PERSON OF THE WEEK: Shalecia Callaway is vice president of customer service for Financial Industry Computer Systems Inc. (FICS), a provider of technology solutions to both mortgage lenders and servicers. MortgageOrb recently interviewed Calloway to learn more about what lenders and servicers should expect from their vendor partners in terms of customer service, training, product support and product development – and how vendors can better serve their lender and service clients.
Q: Lenders often cite customer service as a key factor in selecting partners and vendors. What does exemplary customer service look like – and how does it go beyond simply troubleshooting?
Callaway: Exemplary customer service is going above and beyond the customer's expectations. At FICS, it begins with our customers speaking with a live receptionist when they first call in instead of being forced to enter a maze of options. FICS employees demonstrate exemplary service by showing customers they care and are there to help. Customers should be able to speak to a person when they call for assistance and feel like they are being heard. Simply asking if there are any other issues that they need assistance with, beyond their initial question or concern, can significantly improve the customer's overall experience and comfort in working with the customer service team.
A key step to consider is having employees available to assist customers when they call instead of forcing the customer to use a ticketing system to register their issue or request and then have to wait for a response, which for some companies can be more than a day. For customers that prefer to correspond by email, a quick response should be provided.
Additional key steps also include utilizing common technologies to obtain a live view of what the customer is experiencing to more quickly diagnose the problem. This same technology is also a great resource to show customers the actual steps required for resolution to their request. Above all else, always remember to thank customers for the opportunity to serve and assist them.
Q: When it comes to training lenders to use new systems, why is it important to offer a variety of options and understand the different ways users learn?
Callaway: It is extremely important to offer a variety of training options because everyone learns differently and has varying schedules and budgets. With a variety of training options available, lenders can choose the best option to suit their personnel's learning styles, staffing needs, and company budget. Some people learn best in an interactive, hands-on environment where they have an instructor in front of them, walking them through each process, asking questions to confirm open communication, and ensuring they remain on task.
Another major plus is having the flexibility to provide training at the lender's site or for the lender to send a select group of its employees to the vendor's location. Then there are others who are able to learn and retain knowledge via webinars. This is great for those customers whose schedules won't allow them to leave the office for a few days.
Another great option to consider is having the ability to tailor the training to the specific needs of the customer. This ensures that the training focuses on the programs and program features pertinent to the lender's business. It also allows more time to be spent on those pivotal topics. And, the same screen-sharing technology mentioned earlier to assist customers with issues is also a terrific resource for a live demonstration of a new process or feature a customer is trying to implement.
Q: What role does customer feedback play in helping to innovate and enhance technology?
Callaway: Customer feedback plays a major role in deciding innovations to existing technology and developing future technology. Because customers are the ones that use the systems daily, they have a better grasp on what functionality and features would make them more effective at their jobs.
Customer input provides a great amount of insight that factors into the direction technology providers should go in when considering improving systems and other technology products. This is a win-win for everyone. Other end-users who use these systems or those that can benefit from these systems will want to integrate the software into their existing institution's software to enhance workflow and overall productivity.
Q: What is FICS' approach to successfully managing customer expectations and addressing key challenges?
Callaway: Communication is the key. At our company, the goal is to make sure we keep our customers in the loop. We do this by providing detailed software release documentation, posting information on our client website and on each system's RSS feed, sending out regular email updates and using other tools to communicate regularly with our customers. By actively keeping customers updated, FICS ensures that customers can prepare for any upcoming changes before they take effect.
Q: What are the benefits of using an ‘all-in-one’ servicing platform that delivers additional functionality compared to standalone solutions from best of breed vendors that are integrated with a basic core system? For servicers, which would you say is the better approach?
Callaway: A separate servicing system with open integration and common data standards allows a servicer to use the best of breed solutions in the marketplace while maintaining all the servicing information in a centralized database. The best of breed solution with open integration is by far the superior and most flexible model a servicer can choose.
From a customer standpoint, technology providers are able to effectively and quickly perform many functions that would require too many of the customer's resources if the servicing company were to do these itself. With all of the moving parts involved in a servicing operation, it is imperative that a servicing system has the ability to fully integrate with the customer's existing technology involved in its servicing operation.
A servicing system that includes the capability to integrate with a servicer's other technology vendors, such as a financial institution's core system, an accounting system, and loan origination system, allows a servicer the flexibility to easily meet changing regulations and in-house business practices and streamline servicing processes to make employees more efficient.
Q: Where do you think servicers are weakest, in terms of technology adoption, and why?
Callaway: Servicing companies that have been doing the same thing for years seem to be the slowest to adopt new technological breakthroughs. Many are using legacy systems that have added functionality but have not kept up with new technology. Sometimes it's more about the human psyche and getting people that have done the same process their entire lives to change. Change is not always easy, especially for workers that have been accustomed to doing the same thing the same way for many years. It takes progressive management to make sure that routine practices are constantly challenged and improved to take advantage of the newest automation technology.
Sometimes, embracing new technology is the result of regulatory or investor changes that leave the servicer with no option but to adapt to newer technology.