Servicers Find Less Customer Contact Is Better

J.D. Power and Associates found in its 2006 survey that consumers who have less contact with their mortgage servicing company are generally more satisfied with the company's performance than consumers who initiate a lot of contact.

At first that didn't sit well with SunTrust Mortgage, the company that ranked No. 1 in consumer satisfaction among loan servicing customers in last year's J.D. Power survey.

"We were a little surprised and hurt to learn that the less our borrowers heard from us, the happier they were," said Lori Gray, senior vice president for business development at SunTrust Mortgage, during a panel discussion at the SourceMedia Mortgage Servicing Conference here last week.

But SunTrust has learned that the paradox may be a good thing. What consumers want, Ms. Gray said, is "frictionless" loan servicing. They want to have a lender that meets or exceeds their expectations, resolves problems quickly, and bridges the gap between loan origination and loan servicing.

Toward that end, SunTrust allows retail loan origination officers to maintain a kind of ownership over their customers. If a consumer has an issue with the way their loan is being managed, they can call the person they probably know best at SunTrust.

"All of our customers have advocates within the company, and that advocate is their loan originator," Ms. Gray said.

SunTrust prides itself in having a sales-oriented company culture, and the company even has created a "loan officer retention leader board" to reward sales officers who recapture existing mortgage customers who make a new purchase or refinance a loan. She said the leader board recognizes the competitive nature of sales executives.

"We thought we'd leverage this psychology to improve our retention rates," she said.

SunTrust also relies on analytics to predict and prioritize loan payoffs, helping the company retain more of its servicing clients. Ms. Gray said the predictive modeling, along with tools such as checking to see if current customers have listed their home for sale, has dramatically improved customer retention. In addition, SunTrust has a continuity program that keeps the company in contact with consumers through media such as a newsletter, which has also aided retention, she said.

Because consumers want a frictionless loan servicing environment, "transaction girth" is a risk faced by mortgage servicers, she said. The more often consumers have to call their lender, the less satisfied they probably are with the way things are working.

Timothy Ryan, senior director for the mortgage practice at J.D. Power and Associates, said consumers view mortgage servicing less as a relationship and more as a utility. The lower the level of interaction they have with their servicer, the more likely they are to give their loan servicer high marks for customer satisfaction.

And consumers who rank their servicer highly are, not surprisingly, more likely to say they will do business with that lender again. (c) 2007 Mortgage Servicing News and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved. http://www.mortgageservicingnews.com http://www.sourcemedia.com

Next in News ►