"Suggest to me, recommend to me, inform me, educate me, and add value to me"
This article was produced in partnership with CloudJunction.
Desmond Devoy, of Canadian Mortgage Professional, sat down with Hyder Mirza, CEO of CloudJunction, a Canadian tech firm partnered with Salesforce, to discuss the need for more context-aware personalization and Uber-like visibility to reduce the friction in the mortgage process, and the role that brokers can play by leveraging technology to bridge the increasing gap between the experience that customers want - and what the mortgage industry currently offers.
How can brokers help Uber-ize the mortgage industry?
Post-COVID customer expectations have changed significantly thanks to the en masse quantum leap the world seems to have taken in the increasing comfort with adoption of digital technology. Brokers can help meet those expectations by acting as a bridge between clients who are increasingly wanting the ease of paperless processes, e-signatures and ‘virtual’ Zoom meetings, and banking partners who might just be stuck a couple of decades ago in their adoption of technology.
That’s according to Hyder Mirza (pictured), CEO at CloudJunction, a Salesforce-centric apps development firm based in Toronto.
“The mortgage industry tends to approach its customers without personalization of their experience, with interactions and messaging that’s not context aware, or situation aware when it comes to their unique needs and expectations,” Mirza told Canadian Mortgage Professional, during a recent interview.
In recent years, customers have come to expect greater visibility into their transactions and buying journeys whether it is tracking when the pizza comes off the oven or how far away their next cab ride is. This reduces friction and transaction-related stress as well as empowering the customers with information, status updates and alerts. The experience is further augmented by data-driven personalization.
What the customer needs in the mortgage process is visibility, and what the industry needs as a whole is data-driven personalization.
“Personalization means that your business knows me, your systems have my data and I, as a customer, have come to expect that you are leveraging that data to personalize products, recommendations, services, information, marketing messaging for me – my entire customer experience – to speak and transact with me more intelligently, more relevantly.” said Mirza.
Just the way Amazon leverages your purchase history and awareness of products you browse, to recommend relevant products for you to consider, or how Spotify recommends new music based on its awareness of your preferences and playing history or how Google Maps can begin to recognize your home-bound trip based on your driving trends and history, similar recommendations and insights can be delivered by mortgage companies and brokers (as well as realtors and real estate lawyers), who have access to a lot of information. Mortgage professionals know how many properties their clients own, what type of mortgages they have, what do they cost them, their incomes, assets, self-employed status and much more!
“Today’s customer demands: Suggest to me, recommend to me, inform me, educate me, and add value to my experience,” Mirza said.
By leveraging all this data smarter with increasingly affordable digital technology, companies can tailor their communication to their clients, making their message more relevant and improving the customer experience by enhancing the buying journey with timely recommendations and suggestions that resonate, a concept already prevalent in the optimization personalized content from Amazon to Uber, from Google to Instagram feeds.
“If a mortgage professional sends me a ‘context-aware’ email newsletter that mentions my self-employed status or refers to a mortgage product I currently have, I would instantly click on that email – ahead of the 50 other generic emails in my inbox from brokers – because this professional is leveraging technology and communicating smarter with more relevance and personalization,” he said.
That element of curation of information, and insight based on available data, is what today’s newly tech-savvy customers are expecting in their mortgage journey.
Making the mortgage process more visible
But what about the actual mortgage transaction itself? How can that be made more visible?
Your phone can tell you that your Uber driver is 10 minutes away, or you can track when your Amazon order will arrive.
Yet, the average transaction size of an Uber ride or an Amazon order is miniscule compared to a $1M+ mortgage –but where is the visibility for mortgage customers through their journey of making potentially the biggest purchase of their life?
“Help remove the friction, the stress and the anxiety of uncertainty, of not knowing. Tell me when I’m missing in action, when something is needed from me? Tell me when I’ve completed everything -- so I can rest in peace!” said Mirza.
His lawyer is an example of a professional who minimizes the friction involved with executing legal matters. She is connected with him on Facebook and Whatsapp. If she needs anything from him urgently and he has not responded to an email, she follows up with a note on a more ‘immediate’ medium like Facebook Messenger or Whatsapp.
He would like to see her example emulated more often in the mortgage market.
“When you are going through something as complex as a mortgage application – the biggest purchase of your life -- it helps when there is a person – or a “personalized” person-like system -- keeping you on track, alerting you of action items needed from you, keeping you updated”, he said.
