Magazine article Mortgage Banking

Meeting the Increasing Expectations of Borrowers

Magazine article Mortgage Banking

Meeting the Increasing Expectations of Borrowers

Article excerpt

OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS, WE have seen customer expectations for service excellence increase dramatically across most industries. The mortgage industry is certainly no exception. On the origination side, mortgage lenders now offer a broader array of new mortgage products to meet the diverse needs of an evolving customer base, and after loans fund, mortgage servicers step in to work directly with borrowers. In addition to adapting systems and procedures to accommodate the new product array, servicers must continually raise the bar in the area of customer service excellence.

Borrowers today have more mortgage product options than ever before, and servicers must be ready. At Option One Mortgage Corporation, we provide servicing for a variety of fixed-rate mortgage (FRM), hybrid and adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) products. Our hybrid and ARMs include features such as interest-only, daily simple interest, adjustable rates and a combination of adjustable/fixed rates. We also support the servicing of Servicemenbers Civil Relief Act of 2003 (SCRA) loans for qualified military personnel, as well as direct-access dividend loans, which pay dividends based on excellent payment history.

The diversity doesn't stop with product design. Mortgage lenders are also expanding into emerging markets, including a growing number of immigrant communities.

While these new products benefit a wider range of customers, they do introduce a new level of complexity for the firms servicing the loans. With these evolving new mortgage products and increasing expectations from diverse customers, mortgage servicers must respond with enhanced, customer-centric policies, procedures, practices and enabling technologies to fulfill customer needs.

Customers want to contact their service providers when and how it is most convenient for them. At Option One, our borrowers have several alternatives for contacting us on their terms. Extended phone hours allow borrowers to speak to customer service representatives in English or Spanish until midnight EST during the week, and until 6:00 p.m. EST on Saturday. For homeowners who prefer a do-it-yourself approach, there is access to a 24-hour automated phone system and a secure Web site. And for those who like a written response, we have a customer resolution department dedicated to answering letters quickly and professionally.

One of the biggest concerns for homeowners is getting their payments posted promptly and accurately. Option One provides several payment options, which include standard check processing, automatic withdrawals, online payments via our Web site and telephone payments. Through Option One's lock-box, we are able to apply 99.9 percent of the payments on the day the checks are received. By imaging each check, we can answer all payment inquiries immediately. And, in the event that a homeowner's loan is transferred to us for servicing, we automatically block all late-charge assessments for a full 60 days so that the new customer is not penalized after the transfer.

A key component of delivering customer service excellence is continual enhancement of technology. Because we focus on the customer experience, we upgrade our Web site regularly to allow our borrowers not only to do more things, but also to do them more easily. For example, we seek ways to improve navigation and provide more details to the borrower about his or her account.

Through a sophisticated interactive voice response system (IVR), our customers are often able to address their needs without ever talking to a customer service representative. …

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