complex question cannot be answered. Next, the borrower goes to the “Contact Us” page, locates and dials the 800 number and is greeted by an IVR application that is no better able to answer the question than the Web. It’s a frustrating exercise that requires the borrower to press zero for a representative and wait on hold until they can be connected.

A better solution is to place a “call me” button on the website, allowing the user to provide a phone number at which he can be reached and a preferred time to call. A notification is then delivered to an agent at the designated time. With a click, the borrower’s phone is dialed and the representative is able to address the borrower’s question. No lost time on hold for the borrower, improved average speed of answer for the call center and a greatly improved customer experience.

As our use of various technologies continues to evolve, the challenge will be finding creative ways to steadily improve the customer experience by building on the unique strengths of the various systems already in place. The only certain constant is change.

Barry Hays is co-founder and senior vice president of TeleVoice, a provider of call center technology and customer self-service solutions for the mortgage servicing industry.


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