Investments in technology and rededication to user experience helped consumer satisfaction with mortgage servicers improve from 2017, according to J.D. Power.

The industry's average satisfaction score was 758, up four points from last year. While that increase was relatively minor, a number of servicers experienced much better year-over-year point increases on an individual level.

TD Bank topped all servicers in year-over-year gains with 63 points, and Caliber Home Loans was second with a 61-point jump. Both had the largest declines from 2016 to 2017.

Overall, mortgage servicers poured money into bolstering their digital presence, a trend expected to continue as the space evolves. Only 20% of customers said they used the mobile platforms, but those who did reported higher satisfaction ratings over nonmobile users. The percentage of mobile users is much lower compared with businesses like checking or credit cards that involve more frequent transactions.

J.D. Power consumer satisfaction

For that 20% figure to grow, a combination of things need to happen, according to Craig Martin, senior director at J.D. Power.

"There has to be a quality upgrade," he said. "The servicing interfaces usually aren't up to the same level as other parts of the websites. The origination side is where they're spending a lot of money. On the servicing side, they're not sharing information, they're not talking, they're not educating, they're not engaging … they're pretty much just driving you to act and that's it."

Adding value would be the way to digitally connect with more customers. "That may be education, promotion, or things like how to lower your monthly bill so you're offering up information with value to the consumer to get their eyes to your site," Martin said.

Quicken Loans is the top-rated mortgage servicer for the fifth straight year. Quicken's score of 857 is 99 points above the industry average and grew by 17 points year-over-year.

"They're one of the few mortgage servicers today that is offering a mobile app on the servicing side," Martin said. "Technology sets them apart. Their communication [does], too."

One of the challenges for servicers is that their customers have little personal connection with them beyond routine mortgage payments, Martin said.

"Quicken does a good job of engaging and does a wealth of advertising," he said. "Both of those speak to the borrower in common language. They're down-to-earth and plain-speaking, while still being knowledgeable."

Marion McDougall, chief loan administration officer at Caliber, gave a lot of the credit for the company's improvement to its focus on customer experience and development of a program called CLEAR — which stands for communicate, listen, educate, anticipate and resolve.

"We refocused on walking in the customer's shoes, putting extra emphasis on listening to them in order to identify the gaps in our shortcomings," McDougall said. "We advocate for customers' goals rather than just meeting their needs and find resolutions swiftly. We also went live with our mobile app earlier this year."

Caliber's steps to improvement align with Martin's advice for servicers, whom he says are at a crossroads.

"They're going two directions: Some are retrenching and not spending money, being conservative and trying to wait out this marketplace. Others are driving for change, investing in technology in both servicing and origination," Martin said.

If servicers "keep doing the same thing they've always done, eventually they'll lose market share to cutting-edge players — people focused on the customer, people focused on digital and driving that optimal experience in the new way of doing business."

Mortgage servicer satisfaction is calculated on a 1,000-point scale and measured through feedback from six categories: new customer orientation, billing and payment process, escrow account administration, interaction, mortgage fees and communications.

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