OCT 15, 2013 9:51am ET

Improving Customer Relationship Management

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What the mortgage industry commonly refers to as customer relationship management technology really is just contact management, declares an executive whose company plays in this space.

These tools are basically a Rolodex combined with some automated marketing functions, the chief executive of Vantage Production LLC, Paul Zoukis, says. What it has done with its newest offering is bring what the rest of the world knows as CRM, by taking the information at the corporate level and using it as a starting point for a marketing program.

It takes contacts, prospects, referral partners and pricing data, among other information and combines this in such a way that allows for customer-specific proposals and presentations.

Vantage is the parent company of such industry tools as Loan Toolbox and Mortgage Market Guide. Those products were built to support a market that existed in the prior decade, when there were plenty of new, inexperienced loan officers joining the ranks, he explains. These people needed guidance in marketing and industry basics such as the timing to lock loans.

“But when the firestorm of regulation hit after the crash, the world changed fundamentally to where the relationship between the LO and lender is much different than it was before. “Now the lender is directly responsible, both financially and a compliance view, for all the participants in the lending chain,” says Zoukis.

So Vantage made a strategic decision two years ago that it would build a corporate enterprise class system with the goal of helping people become more effective in the selling and marketing of mortgages, while at the same time, helping the lender maintain compliance.

Zoukis says company officers can “sleep at night, knowing that the activities that were going on around them were compliant.”

In the past, mortgage industry compliance experts have said that advertising and marketing is low-hanging fruit for regulators.

So Vantage came up with Vantage Integrated Production. Already it has signed up a number of clients, including Sierra Pacific Mortgage, which plans to use it to support the continued expansion of its retail channel.

Companies see this as more than just a solution that does one thing; rather it is a technical platform designed to allow the user to take advantage the information and relationships in a way that has never been done before to build the business. And doing it in a way that helps to keep the regulators happy, Zoukis says.

The lender can implement business rules to monitor and control all of the activities in the system. Thus the lender controls how much an individual can modify or alter a piece of collateral or a presentation.

Sierra Pacific has made the decision to significantly grow its retail division, as the changes in the mortgage business since 2008 have driven loan origination in that direction, says executive vice president Chuck Iverson.

So the Vantage Integrated Production gives Sierra Pacific a high-end marketing system which in turn it can use as a recruiting tool for top producing loan originators.

Then there are the federal and state regulations which require “robust marketing compliance,” Iverson says. Being a multistate lender, this becomes a complex balancing act very quickly.
Originators want marketing materials but companies need to have a way of making sure those materials will not haunt them in the future on the regulatory front.

There are a lot of people who use the term CRM, Zoukis continues. The classic meaning of the word is for the user not only to manage contacts, he or she can manage sales opportunities and optimize lead sources. CRM is used for sales forecasting and to provide branch managers with reports.

“You are able to do it in a retail operation and in a consumer direct call center. You are able to do it in a kiosk. You are able to do it on a website or an interactive PC display. We do all of those things,” he says.

For example, via a Go ToMeeting-style system, the company and the customer can interact in a real time and create a proposal. That proposal can be enhanced with graphics and posted to a website where the spouse of the customer can view it. The lender can see that activity going on, and if the customer makes changes to the original proposal, a new one can be generated.

By controlling the sales proposal element means Vantage meets other regulatory needs; it is integrated with the pricing engine and the loan origination system and it allow it to make certain it meets the rules for product eligibility and suitability, Zoukis notes. And it provides tools that help the lender meet standards on clarity.

Finally, as the consumer moves around to various contact points with the lender, the system provides a consistent set of offerings at each point. He declares no other system except Vantage’s does this.

Another marketing solutions provider, Mortgage Returns, has expanded its offerings of business analysis reports. Jim Blatt, president and CEO, said the firm has always done reports on return on income, but now it has broken those down into a few sections.

The company is now giving comparisons to peer groups and national averages. It is also providing information on marketing productivity, which Blatt defines as customer retention efforts. It looks at how the company is doing today, how it is doing compared with a year ago and how it is doing compared with its peers.

Mortgage Returns has known for two years that a shift to a purchase market was coming, he says, so it has been adapting its products for a while. So it has added functionality around the purchase market and measurement is just part of that.

“People need to optimize their performance. Well you can’t optimize your performance if you don’t know where you are,” Blatt declares.

When volumes drop there is pressure on pricing and margins, so it is important to know that the marketing dollars being spent are delivering the maximum results, he says.

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