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There’s this song lyric I’ve always loved: “An elephant’s memory’s a curse and a blessing / And you’ll always be one thought away.” In other words, we tend to have long memories for the most stressful or painful moments of our lives, especially when they’re commingled with the good ones. It may be a hard-but-needed break-up or health issues that brought family together, or in the case of our industry, it may be the agonizing weeks or months qualifying for a loan to purchase your dream home. One thing is certain: We remember emotionally, which leads us to buy emotionally.
Lenders and loan officers alike have historically done a poor job tapping into – and sustaining over time – positive sentiment generated throughout the loan origination process. And most lenders don’t measure deeply enough into this to see when borrower sentiment turns from delighted to lukewarm. Both ends of the spectrum are costing repeat business and much-needed revenue. Our question this month: What can lenders do to ensure a greater frequency of repeat borrowers over the long term?
You may have heard from past STRATMOR articles that less than one in every five borrowers returns to their original lender for their next loan. That’s less than 20 percent. It’s not, however, a stagnant statistic — it starts out better (24 percent in the first two years) and then worsens over time, dropping to just 15 percent by year five. The generally low rate of retention can be attributed in part to aggressive sales strategies of growth-minded Independent Mortgage Bankers (IMBs), but the severity of the drop over time indicates that once two to three years have passed, the lender and loan officer are largely out-of-sight, out-of-mind.
Servicers would be wise to create on-going communication with borrowers to nurture the relationship forged during the initial origination process. For those lenders who purchase Mortgage Servicing Rights (MSR), it’s equally important to create dialogue with the borrower during the initial on-boarding phase and then continually throughout the on-going relationship.
You never know when you’ll need to leverage these borrower relationships. Maybe it’s a pandemic that forces borrowers into cash poor/forbearance situations, maybe it’s a foreign conflict that rattles the economy and has borrowers looking for cash, or maybe rates suddenly come down a couple of points and we have a mini refinance boom. These events trigger conversations that are best initiated by a trusted advisor, not a faceless institution. The key is creating a “felt” connection by the borrower with your servicing team.
So, how do you create a meaningful connection as a Servicer when 95 percent of the job — at least in the customer’s eyes — is collecting their payments? If you’re not already communicating with the borrowers in your servicing portfolio on a regular basis, now is the time to start.
The best and easiest way to create two-way dialogue with your servicing customers is to ask for their feedback. Traditionally, servicing-focused surveys have been limited to gathering feedback on call center interaction. In other words, when borrowers call to complain or to ask questions, you give them a quick post-call survey to see how well you did.
By contrast, a best practice approach involves additional touch points requesting continuous feedback throughout the year. For instance, a customer’s annual escrow review might trigger a handful of questions to confirm accuracy. Another survey might go out a few months later to confirm billing and payment accuracy and determine how and when the borrower prefers to receive statements. Another separate set of questions might be appropriate for new customers who have just completed on-boarding. And another survey might ask about the borrower’s interaction with your web tools. If you need help with any of this, STRATMOR’s MortgageCX program has you covered.
If you’re worried about giving your borrowers survey fatigue, let me remind you that the response rates you could expect on any of these surveys is less than 5 percent. But the goal here is not data collection. Rather, the main reason for multiple touch points is to stay at the forefront of their minds. Perceptions and impression counts are what matter — and it can often happen in the blink of an eye. A borrower does not need to click through a survey invite to see that you’re reaching out to them and perceive that you care. They don’t need to complete a survey to know that you’re interested in their personal experience. The very act of reaching out shows an earnest desire to know them and to improve your service. That can go a long way when they get ready to inquire about refinance options.
Here are three ways you can create more connection with your servicing borrowers and increase your retention:
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