Despite web advances, customers prefer face timeJoe Amorosocustomer service, consumer preferences, personal, electronic
J.D. Power and Associates recently released information from
their first quarter 2005 financial power study, which examined,
among other things, consumer preferences and actions when applying
for a home mortgage. With all of the public relations hype and
serious television advertising dollars behind major online lenders
who are targeting consumers, you may be surprised to learn what
this study uncovered.
By an overwhelming majority (64 percent), consumers still prefer
in-person contact with their originator throughout the mortgage
process. The next most preferred method of contact is by telephone
(21 percent) followed by mail (18 percent). Web interaction and
e-mail are tied for last place at two percent. Two percent.
The authors of the study attribute these preferences to the
extensive paperwork and complexities of the application process. I
believe they should also include the complexities of the mortgage
products themselves. Consumers prefer a personal dialogue with
their originator to make sure they're selecting the loan program
that best meets their needs.
What does this mean for our industry that's invested millions in
new technologies to deliver online mortgage applications and
approvals? Simply stated, for the immediate future, it means we
should make sure we're using technology dollars to invest in
operations tools rather than sales or origination tools. The right
technology in your back office helps you deliver faster approvals
and on-time closings. Your storefront should continue to be staffed
by knowledgeable human beings who are trained in delivering
personalized customer service.
The broker-lender relationship is an interesting parallel. You
are now able to price and lock a loan online and take advantage of
automated underwriting engines. Many lenders also offer other
value-added online services to help you sell loans. Marketing
services and product matrices are among these tools that help you
learn the loan programs and sell them to the consumer. And since
not all brokers are comfortable with the technology, most of these
programs are opt-in.
Lenders have made serious investments in technology, yielding
terrific benefits for brokers. But a positive personal relationship
with a sales representative is still the cornerstone of the
broker-lender relationship. The most successful sales reps in our
business are the ones who are very hands-on with their brokers.
Whether training rookie originators at a growing broker's company
or personally meeting with brokers to structure loans, a lender's
educated sales force is just as valuable as the latest whiz-bang
pricing engines. That tells me that the broker population isn't
much different than the consumer population.
In this industry, we use people where they matter mostto listen
to what our customers are saying and help them find the right loan
program. Our challenge is to use technology to deliver faster and,
at the same time, more personal service.
Fancy Web sites are nice, but people are still the face of our
Joe Amoroso is a senior vice president with Opteum Financial
Services. He may be reached by e-mail at