Don’t Lose Sight Of The Human Touch

The last couple of decades have completely transformed the way consumers and mortgage servicers interact. New and augmented self-service technologies have delivered higher and higher levels of efficiencies in borrower interaction. Increasingly tech savvy borrowers have come to expect a broad range of technology options for accessing account information and communicating with their servicers. It’s been a great thing for borrowers and servicers alike.

Most borrowers now take advantage of more than one self-service channel in the course of their relationship with their mortgage company. Perhaps it’s a quick look at the principal balance on the web tonight, followed by a one-time draft payment using Interactive Voice Response (IVR) next week, or double-checking on a web app to make sure a payment posted. The use of various self-service channels depends upon the borrower’s preference, what tools they have available at any given time (cell phone, PC, etc.), and the nature of the inquiry.

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The mix of self-service options….web, IVR, mobile apps…is the proverbial win-win. So long as the applications are well-designed, consumers enjoy the convenience, and servicers can now process inquiries for a fraction of the cost of a call handled by a representative.

The Downside of Self-Service Technologies

In our rush to embrace these new and improved self-service technologies, the hazard is forgetting the critical importance of the human element. While borrowers will frequently be happy to grab information on the run from the web or IVR, some questions actually do require a conversation with a representative. Consumers want the assurance that a representative is available if needed, no matter what channel they’re using. It’s an important reassurance…even if they don’t take advantage of it.

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We’ve got to strike a proper balance between facilitating self-service and maintaining easy access to contact center representatives. Through careful design and scripting, we should encourage borrowers to serve themselves using IVR, the web, and mobile apps, but we’ve also got to ensure it is easy for them to raise the white flag and seek human help if needed.

Opting for an Agent via IVR

One of the greatest complaints among consumers is that IVR menus are poorly worded and make it difficult to access an agent. As servicers strive to improve customer satisfaction, it’s more critical than ever to build IVR menus that make it easy for callers to navigate to the information or service they need. However, it’s equally important to offer an option to speak to a “live” representative.

It may seem counterintuitive, but making it easy to press “0” for a representative at any menu won’t discourage self-service. If it is easy to authenticate and if IVR menus are well-written, borrowers will typically self-serve because it is faster. But if the borrower really needs to speak to someone, you do yourself no favors by hiding the option to get to an agent. It’s important to ensure that each major menu offers the caller a consistent option to press “0” for a representative.

Contact Options on the Web

The web channel is no different. Borrowers accessing account information on the web often don’t find all the answers to their questions. Once again, they’re going to desire a quick and easy way to connect with a representative.

The worst solution is to expect the borrower to find your 800 number on the web and call for help. That call will lead to your IVR system where the borrower will have to once again authenticate and then navigate through a menu to reach an agent.

Instead, consider augmenting your website with more direct contact options. For many consumers, the contact method of choice will be a web chat. Chat’s the perfect communication tool for a large segment of the population that has embraced texting and Instant Messaging (IM). It’s a natural extension of their day-to-day interactions, and they are comfortable using chat to quickly get their questions answered.

But not everyone is chat-oriented, and some questions are more readily addressed over the phone. For those web users, the better option is to build into your website an option to request a call from a representative. When the borrower fills out the form, an agent in your call center is notified immediately that this borrower has requested a call, and the call is placed to a phone number entered by the borrower. An immediate call back gets the borrower’s questions resolved quickly and underscores your commitment to customer service, and makes for a happier borrower.

Both borrowers and servicers benefit from the full range of self-service options, but the servicing business is still very much a people business, and the need to connect borrowers with call center representatives continues to be a critical factor in customer satisfaction.

About The Author

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Barry Hays

Barry Hays is Co-Founder and Senior Vice President of TeleVoice, a provider of customized call center solutions, to the financial services industry. Barry may be reached by email at bhays@televoice.com.