While the average customer satisfaction for mortgage servicers is up from last year, the COVID-19 pandemic  has highlighted some weak spots, according to J.D. Power, which has released its latest Primary Mortgage Servicer Satisfaction Study .
The survey found room for improvement in communication and digital offerings. When customers are at-risk, they are more likely to place a phone call to their mortgage servicer, according to J.D. Power. In the past 12 months, 44% of at-risk borrowers have reached out to their servicer by phone, compared to 25% of low-risk borrowers.
In the current environment of high unemployment, forbearance , and financial distress, servicers can expect high call volumes, a pressure that was further exacerbated this spring with “call centers already dealing with work-at-home limitations,” J.D. Power noted.
When borrowers do reach out to their servicer by phone, they report having difficulty reaching a “live agent,” according to the survey. About 19% of survey respondents reported this as an issue, which drove down their overall satisfaction by 261 points on the 1,000-point scale J.D. Power uses.
While call centers may be experiencing heavier than normal volumes during the pandemic, websites could help to resolve some customer questions. However, they seem to falling short. More than 60% of borrowers report first turning to their servicer’s website, but only 28% report being able to resolve their issue on the website. Of those who were unable to resolve their issue on the website, 45% said they had to call and speak with a representative to solve their problem.
In general, survey findings support a balanced, proactive approach to customer communication. About 40% of customers said they received no proactive communication from their lender, while 29% said they received at least 11 communications over the course of a year. Both of these extremes can lead to a lower satisfaction score.
Those who received three to four communications per year seemed to be the most satisfied, although this was just a small share of customers at just 8%, according to the survey.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has really amplified the gaps in customer satisfaction, digital experience and call center experience that have been a challenge for mortgage servicers for some time,” said Jim Houston, Director of Consumer Lending Intelligence at J.D. Power.
He added: “At a time when the need for streamlined, effective digital guidance and proactive outreach and counsel is more important than ever, mortgage customers aren’t finding the answers they need online, pushing them onto long customer service queues in call centers and leaving them to hunt for answers on how best to address their challenges.”
The average servicer satisfaction score in the latest survey was 781 out of a possible 1,000 points.