Over the years, I've been consistently asked several questions: What five-star programs have I reviewed (answered that one in the June issue of The Mortgage Press--e-mail me if you need a copy)? Which Web-based software do I recommend? And, what database software do I use?
I am shocked at how many mortgage companies and individuals are still using old database software programs. A dear friend of mine, a successful mortgage broker for at least 20 years, has never upgraded her files from Q & A, because "it would be too much trouble." I expect most brokers are using Access, Outlook, ACT! or GoldMine. Other excellent programs are Contact, LoanToolBox's template overlay for ACT! and Mortgage Quest. Over the years, I have reviewed most of them at different times in the mortgage cycle; they were excellent and all work well. WorkCenter by vForms takes client relationship management to the next level as a relational database; the others are flat databases. You will see and appreciate the difference the moment you try it and will probably never look back.
WorkCenter is a relational database created exclusively for the mortgage industry by two mortgage bankers (who owned, ran and eventually sold their company). They have been involved in every aspect of the business and know just what the loan originator wants. They also understand the needs of the owner of a medium-size mortgage banker operation who must track the performance of individual originators and know instantly who is doing what with any given file. Programs like ACT! and GoldMine are not specific to the mortgage industry. Many hours of programming are required to personalize them to your company's needs. One of the main advantages of a relational database is that all contacts that are working with a specific loan are automatically synced into the file, i.e. real estate agents, appraisers, title, escrow, loan officers, processors, insurance brokers, etc. Each client's file will show each of the contacts and their relationship to the deal. By linking your contacts, you can see their relationship to the client. So, you know who referred you the contact, who did the appraisal, which bank rep you are working with, and since it is all relational, the program makes the connections for you. It's less work, less confusing and more efficient. WorkCenter will automatically track all correspondence, e-mails, telephone calls and faxes with your clients. Being that it uses open architecture, you will be able to use standard Microsoft tools in creating your database. You cant do that with ACT! or GoldMine. You can also import your logo or graphics, create a letterhead with your logo for pre-programmed reports (WorkCenter comes with about 30 different marketing letters), and of course, you can create or use your present marketing campaign letters. Just import them either as PDF or Word documents.
An absolute dynamite feature is the Do-Not-Call Registry compliance section (available for an additional fee). If your company does telemarketing, this is essential. When you pick a telephone number to call, if it is highlighted in green, it's okay to call; if it's red, do not call. One call to the wrong person can cost you thousands, so this feature alone is worth the whole program. If you own WorkCenter, you receive five area codes for $100 per year. You can buy as many as you like and can afford.
Of course, WorkCenter syncs with your loan origination software (LOS). But lets say your company buys direct-marketing lists; you can simply add the lists to your database by using the import wizard. As an example: You filter a database using all loans in excess of six percent, save and name it "All loans in excess of six percent," then the report will be available for future use when you want it. You can then create either e-mail or letter marketing campaigns.
The drag and drop feature for calendar scheduling is wonderful and eliminates the need for extra typing and possible mistakes. Take the clients or contacts name, drag it onto the date and time you want the appointment, and voila--it is in your calendar. Its that easy. Of course, you can add to the comments in the calendar if you want a further description.
WorkCenter's key to success is its simplicity and ease of use. If it isn't easy, you won't use it. If you have to hire and spend thousands to get a program to work well, but it's not great for your needs, why bother? Right out of the Internet download (I can't say, "right out of the box" anymore, can I?), start up WorkCenter and import all of your data from whatever LOS program you are using. It's that easy, and it will download all of your files for follow-up reports. If it was in Point, it will now be in WorkCenter. Theres no loss of data and no long hours involved in transferring data. And dont worry, this program can handle thousands of files; some of the largest mortgage bankers in the country have tested this program before its release and worked out the kinks.
WorkCenter will become the focal point of your mortgage operation. Once you have completed the 1003, WorkCenter takes over from there, monitoring follow-up dates and tasks, tracking when the reports are to be returned, sets alarms if they are not, and of course tracks the to-do list. It is true that the LOS has task managers; WorkCenter just does it better and more efficiently. The main screen of WorkCenter is your command central or dashboard. On the left side is a list of all of your contacts, a button for reports, and one for Web sites and wizards.
One of the very overlooked, but appreciated, features is the ease of the navigational tools aiding you from point A to point B. Even an office temp with little mortgage experience could navigate through the fields. In the center are your various options: Contact, which includes name, address, telephone number, etc.; Schedule, i.e. your calendar and task manager or to-do list; Action Plans (this wasnt available in the version I tested but should be when you buy yours; it's much better than a to-do list); and Reports--the program provides various report options such as closed loans by region, by loan officer, by FHA, etc. The power of this program lies in letting you very simply create your own reports without having to be a programmer. I was able to create a report showing me all clients I have done HELOCs with in the past two years. I then could send a marketing letter to them suggesting now would be a good time to refinance into a fixed-rate first mortgage. Another report shows me all of my five-year fixed-rate loans that I closed more than three years ago. I can remind those clients that it is time to refinance. I did the same thing for all of my monthly adjustable loans. The report feature and follow-up letter writing section is why I recommend the program so highly; it works and you dont have to be a genius to operate it. Of course, it does things like birthdays, anniversary dates, contacts birth dates, spouses birth date, etc. Taken right off the 1003, you look like you care when you send a personalized birthday or anniversary card to your clients. Its all part of the "client for life" marketing approach. By making the client feel that you care and that you remember them, they will call you and, equally important, refer you to their friends when the need for a new mortgage comes up. The report section also provides a journal section where you can do a report showing all of the e-mail and letter journal items sent, and active files that are leads. The list of reports that can be created is endless. With their filter, you can structure the report any way you want. It also works great if you buy lists or leads; I don't, so I won't comment.
The next tab is the library of letters, the ones provided or your standard letters. Taken right from Word or as a PDF, just create the template, and your marketing letters are ready for either e-mail or snail mail. This section is only limited by your creativity. For example, you can have various loan process letters for pre-closing, post-closing, one month, three months, six months to a year after the mortgage letters, special occasion letters, asking for referral letters .... Well, you get the idea.
The final tab brings you to the WorkCenter Web site; it provides some really good links including one for live rates provided by Market Watch (MortgageMarketGuide.com is better). I visited the support forum many times to get answers from fellow users or post a question. It helps me feel not so dumb when I realize the same problem has happened to someone else. There are some good marketing suggestions that other brokers used--brokers helping brokers. For example, one user asked for a way to take all of the data from Outlook and put it into WorkCenter. Mike Petyrk, one of the principals, jumped right on the forum and they were able to incorporate Outlook into the program. This section also provides links for mortgage training, vForms, Inman News, TechPort, industry news, WeirdLoans and BrokerUniverse.
Bottom line: This program is great. You should definitely try it and realize the possibilities for your company; it takes the ease out of transferring data from an old database to this one. WorkCenter will let you use the data that you already have in so many more ways because it is simple, yet it is both flexible and powerful. Give it a try; I think you will be glad you did.
What is it: A mortgage-specific database with more than 30 different reports and letters included, plus the ability to create your own marketing-specific campaigns.
Cost: Varies depending on the number of users; check out the price on vForms' Web site, but it is very realistically priced for all it does and all the time it will save you.
Web site: www.vforms.com
Telephone Number: (877) 498-6888
Recommendation: Buy it; it is excellent and worth the transition from ACT! or GoldMine. Try the free demo from the Web site, and they will be happy to do a free net meeting to walk you through.