Call Centers Abroad Become Highly Popular

Servicers are creating offshore call centers and conducting heavy outsourcing in places like India and Mexico, according to panelists on the loss mitigation panel at the recent SourceMedia Mortgage Servicing Conference here.

Option One Mortgage Corp., which has a call center in Guadalajara, Mexico, has employees who spend at least 60 minutes per call helping Spanish-speaking borrowers. The company conducts heavy outsourcing in Costa Rica and Argentina.

Teji Singh, Option One's chief servicing officer, said domestic calls in the United States have an 86% success rate compared with 83%-84% for offshore calls.

"There is no difference if you train them well," she said. "Seventy-eight percent of mortgage lenders will outsource. It takes tremendous effort and tenacity to put up a call center on the other side of the country." A very small percentage of calls are sent back to the United States because borrowers did not want to talk with non-U.S. agents, she added. And within a six- to eight-month timeframe, the company has doubled its loss mitigation calls from 67% to 88%.

Countrywide Home Loans, Calabasas, Calif., has also seen very positive results with offshore call centers, said Michael Gross, managing director of loss mitigation operations.

In India, he said their agents handle front-end collections, dealing with borrowers who are one or two payments late. The company has operated as a captive company, not an outsourcer, for two and a half years in India.

"It's been very positive," Mr. Gross told the audience. "The results have been equal or better than the U.S. agents. The biggest difference is English as a second language. It's sometimes difficult to understand the nuances of language ... the trouble of interpretation and the frustration of the borrower."

The panelists said working with community activist groups such as ACORN to make contact with delinquent borrowers is a growing trend.

Mr. Gross said Countrywide's partnership with ACORN has been successful in Akron, Cleveland and Cincinnati, where foreclosures are high. Volunteer staff is also on hand in Hurricane Rita and Katrina areas, where a sizeable portion of Countrywide's portfolio exists. Members of the organization will knock on doors in specific neighborhoods in New Orleans and Houston to try and make contact with borrowers.

"Our interests are aligned," he said. "We both want to stop foreclosures and keep families in their homes. ACORN brings us credibility and a presence in the community." Option One also said it has found it helpful to deal with consumer advocacy groups like ACORN through six satellite offices in high-foreclosure states. (c) 2007 Mortgage Servicing News and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved. http://www.bondbuyer.com/ http://www.sourcemedia.com/