Mirza wants to remove the friction from the process and make it more seamless, so that the client can have the visibility to see what has been done and what is needed next.
“We’re very much technology laggards in the mortgage industry,” he said. “The banks are working in a very antiquated form. So the space is ripe for disruption by players who may be smaller but nimbler – the size of the competitor may not matter as much as responsiveness to customer expectations and technology adoption, in winning over customer loyalty.”
During his tenure at Salesforce and interacting with established businesses across Canada, business leaders would often ask: “We wonder when is our industry going to be ‘Uber-ized’ – when an Uber-like technology would disrupt the prevalent norms in our industry. How can we proactively think ahead and be prepared for the transition – if not lead it?”.
As happened to the taxi, movies rental, food delivery and hotel industries, with the advent of Netflix, Uber, Amazon and AirBnB, it could be only a matter of time before similar disruptive trends find their way to transform the Canadian mortgage industry.
So what role do brokers play in this transformation?
Zoom meetings and e-signatures are the new norm, as are document upload portals that track a customer’s progress to completion, guiding them based on the nature of their application as to which documents to submit and when. Technology adoption has gone to the next level, with the pandemic having spurred many people into this new reality who otherwise would have adapted more slowly with a much broader demographic of customers very comfortable with digital interactions and tools.
But Mirza noted that “brokers are in a difficult situation because they’re still working with antiquated lenders, who are still using antiquated systems,” he said. But even with that acknowledgement of the bind they are in, “I still expect the brokers to give me a better, streamlined experience.”
He expects brokers to be that technological bridge, between laggard banks and tech savvy clients, and he believes that the time has come when people will choose brokers – or leave them – based on which side of the digital divide the brokers are at, in their technology adoption.
CloudJunction’s integrated technological solutions for brokers
CloudJunction is working on making the latest technology from tech leaders more accessible and usable for Canadian mortgage professionals, looking to make the leap to better digital tools.
“We are offering a digital mortgage platform, powered by the world’s number one Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Digital Engagement platform, Salesforce.com,” he said. “We are integrating it with the intermediary systems prevalent in the Canadian mortgage space, to ensure inter-operability and making it a lot simpler and more affordable for brokers to adopt these tools without a hefty price tag”.
The platform capitalizes on Salesforce’s customer-facing digital interfaces, allowing brokers, and others, to manage customer interactions through technology, while bridging the gap between prevalent industry-specific mortgage systems through pre-built integrations.
Among other tools, Salesforce offers a secure, authenticated and trusted client portal where clients can submit their key financial details and documents securely. The clients are guided through the application process by a step-by-step wizard, allowing them to work at their pace, at a time of their choosing. “Rarely in real life does someone sit down and complete a complex mortgage application, with dozens of documents needing to be attached, in one sitting! Today’s customer wants flexibility to work on an application in multiple sessions, coming back to it multiple times, at times late at night after putting the kids to bed”, Mirza said, citing his own experience as a self-employed entrepreneur not having the time or patience to work on a complex application in one session during a work day.
Salesforce tools enable customers to get automated status updates, even through WhatsApp, iMessage, SMS, etc., as the application moves along the process. If a document is rejected, or needs to be re-submitted, the client will be alerted to ensure timely process.
“All of that communication is being threaded on one unified, central thread,” he said. It helps “meet the customer where they are, on the communication channel of their choice and yet it all ends up in the same place. Besides improving the customer experience, the resulting acceleration of the mortgage process can also lead to competitive advantage for the brokers in this high-velocity, time-critical customer journey, resulting to repeat business through increased customer loyalty ”
His company has integrated with the three most popular deal submission engines in the mortgage industry, and it is a two-way integration. This means that any data that is submitted to the lenders can be brought back into the broker’s Salesforce system. The information sent to the bank is also now available in the broker’s CRM app, giving them access to the clients’ income, properties, liabilities and other mortgages data, to leverage in personalized communication and digital engagement and nurturing efforts.
Bringing the Salesforce marketing engine, the customer portal, and the whole digital experience together, with the digital communication tools of Salesforce, “the broker is armed and enabled because they have all the data,” Mirza said, “and the latest and greatest technology from the world’s top customer technology solution provider to start personalizing the experience of their customers, increasing customer loyalty by standing out and differentiating from the industry – not a tall order in this technology-laggard space!”