The inventory shortages that plagued housing markets around the country in 2018 meant that originators had buyers in their pipelines for longer periods of time. Because of that, originators have had to get a lot smarter about how they contact customers and keeping track of them during that prolonged period before the borrower is able to find—and finally close on—a home.
On a panel at the recent AIME Mortgage Expert Workshop, Mike Eshelman, head of consumer finance at Journaya, said that without a solid reason for contact, consumers eventually stop responding to repeated attempts to engage. Originators should consider what additional data they can get about their clients, and be more laser focused on when to properly engage with them by leveraging data that’s available.
On average he said, there’s 171 days between the actual funding event and the day that a consumer first begins looking at a mortgage. And customers are no longer having conversations with a realtor as a first step. Instead, they go online to see what they can afford, and get ensnared by others.
“If they get caught in one of those sales funnels, they get sold as leads and they start to get matched up with three, four, five lenders. It’s about 68-71 days before the funding events that we see credit triggers happening, which is going to open up a whole ‘nother competitive landscape,” Eshelman said. “If you understand where your consumer’s at, know what they’re looking for . . . and then send a message to them or engage with them accordingly, you’ll have a really good incubation strategy.”
Technology has enhanced some of the ways that lenders and originators are able to follow their client through the home buying journey, and even though some buyers may be a little put off by data-driven tactics, others have come to expect their service providers know exactly where they are, what they’re doing, and, most importantly, how they can be best served.
“Consumers want a good experience. If they’re looking for information, they’re going to go down this wormhole of the internet, but if [they hear] from a trusted voice, someone down the street that’s local to them reaches out and starts to provide that information, it’s well received. It’s a good customer experience because it’s timely,” Eshelman said.
That comes in stark contrast to big operations that are repeatedly robo-dialing clients. It’s effective to a certain degree, but it’s also a bad customer experience, which isn’t sustainable. Not to mention, no one is going to reach all of their customers on the phone, said Karis Koehn, vice president of SoftVu. They have to be provided with other ways to engage.
“If you send a consumer or customer a pre-filled application, so you have certain data that you’re putting into the application for them, those customers are 50% more likely to complete the application,” she said. “Some of them don’t want to talk to anybody, they’ve been through this rodeo before, they just want to go ahead and fill out the application. The other thing is, consumers are also two times more likely to open an email message if you talk about rates in the subject line.”
An originator may not want to display rates, but getting customers to a landing page where they can customize a rate quote, or using a widget with today’s rates are some ways to engage them in a rate-based activity. Koehn also said that it’s important to diversify content. There’s a lot of templated content, and consumers can be receiving the same information over and over again. Educational pieces, rate pieces, and even surveys can make it easy for them to engage and update the originator on where they are in the process, and those updates in turn can provide ways for the originator to jump in and help with the process.
“Set up an automation piece there, just as soon as that signal comes into your CRM, have an email go out immediately. Monitor it. If somebody opened [the email], call them. So it doesn’t have to be a complicated process, but you can still do those monitoring pieces,” Koehn said.
As everyone knows, there is such a thing as too much contact. Not only are constant emails , text, or mailers annoying, but they’re also desensitizing. If clients begin to ignore messages because of the sheer volume of communication, then the originator is no longer staying in front of them, and they risk moving from being high-touch to being forgettable. It’s much easier to lose a client than it is to get a new one. Nothing is a given.
“You could think your customers are loyal because they may be but what ends up happening is , as they’re searching online, what’s hitting them in the face in this search are some incredibly intelligent and powerful marketers on the other end, whose job it is to take a consumer who may be interested and get them through this funnel and click a submit button and turn into a lead,” Eshelman said.
Given what consumers are up against, originators have to give customers ways to engage during the incubation period, and also set up ways that they can catch consumers who may be ready to take action.