PERSON OF THE WEEK: The COVID-19 crisis has brought about significant change in the way that mortgage servicers operate – not just in terms of meeting the needs of borrowers but also in terms of client engagement, as they seek out partners that can help them improve the borrower experience and gain new efficiencies.
To learn more about how the pandemic has impacted client engagement, MortgageOrb recently interviewed Rick Holcomb, senior vice president tax outsourcing operations for LERETA.
Q: More mortgage companies are spending time and resources on client engagement. Why do you think this is happening now and where do you see it going?
Holcomb: I think the pandemic has given us a unique opportunity to understand the importance of relationships and unity. My team knows that I like to say, “We are LERETA,” emphasizing that our teams are all woven and interconnected into the excellence that we deliver to our clients.
The pandemic and economic events have brought about unique obstacles. In terms of client engagement, mortgage companies are more focused on uniting with their partners to develop solutions to improve the customer experience. This unity and collaboration help deliver more value than an ordinary vendor/client relationship.
The mortgage industry will continue to learn lessons from this time – it will come to understand the importance of uniting as individuals, teams – and with clients. Working closer helps everyone in the industry gain new perspectives and ultimately improve the borrower/customer experience.
Q: How has the pandemic affected client engagement?
Holcomb: The pandemic has put a spotlight on efficiencies in every area of business. Companies that have single service providers are now more aware of the need to have multiple vendors. This diversification helps mitigate the risks that are associated with a single source. It also enables mortgage companies to more easily enhance the customer experience.
Q: How can technology help mortgage companies in their efforts to improve clients’ experiences?
Holcomb: Technology is a game changer for the industry. One of our core objectives is to make a positive difference for our customers – and a great way to achieve this is to constantly seek ways to raise the bar in terms of the technology we deliver.
Whether it’s designing business rules to automate manual processes, creating an intuitive user interface or helping customers integrate their servicing systems, we know that technology enhances the client experience and ultimately the borrower experience, as well.
This has been our mission with our proprietary Total Tax Solutions (TTS). Originally, we built our TTS technology to arm our operations leaders with all the tools they needed to manage their servicing divisions. After rigorous testing and implementation, we saw immediate benefits – reduced penalties, exceeding SLAs, and faster response times.
Over the years, we have migrated to a software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform that provides our clients with reporting, dashboards and working queues that bridge all the gaps between a client’s loan servicing system and a tax service system – ultimately improving everyone’s experience.
Q: What is on the horizon for property tax services?
Holcomb: Tax service is one of those unique industries that has existed for decades without a lot of change or innovation. Relying on local tax agencies to procure, map and process data has millions of variations. The need to create workflows that connect loan servicing systems to a tax platform creates challenges.
Today, customers are demanding more functionality, control and transparency – and that is an exciting space to play in. I think we are cultivating a company culture of accountability, visibility and innovation with TTS – and this will force the market to seek new solutions.
Q: What advice do you have for mortgage servicers, as they help their customers who are struggling during this pandemic?
Holcomb: The pandemic has not been kind. But we have seen volumes of refinances skyrocket, which has created a surge of growth in the mortgage industry. Servicers need to trust that they have strong partnerships and efficiencies in place with their tax vendors so they can scale together when resources are strained.
Customers that are struggling should also embrace change; take this opportunity to pause and re-evaluate where you can modernize, enhance or promote more collaboration and productivity – even when employees are remote. It is important to remain positive, despite the challenging year, and lead teams with opportunism and identify new avenues of growth, unity and success.