Many of today’s customers want the ease of applying for a loan from the comfort of their couch, but that does not mean they only want to interact with machines. In September, Planet Home Lending launched a new a personal digital mortgage assistant, Skymore by Planet Home Lending. While we are excited about all the ways it will speed loans through the pipeline, we’re also keeping our focus on maintaining the human touch.
Even as digital mortgage assistant technology automates the loan process, mortgage loan originators will continue to have a critical role as advisors and processors will still need to be available when borrowers want to pause for an explanation.
If your company’s goal is to create a five-star-review-giving customer for life, there are five things to deliver when offering the latest technology:
If you ask Google “What type of mortgage is right for me?,” you will see pay-per-click ads and information about different loan types. What you will not see is an answer to your question. Especially in the current purchase market, consumers benefit from talking to someone who can lay out home loan options based on personal variables, such as financial goals, and economic variables, such as local housing market conditions and interest rate movements.
“Vanilla” customers (I would explain here. Say, “who have high credit scores, straightforward income and no recent negative credit history”) who complete an online, five-minutepre-qualification without ever speaking to a human might receive an accurate response. But the consumer who thinks their monthly bonus is their salary and do not state this accurately are going to see their pre-approval explode later.
Some of Planet Home Lending’s most glowing reviews come from customers who were told by another lender’s automated underwriting system that their sub-620 FICO prevented them from becoming homeowners. Knowing how to manually underwrite a home loan still gets some customers (“who are capable of being solid borrowers”) into homes when technology cannot.
When you are not able to provide a service or complete a task, never hesitate to tell the customer – just have a solution. If you cannot get something completed the day it needs to be done, communication with the customer when it is complete and follow up with them. Too many people say, “I can get you approvedin two days” when that is not possible, , andthey know they are not able to when they say it. There is a world of difference between saying: “Let’s see what we can do” and “We can do that.”
Here is an example of honesty being the best policy. A few years ago, there was a retention borrower who wanted to refinance. He lived off capital gainsand planned to submit his tax return in October. He’d filed an extension in April and then contacted us a few months later.
The loan officer and processor told him the extension was not going to be an issue (we can do that!). The underwriter said, “no tax returns, no loan.”
The infuriated borrower contacted our legal department. Not only did I refund his upfront fees, but I called him and explained why we could not complete the process at that time. I told him that we were not a portfolio lender; we had sold his loan to Fannie Mae and had to follow its rules. I asked him to call me in October, and we would see what we could do at that time.
It’s been years, but I still remember what he said: “Why didn’t someone just explain that to me before?” He did call me that October. We approved him in two weeks, andhe went from being an unhappycustomer to a reallyhappy customer. The phone call to honestly explain the situation and refund his money took less than 10 minutes.
One of the best features of Skymore by Planet Home Lending™ is its ability to keep borrowers updated and to show them loan status 24/7.
Status updates are great, but we are still urging our loan officers (LOs)and processors to call borrowers. Although, inmy experience, some staff would rather email a customer than pick up the phone and have a five-minute conversation. They are aided in that task by our internal CRM, PRISM™, which providesrelationship management tools.
Calling someone to share the joyful news that they have been approved is how you make customers for life. Borrowers want a partner, not someone who sends them emails and disclosures. They are looking for help and reassurance throughout the process. And while underwriters do not usually talk to borrowers, if there is a complex issue to resolve, it should be all right for them to talk to the borrower directly.
Skymore by Planet Home Lending also lets borrowers share their screen with the loan officer so they can ask questions during the loan application process.
Online applications create efficiencies, but when the borrower can talk to the LO while they are filling out the form, we avoid errors that can slow the process. And when there is a problem, borrowers do not want to talk to a machine. They want to talk to someone who can explain what is happening and how we are going to resolve it.
4. Caring and thoughtfulness
In today’s market, we are constantly seeing deals where an appraisal comes in low, andthe seller will not lower the price. Sometimes the borrower has to put more money down; sometimes we use a 203(k) to close the gap via improvements, and sometimes the borrower just has to walk away.
Going through those options with borrowers and reassuring them everything is going to be OK has become a daily task for many LOs, but it’s rarely routine for the home buyer.
We know home buyers who lose out on one deal often go on to purchase a home they love even more. Yet, we forget that the borrower does not go through this kind of process everyday. Having empathy with them instead of getting impatient is important.It’s the human touch versus the technology that supports borrowers as they grieve over a lost home.
The technology companies put in place allows us to have a more efficient process. Customers also want speed, because they want the “yes” that relieves their anxiety. They want to know they are approved, andtheir home loan is going to close.
While we measure speed in days or hours, speed is less about closing in a certain number of days than about doing what you say you are going to do and meeting or exceeding the days required in a purchase agreement or a borrower’s desired closing date.
Even though I’ve been in the mortgage business for decades, when I personally go through a home purchase, I always worry. I know I am going to be approved, and I still worry. When I sold my house in Texas six years ago, the deal fell through two days before closing, andwe had to put the house back on the market. Thankfully, the market was strong. The house sold in two weeks, andwe closed a month later. But those weresix stressful weeks!
There is always an unknown, andthat is where being honest pays off. It is better to say, “I can’t get you the closing date you wanted, but I can get you the day after,” than to schedule a closing date that is not possible.
Customers for Life
A lot of people say we need more technology in mortgage banking and they are right. But we also need more people just talking to the customer.
We should deliver great technology and then take care of your customers as they use it. Be present with your customers. Be a partner to your customers.
Satisfied customers give good reviews and come back the next time they need a refinance or purchase loan. They might tell their friends and associates about your cool new technology (I got a loan while I was waiting in the carpool lane! Of course, I was a passenger!), but they will definitely tell them how personal and understandable you made the home loan process.
About The Author
During her four decades in the industry, Planet Home Lending Executive Vice President, National Operations Suzy Lindblom has grown some of the best-known brands in the business, while earning a reputation as a manager who knows the numbers but loves the people. She’s a 2018 Women in Housing Leadership Award nominee, won the 2017 MPA Elite Women Award, appeared on the National Diversity Council’s Southern California 2016 Most Powerful & Influential Women list and was a HousingWire 2015 Woman of Influence.