Humanizing the Digital Mortgage Experience

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Combining High-Tech with High-Touch is Key to Engaging Today’s Borrowers

A funny thing happened on the journey to digitalization. It turns out that the more borrowers clamor for the speed and efficiency of automation from their mortgage lenders, the higher the value they place on human interaction.

Ellie Mae’s 2019 Borrower Insights Survey showed that while borrowers across every generation expect digital options to be part of their loan process, they are also interacting more frequently with their lenders across a multitude of platforms.

These findings underscore what most mortgage lenders already understand: The mortgage process has to balance high-tech tools with high-touch human interactions to meet today’s customer demands.

Borrowers Want it All
According to a survey conducted by Ellie Mae, 50% of borrowers who took out a mortgage in the past 5 years chose their lender based on whether they offered an online application or portal. And 47% of the respondents said access to an online portal for uploading documents was a factor in their decision.

Among the borrowers who weren’t offered online or digital options, the majority said that they would have preferred having them available. Even with digital services, though, borrowers—especially younger borrowers—communicated more frequently with their lending companies than in previous studies. In fact, when they have a question, Millennials actually pick up the phone more often than Baby Boomers.

Ellie Mae’s research tracks PwC’s 2018 report, “Home Lending Experience Radar 2018.” In that study, PwC noted a paradigm shift in the customer experience. While borrowers across every demographic expected—and used—the digital tools provided, PwC found that “digital needs to supplement, complement, replace, and coexist with traditional channels—all at the same time.”

How Lenders Can Strike That Balance
The key to optimizing the customer experience is understanding how your borrowers want to interact with you. Ellie Mae studied nine forms of communication: fax, email, phone, chat, mobile app, in-person, direct mail, text and online portal/website. Millennials and Gen Xers used all nine forms of communication to interact with their lenders, and both younger generations communicated with their lenders more frequently than Baby Boomers.

To engage digital borrowers, lenders should consider offering tools that will accelerate the application process, such as pre-populating digital documents with any personal information available. They should also provide online information geared toward the tech-savvy, hands-on borrower, such as educational materials, loan calculators or chat boxes for frequently asked questions.

At the same time, though, it’s critical to create a seamless experience for borrowers as they toggle between online and personal interactions. One way to do that is to offer the option to speak with a loan specialist at every point in the application process, and to design a digital journey that leads to personal engagement.

Reimagine Your Business
To fully integrate human interaction and automated services, your loan officers need the necessary tools and training to engage with customers where and how they want to engage. For example, PwC noted that “co-browsing” is becoming an increasingly common solution for borrowers and their loan officers. Loan officers can share a portal with an applicant, guiding them through the process in real time and answering any questions as they arise.

Your loan officers also need to know immediately when someone fills out a form or requests information online so they can be proactive in responding to requests. Research shows that only 7% of companies respond to an online request or form within 5 minutes. And more than half of the companies surveyed didn’t respond over the next 5 business days. Online customers don’t want to be kept waiting, so they are likely to be highly responsive to the first person they hear from.

As you transition more of your mortgage processes to digital solutions, it’s also going to be important to help your team members manage their own transitions to this new way of working. Help your legacy sales staff envision their future within the new digital environment by bringing the best and brightest talent into the new experience and letting them help lead the way.

Additionally, it’s going to be important to recruit tech-savvy employees who also have people skills so that they can engage with all borrowers. You may also have to consider restructuring your compensation packages so that they align with the market rate paid for the skills needed in today’s tech-driven loan process.

Automating routine tasks won’t replace the loan officer. Rather, it will allow your sales force to build even deeper relationships with your customers. Without the added burden of shuffling papers and tracking down lost documents, loan officers can stay connected with borrowers through the entire process, monitoring the progress of the loan and heading off any problems before they arise. As a result, loan officers become a trusted resource that borrowers are likely to turn to again as their mortgage needs evolve.

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