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Poll: Borrower Satisfaction Up, Could Be Short-Lived

A J.D. Power-published survey that rates customers' experience with their mortgage servicers showed an increase of overall satisfaction by a significant six points during the past year, as the industry combined relief efforts and pivoted to digital solutions in order to help clients weather the effects of a global health crisis. That said, the data analytics and consumer intelligence company's 2021 U.S. Primary Mortgage Servicer Satisfaction Study indicated that, as stated in a press release, "the pandemic-driven goodwill belies a larger collection of client-satisfaction challenges, especially for bank-affiliated lenders. As loan forbearance programs come to an end and more normalized customer interactions resume, traditional banks are starting to lose their edge over non-bank lenders."

The analysts point out that the need for extra assistance during the pandemic created a collective positive impression among borrowers utilizing default servicing services. To illustrate, overall satisfaction among at-risk customers increased 15 points year over year, while satisfaction scores among low-risk customers declined one point. Likewise, satisfaction is highest in the study among those customers who participated in forbearance programs (846). This compares with a score of 783 among those who never enrolled in one and 776 among customers who were previously enrolled in a program but are no longer enrolled, according to the study.

"Mortgage servicer satisfaction was buoyed by the industry’s response to the pandemic, with some of the biggest gains in customer satisfaction being driven by at-risk and moderate-risk customers who participated in forbearance programs,” reiterated Jim Houston, Director of Consumer Lending Intelligence at J.D. Power. “However, as we look at post-pandemic customer behaviors and responses of low-risk customers, we see that lift in satisfaction may be short-lived. In fact, despite the attention on relief programs, nearly one-fifth of current mortgage customers have had no interaction with their servicer during the past year. Mortgage servicers will really need to up their customer engagement games as the marketplace stabilizes.”

Further, the report suggests that servicers aiming to improve "prioritize updates to messaging, design, and capabilities to reduce need for human intervention.

"Rapidly changing circumstances require an ability to quickly understand potential impacts and re-prioritize areas of focus and resource allocations."

While the study pointed out that consumers were increasingly satisfied with their lenders' utilization of tech during lockdowns, it also showed that there is room for improvement in that category.

"While website usage increases five percentage points this year, there is still room for improvement with the online channel," the authors note. "Only 38% of customers say they found the desired information on their servicer’s website within the first two pages. When customers had to visit more than two pages, overall satisfaction declined 55 points. Among customers who indicated they would switch lenders if given the opportunity their top reasons, in addition to better rates, were 'better/improved customer service' and 'easy access to help myself to information about my loan.'"

The study also points out that when comparing bank to non-bank lenders, banks have an advantage because they offer many other services—satisfaction scores among customers who also use their servicer’s bank products are 55 points higher than among those who have mortgage-only relationships.

The top three, according to J.D. Powers:

Rocket Mortgage/Quicken Loans

Guild Mortgage

Huntington National Bank

Rocket Mortgage's EVP of Servicing Nicole Beattie points out that her team took a proactive approach during the heigh of the pandemic, keeping many homeowners from even enrolling in forbearance, by releasing a proprietary automated system to quickly assist them and figure out the best possible options.

"Over the last year, our servicing team demonstrated its ability to deliver in both good and challenging times. We are proud to show what a difference it can make when a mortgage servicer provides best-in-class technology and caring team members—both of which resulted in forbearance rates much lower than the industry average during the COVID-19 pandemic."

Annually, J.D. Power polls consumers to see how they feel about every step of the mortgage process—from shopping for a lender to problem resolution with their servicer. The full survey is available to download at JDPower.com, with a subscription.

About Author: Christina Hughes Babb

Christina Hughes Babb is a reporter for DS News and MReport. A graduate of Southern Methodist University, she has been a reporter, editor, and publisher in the Dallas area for more than 15 years. During her 10 years at Advocate Media and Dallas Magazine, she published thousands of articles covering local politics, real estate, development, crime, the arts, entertainment, and human interest, among other topics. She has won two national Mayborn School of Journalism Ten Spurs awards for nonfiction, and has penned pieces for Texas Monthly, Salon.com, Dallas Observer, Edible, and the Dallas Morning News, among others. Contact Christina at christina.hughesbabb@thefivestar.com.

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