Across every industry, organizations are racing to differentiate when it comes to the customer experience – and this is especially true in mortgage lending. Truth be told, there is no golden ticket or a single tactic to improve the experience. It takes a balanced and thoughtful approach with careful consideration for what consumers really want.
Finding this approach is vital in today’s “Amazon” world. Every organization is competing to deliver the experience consumers expect, which is being shaped by Amazon, Netflix and the likes. While these companies may do well when it comes to a superior digital experience, they may not be ideal models for financial services organizations, including mortgage lenders. They lack the localization and personalization that consumers increasingly want.
In fact, according to a recent Fannie Mae survey of both lenders and borrowers, as lenders continue to “digitize,” borrowers still expect a human touch. As part of the survey, participants were asked about the future role of person-to-person (P2P) communication (via phone or in-person channels). Nearly half of lenders said that P2P communication will be equally important as it is today, while nearly 40 percent expect it to be less important. In contrast, nearly all (90 percent) recent mortgage borrowers indicated that they would like to use P2P channels in the future when communicating with their lenders.
But organizations cannot focus solely on a local presence and forget about great technology and superior digital experiences either. There must be a balanced approach.
At Gateway, we have heavily invested time and resources to find that right approach, achieving what we call the “Gateway Experience,” a service-intensive partnership between the homebuyer, real estate agent and the loan officer. Our goal is to earn customers’ business every day, for their entire life. This experience balances local mortgage professionals with superior technology and digital experiences, while also offering a wide array of products. This, along with being compliant and focusing on growing in the right areas, has allowed us to succeed and become one of the largest and fastest-growing privately held mortgage companies in the nation.
Keeping it Local
Creating a great experience starts with finding the right mortgage professionals – and the right professionals are local ones. Buying a home is a huge investment, and the process can be overwhelming. This is the largest, and most important, financial transaction that most people make in their lifetime. You’re also talking about people’s finances. It gets very personal, and borrowers want to work with a person they feel connected to and comfortable with.
For us at Gateway, we look for individuals that have a strong commitment to their community and share our values: to strengthen families and communities through homeownership. This core purpose has become a passion. Our loan officers work with the people in their community in a trusted way. They’re able to help them determine how much they can afford, explain their loan options, tell them how best to prepare for their mortgage application and then walk them through the process.
Through this unique connection, borrowers can take comfort knowing their mortgage needs are handled by a local professional who offers best-in-class services. They are there, by their side, in their community, enriching the home buying experience.
Investing in the right team with local expertise is the first part of creating a great experience, but that team needs to be equipped with powerful technology. Having the right technology helps make the process easy. In an era that is heavily driven by digital experiences from the likes of Netflix, Facebook, Amazon and others, mortgage lenders must keep pace. Consumers expect to be able to easily upload documents or even apply for a loan with the click of a button.
By generation, 75 percent of millennials have used an online application process for all or part of their last mortgage, according to Ellie Mae’s 2018 Borrower Insights Survey. About 55 percent of Gen Xers also leveraged an online application for all or part of their most recent mortgage, as did 43 percent of baby boomers. Still, these consumers also expect to have the option to call a person or meet with someone if they have questions, and more often, to start the process.
Gateway places a significant emphasis on powerful technology to facilitate superior digital experiences. In fact, we recently launched LinkStep, our new web-based digital mortgage experience that dramatically simplifies the home buying process. LinkStep is designed to enhance the Gateway Experience, and we will continue to pursue new technologies to improve the overall customer experience.
Finally, the third part of a great experience is having the right products. A great team of local professionals and superior technology are only as good as the products and services they offer. It is critical that mortgage lenders have a dynamic offering to compete with larger financial institutions and alternative lenders. By offering smart solutions that meet nearly any mortgage need, along with great rates and technology that powers it all, mortgage lenders can ensure they have a product that fits nearly any borrower.
To achieve a superior experience – one that combines both the digital and human element – mortgage lenders must focus on finding the right talent in their communities while also equipping those local professionals with the right technology. They cannot focus merely on one or the other. Then, by adding smart solutions with great pricing, lenders can better meet consumers’ expectations and stay ahead of the competition.
About The Author
Kevin Stitt is the founder of Gateway Mortgage Group, LLC, a privately held, full-service mortgage company licensed in 41 states and the District of Columbia.