Millennials carry a lengthy list of expectations for their interactions with every business today, and their requirements for mortgage servicers are no different, if not higher.
The tech-savvy, social media-focused generation has grown up in an era of ubiquitous cellphones, text messaging and instant Web access to everything under the sun. Addressing their preferences will not only build customer satisfaction, it will also yield new efficiencies for servicing operations.
The case for adapting business processes to the desires of this generation is simple: they are the largest generation in U.S. history, and comprise roughly 25% of the population. They have also begun buying homes, if not yet in numbers the mortgage industry has expected.
Millennials have embraced a multitude of communication methods, which presents both challenges and opportunities for servicers. Most importantly, working with them requires servicers to significantly expand their menu of communications options.
Servicers generally have fairly robust websites, offering borrowers ready access to loan details, one-time payments, reports and the like. But any customer service representative knows that borrowers can't always find the answer to their question on the web. They still end up calling to speak to a live representative.
To make websites more efficient, servicers must develop or utilize tools for connecting borrowers and representatives. For many, the first step will be a chat function. Online chat is a natural extension of this generation's day-to-day interactions, and they are comfortable using the service to quickly get their questions answered.
Chat functions could be cost-effective for servicers because a small group of agents can readily handle questions from borrowers quickly and efficiently.
Some questions remain more easily addressed with a traditional phone conversation with a customer service representative. Here, servicers should integrate websites and phone to improve the customer experience.
Websites should include a link to request a call from a representative. The link takes the borrower to a form to provide their phone number and a brief description of their question. When the borrower fills out the form, a call center agent is notified immediately that this borrower has requested a call, and the call is placed to the phone number the borrower entered. An immediate call back gets the borrower's questions resolved quickly and sends customer satisfaction through the roof.
Smartphones are the other area of focus for millennials, and provide more than one avenue for improved customer service.
A growing number of servicers are expected to embrace text messaging as a vehicle for communicating with borrowers. With borrower authorization, servicers can send payment reminders, payment receipt notices and other notifications via text messages. These opt-in messages can speed up payments and even reduce routine calls to the call center.
Of course, mobile phones are much more than tools for phone calls and texts. They're an on-the-go window to the Web. A recent comScore report indicates that smartphones and tablets now account for more than half of all web traffic.
But not all websites play well on phones and tablets. Servicers must now concern themselves with constant development and testing to ensure that their websites render effectively in all the various phone and tablet operating systems, browsers and form factors. Continuously programming for this moving target is here to stay.
Even though millennials embrace a range of new technologies, they still pick up their phones to call for service. They grew up with interactive voice response, and they are more comfortable using it for self-service options than many of their older counterparts. Like other consumers, they will make the most use of IVR systems that have been well-scripted to facilitate self-service and that provide opportunities to speak to a representative.
Millennials require choice. They demand myriad ways to access their account information and to communicate with their servicers. They'll use them all at different times based upon where they are and what the need of the moment might be. Servicers must adapt to these changing expectations, but in the end everyone wins.
Barry Hays is co-founder and senior vice president of Televoice.