BLOG VIEW: Within today's technology-driven mortgage environment, automation has become commonplace for tasks of every size and level of importance for lenders. Beyond the use of technology to manage various aspects of the lending process, vendors have adopted automated methods of interacting with customers to increase speed and efficiency.
Why A Human Touch Is Still Important
The benefits of automation are dramatic and far outweigh the drawbacks. Automated underwriting, document generation, loan operating systems and servicing platforms have greatly reduced the time needed to close and service loan portfolios and have enabled lenders to do more with fewer resources.
However, the increased adoption of more technology-driven methods of business and support should not overshadow the importance of the human element. Highly trained professionals can do more than plug numbers into a program. They know the ins and outs of lending and can implement new programs or regulatory requirements, troubleshoot situations that fall outside a system's program functionality or provide an empathetic solution to a customer-service issue.
And even some of the industry's biggest proponents of automation are recognizing the need for more human expertise. Bloomberg reported earlier this year that Toyota began replacing some robotic manufacturing lines with more human production workers. The goal was to ensure that the workers understood how the cars were actually constructed so they could better use the technology in place. As a result, Toyota has eliminated about 10% of material-related waste from building crankshafts at a test plant.
Lenders and technology vendors alike would benefit from recognizing where a human touch is needed in the service side of a successful relationship. In its 2012 report, ‘Reinvent Customer Experience,’ Forrester Research said successful companies focus on delivering experiences that are truly focused on the end user.
‘To compete based on customer experience, firms need to go beyond finding and fixing the problems with their current ecosystem,’ the report said. ‘They need a plan to transform their ecosystem so that it produces an experience that's truly differentiating.’
Developing A Customer-Centric Environment
Developing a customer-centric environment is a two-way street. Just as lenders should build in systems that combine outstanding human service with useful technologies, successful vendor relationships require a commitment from technology providers to do just the same.
On the consumer side, examine how a typical customer uses your services. Do your service channels fit the demographics and needs of your community? Some lenders will find that they need a fully staffed call center and in-person branches. Others will find that their borrowers prefer to manage their loans via the Web and mobile applications.
However, even the most tech-savvy users will still need the option of speaking to an expert on occasion.
By the same token, when evaluating vendor relationships, look beyond the software or hardware itself. In the long run, the day-to-day experience a lender has with a specific vendor will significantly impact their long-term satisfaction and overall relationship at present and in the future.
This includes any and all touch points between the lender and a particular vender, such as training, customer service, conferences and events, or sales calls. Lenders ultimately benefit from ongoing outreach with a given vendor that reaches far beyond initial implementation to ensure their success throughout the relationship.
Above anything else, lenders need to feel fully cared for by the vendors they choose to work with. From the vendor perspective, this means treating each and every customer as a true, collaborative partner rather than just another number. In order to ensure the customer experience remains positive, vendors must provide consistent opportunities for customers to receive the help they need at the exact moment they need it.
Furthermore, the vendor should ensure that the issue at hand has been fully resolved and the customer is absolutely satisfied with the outcome the first time.
Susan Graham is president and chief operating officer of Financial Industry Computer Systems Inc., offering loan origination, residential mortgage servicing and commercial mortgage servicing technology to mortgage lenders, midsize banks and credit unions.
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