PERSON OF THE WEEK: If you’re a mortgage servicer, you can safely assume that live phone communications with borrowers will become much less prevalent in the future. That’s because younger borrowers – millennials included – are much more inclined to make use of alternate channels such as text, Web chat and email to communicate with their servicers. And because these alternate channels are much easier to automate, that means less reliance on live support.
At the same time, however, it means that mortgage servicers – in particular, the frontline agents – need a much broader technology skill set in order to be able to communicate with younger borrowers. It’s not like the old days when communications were mostly by landline phone and email. Today, younger borrowers want to communicate via the channel of their choice, including social media channels; plus, they want fast service and a consistent experience regardless of which channel they choose. That means mortgage servicers can’t “short shrift” when it comes to any given channel; they must invest in new technologies and train staff so that they excel at using each and every channel, even the ones that are relatively new or that are just emerging. In addition, servicers must have a thorough understanding of how mobile communications impact borrower interactions.
To learn more about how new communications technologies and millennial communication habits are impacting mortgage servicing call centers, MortgageOrb recently interviewed Barry Hays, senior vice president of mortgage call center technology firm TeleVoice.
Q: As the first wave of millennials enters the housing market, how should call centers adapt to meet their expectations?
Hays: We know that the millennial market is unlike any other and that these young people have grown up in a digital world dominated by the Internet, mobile phones and social media. They are constantly connected and expect immediate access to all kinds of information. As this generation begins buying their first homes, mortgage industry call centers will need to accommodate their unique communication styles. That will involve the creative use of smartphone apps, social media and various forms of speech recognition interfaces.
Q: What features will millennials expect in mobile apps?
Hays: The biggest expectation of millennials is “right now.” Wherever possible, data – whether loan status, interest rates or payment status – should be presented in real time. Apps should include options for communicating with a live representative via chat, embedded email or phone. As with access to data, interactions with live representatives should be as immediate as possible.
Q: Millennials seem driven by social media. How can originators and servicers leverage social media to reach this generation?
Hays: Both originators and servicers will benefit from the placement of informative and helpful content on social media platforms. Targeted advertising, as well as timely posts about rates, the loan application process and other relevant information, will attract views from the millennial audience. It will be most important to be watchful for any reference to your organization in public posts, whether positive or negative. An appropriate response can counterbalance negative comments, and it is also important to leverage positive reviews.
Q: What about interactive voice response (IVR) in the contact center? Does it still have a role with this next generation?
Hays: Internet and smartphone apps notwithstanding, millennials will still call when it is convenient for them or when they have complex questions not easily answered on the Web or through a smartphone app. They will have little patience for lengthy or confusing IVR menu trees and will generally be more likely to use speech recognition-based systems. They will use self-service options wherever possible but will opt out for a call center agent if necessary.
Q: The buzz right now is all about Amazon’s Echo (Alexa) and similar personal assistant products. Will devices like this play a role in interacting with millennials?
Hays: Sales of these digital personal assistants have been impressive, but the market is still too new to know what functions users will really embrace. A recent study has shown that only 3% of Amazon Alexa apps (called skills) are still in use one week after users initially activate them. The technology will certainly support interactions such as interest rate requests or one-time draft payments. However, millennials may prefer to access such functions via the Web or smartphone apps. It is certainly too early to make investments in applications for Alexa or similar devices.