The Chicago-based special servicer only uses former mortgage sales people in its customer contact positions because they are experienced in the business and familiar with its terminology, says Patrick Norton, senior vice president. The company is five years old and this has been its customer service model from the start.
Former loan officers know how to read a credit report and are accustomed to working with people who have challenged credit. And the former sales people are familiar with working under the wide variety of regulatory guidelines, so they have thrived in this environment, he explains.
And the essence of being a success in sales is the ability to listen to and understand what the customers’ needs are, developing a relationship and then finding a solution. Those same skills are key to success in the special servicing arena as well, Norton says.
The old way of doing collections, where the customer contact person says “make your payment or else,” is no longer a viable business model.
So Fay wants to use the same skill set mortgage sales people have developed to keep consumers out of foreclosure, he states. Fay gets its employees through referrals from customers or current workers. Right now it is not seeing a shortage of current applicants for open positions. This program enhances the referral base.
Potential employees come into Fay’s offices and go through a two-week “conversion” course, Norton says. The servicer takes the origination knowledge the loan officer has and reorients it to its business needs.
Much of the training is around compliance with servicing and debt collection regulations. Originators are familiar with the concept of working in a regulated environment, and now they need to learn the rules that apply on the servicing side, he explains.
There is also training on servicing technology, which is not the same as the systems used for originating loans. Fay has always been a single point of contact servicer, even before it became the rule. Its contact people are given a portfolio of loans to service and that portfolio is theirs to work on, he says.
For the former loan officer, coming into this line of work ends the rat race of always having to chase down getting the next loan application.
Fay does a lot of oversight, including actually listening to those calls which are being recorded for customer service quality assurance purposes and then going out and training its staff on how things might be improved. These are great coaching opportunities, Norton says. So the training keeps going on, even after the first two weeks.
The company has two offices, one in Chicago and the other in the city’s western suburbs. But people have relocated to the area to take advantage of this opportunity, he says.
One recent call shows the power of Fay’s customer contact model. The distressed borrower had told the person handling his file that he was looking to retire in 10 years.
The former loan officer was astute enough to comment back to the client that if they did a modification the borrower would not be able to retire in 10 years or no longer own the home in 10 years.
Instead, the contact person was able to recommend the borrower to a 1,850-square-foot rental that would cost the borrower $500 less than he has available.
And the ex-loan officer then told the client that the saving should be invested with a financial planner to create a nest egg. While the borrower ended up taking a different place, he and his wife were able to make a fresh start. That all comes from listening to the first part of the conversation regarding retirement plans and then being able to help them with a plan rather than the old “when can we expect your payment model of collections,” Norton says.