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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Residential Edition   |   January 2016

A New Generation Is Reshaping the Customer Service Landscape

Originators can meet the millennial challenge by adopting a multichannel communications strategy

Over the past 10 years, the mortgage industry has confronted many unique challenges — chief among them the housing-market crash and the regulatory reforms that followed in its wake. Even as the industry continues to adapt to those changes, however, originators also are grappling with a fresh set of challenges as the first wave of millennials — ages 18 to 34 — enters the mortgage marketplace.

There’s probably been more research related to millennials than any preceding generation. We know how they think, use technology and conduct online research regarding nearly every decision they make. This includes financial decisions, especially around financing a home purchase. Mortgage originators must continue to adapt business practices to serve millennials and their unique needs. By doing so, those originators will be more successful in expanding their business opportunities.

Study after study has shown that millennials are tech-savvy and want the option of conducting personal-finance business on their own terms, be it online, over the telephone or in person. Customer service also is a hot button for millennials. One recent study — the Aspect Consumer Experience Index: Millennial Research on Customer Service Expectations — found that 69 percent of millennials said they feel good about themselves, and the company they are doing business with, when they solve a problem without talking to customer service. In addition, 55 percent said their customer service expectations have increased during the last three years, and more than half have stopped patronizing at least one company because of poor customer service in the past year.

Although it is not easy for a homebuyer to switch mortgage originators in midstream after having a bad experience, that doesn’t insulate an originator from blowback. Millennials are quick to share their bad experiences through various social media channels, and such reviews always have the potential to go viral and reach thousands of people on the Internet. The potential negative fallout that can result from such an event should encourage originators to review their operations for areas that can be improved.

Mortgage originators that want to be successful in meeting the needs of millennials and offering them a good customer service experience will need to make adjustments in all their consumer-facing channels.

Meeting the challenge

Millennials tend to seek instant feedback, are self- reliant and embrace technology, according to the sponsors of the Aspect Consumer Experience study. They want to interact with a company using the communications technologies they prefer, whether that’s via text, Twitter or telephone. In fact, the study’s sponsors describe millennials as being more “experience-loyal” as opposed to “brand-loyal.”

These findings indicate that originators should pay close attention to their communications strategies and channels, and assure that they are offering a multiplatform customer service interface that is easily navigated, optimized for interaction and focused on delivering a pleasant experience for the millennial customer.

As a group, the common thread uniting millennials is their

expectation of stellar and seamless customer service.

Following are some options and strategies for accomplishing that goal.

  • Interactive voice response (IVR): IVR systems are the front line of all inbound calls from consumers, so it is critical that they represent the company well. Scripts should be reviewed regularly to ensure that callers have easy access to self-service functions without the frustration of confusing menus. When callers need to speak to a live person, they should be routed efficiently to the person or unit best able to serve them.
  • Live chat: This service offers the opportunity for a millennial customer to contact an originator or other customer service representative without having to talk to that person. In addition to receiving timely, updated information, consumers who take advantage of the live-chat option want the individuals they are interacting with to be responsive and informative.
  • Text messaging: If a consumer prefers to receive account information via text, mortgage originators should offer several options for triggers — for example, if changes are requested on the account, if payments change because of escrow analysis, or even if there is an opportunity to refinance. Text-message notifications should also include payment reminders and notifications of posted payments.
  • E-mail: Some consumers prefer to receive e-mails regarding their account status. Originators can easily provide this as an option for relaying business or account information as well as verifying consumer information. Account information transmitted via e-mail can address the same subjects as text messages. In addition, e-mail may be used for post-call customer service surveys.
  • Social media: Some millennial consumers will use social media platforms to comment on customer service experiences. To address this channel, originators should develop a well-branded social media program that allows customers to contact them if necessary and to provide a forum for their comments.

Building trust

Various studies point out that millennials, as individuals, have varying preferred methods of communication. As a group, however, the common thread uniting millennials is their expectation of stellar and seamless customer service, regardless of the communications channel. With this in mind, mortgage originators should facilitate cross-channel communications focused on the customer’s convenience. Web visitors should have an opportunity, for example, to request a phone call from a customer service representative with the click of a button.

Additionally, originators should ensure that their branding extends consistently across all of these various platforms — from online to telephone to live chat to social media. Consistency goes a long way in building a trusting relationship with millennial customers. Facilitating coordinated cross-channel communications will provide convenience and consistency.

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The arrival of millennials in the mortgage marketplace is already leading to the transformation of customer-centered technologies, and the next several years will lead to more innovation. 


 


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