Typical consumers are fairly comfortable with the digital world we live in today. These savvy web-surfers confidently search online for products and services; conduct research on the performance and reputation of providers; compare the features and pricing of similar solutions; and execute on their decisions when they are ready. If interacting with a customer service professional or “robot” is required before consumers can proceed, it can certainly dampen customer satisfaction levels, negatively impact sales and reflect poorly on the company’s brand.
It’s not that consumers always want to do everything themselves – but they do want to be empowered to act independently if they so choose. They want the website, program or app to be easy to find and understand; available upon demand; and to be so well-designed and intuitive that little to no thinking is required to achieve their desired outcome.
Research findings also suggest that customers who are empowered with ready access to the information and functionality they need to conduct business independently tend to have a positive experience with the process, which often translates into a positive opinion of the company and its solutions, and ultimately sales.
Freeing Up Data and Information
Traditionally, mortgage servicers have been the primary gatekeepers of mortgage-related customer information, as well as the data associated with their home loans. To access this information, customers must interact directly with their providers, ask them to determine their options, and then request the analysis required to make recommendations about the customer’s best course of action. This accessibility barrier to loan information contradicts the ease of self-service options for other types of information that deliver details faster and more efficiently to customers on demand.
Widespread internet access means that most consumers can visit an extensive number of websites and apps that make self-service both possible and easily accessible. From airline and hotel apps to retail shopping, education, banking and social networking apps, consumers enjoy the satisfaction of doing business online, quickly finding the information they need and completing their transactions. Today, people can even purchase a car online and have it delivered to their front door – all without speaking to a salesperson!
Of course, there are still a number of business sectors where consumer access to information and analysis for decision-making is difficult, if not impossible. And, many consumers still prefer to interact with a company representative to discuss product and service options before deciding upon a course of action. With today’s digital technology, this personal interaction can now be a choice based upon a consumer’s preference – rather than a requirement for consumers to get the information and answers they need.
Empowering the Homeowner with Information
One of the most important investments many consumers make is the purchase of a home. There are several helpful websites and apps that enable potential buyers to see homes that are for sale; learn about neighborhoods, schools, and crime rates; find out how much taxes are; and even see a 360-degree view of a home’s interior. Real estate agents are readily available to support the buying process with just the click of a button on a website. And, on many sites, lenders stand ready to offer the consumer approval on a mortgage loan. With these self-service capabilities, the consumer can use their personal device (e.g., laptop, tablet or smartphone) to find one of the most important wealth-building assets they will ever own.
Once they’ve secured a loan, homeowners benefit from understanding how to best manage their home loan. Certainly, many consumers can obtain information about their house payments, amount of interest paid, how much equity is in their home and other related information on their bank’s website. What may not be readily apparent to them is what to do with this information or how to manage their property wealth as the years go by.
This is where a mortgage servicing app can become a consumer’s best friend — but not just any app that provides information based upon static data. What is needed is a dynamic application that accesses up-to-the-minute data to give homeowners the information they need for future home- or loan-related decision-making.
Scenario Simulation and More
We know that many, if not most, consumers prefer to access their mortgage information online without the intervention of a customer service rep (unless they ask for one). But we also know that homeowners are not always financially savvy about how best to leverage and maximize the wealth in their homes. To help consumers make the decisions that are best for them, they need current information about their payments, interest rate and equity; how the value of their home compares to similar homes in their neighborhood; and the impact of various financial decisions they could make. And, these details need to be easily accessible and consumable.
Today’s banking apps certainly provide basic information about the status of a consumer’s existing accounts. But what if a mortgage servicer provided its customers with an interactive app that could do much more – such as simulate different scenarios regarding how consumers might use the equity they are building in their homes. Such an app could offer a dashboard that would provide a quick view of market and neighborhood information, as well as the ability to click a button to make a payment. The app could also show consumers what the current (real-time) value of their home is; how a refi would impact their monthly payments or interest savings; and how making an additional principal payment on a monthly basis or in a lump sum would improve the time required to pay off their loan. This app could also show other information, such as current interest rates available or special deals their lenders may have available.
Ultimately, this is the kind of do-it-yourself functionality that mortgage customers want at their point of need. They want to be educated about what they need to know, review different scenarios, compare options, and act when and if they decide to. They want quick access to customer support if they need it, without feeling intruded upon. This is customer empowerment at its finest, and can help build the kind of customer satisfaction – and customer retention – that will last.
About The Author
Shelley Leonard is the Executive Vice President and Chief Product Officer for Black Knight, Inc. (NYSE:BKI), a premier provider of integrated software, data and analytics to the mortgage industry. She is responsible for defining product strategy and working with each division within Black Knight to develop a comprehensive product strategy roadmap across the enterprise. Most recently Shelley led the team involved in the development of Servicing Digital, Black Knight’s new mobile solution to help mortgage servicers deepen customer relationships and increase retention by giving detailed, timely and highly personalized information to customers about the value of their homes and how much wealth can be built from these real estate assets.