Bring on the wow factor

Mortgage lenders websites are strictly for business, but could you also have some fun using them? Well, maybe fun is too strong a word, but if you look objectively at what has been going on for the past year or so, there have been some enormous strides in development.

We tend to take our favourite websites for granted. We use them to check travel times, book tickets and catch up with the latest news, but often don’t look beyond the booking facility, for example, at the other content.

Many intermediaries will use lenders’ websites on a daily basis and will want to log on, process applications and track cases. Most will be focused on getting the job done as quickly as possible. The commonplace adoption of straight-through processing has been revolutionary – and continues to gather pace as the arrival of same-day offers shows.

But, there is a huge amount of additional functionality which is pretty exciting too. Clever innovation is designed to make the whole experience of working with a lender online a lot more personal and in many cases is useful beyond arranging a specific deal.

Previously, many sites were basic ‘welcome doormats’. Intermediaries would ignore much of the content and would simply want to log into secure areas. Now, it’s worth taking a much closer look at the rest of the offering.

Focusing on features

So, let’s focus on some of these features. Some lenders have launched virtual assistants to guide you round their websites, provide product information and answer questions. You might love or hate them – but it’s a different approach and if the information is useful, then this is an engaging way to receive it. Others encourage intermediaries to register for news and updates.

We all probably get way too much e-mail, and much of it can be irrelevant. But if you know about a new product or offer immediately, then this allows brokers to decide if it’s right for their customers there and then. You can participate in online surveys and find out about any training or perhaps focus groups – or just feedback your comments.

Broker-focused lenders know that web development is not about substituting technology for people. It’s there to enhance the service. So, some lenders now provide call back services – the broker e-mails the lender and says when they want to be contacted. You may be able to find out who your local business development manager is, for example, and make direct contact with someone in your area. Or get straight through to a specialist.

The ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ of some websites can be a frustrating experience. But, increasingly lenders are providing data in a simple format. Generally, many lenders’ websites now have a far ‘cleaner’ appearance, compared to, say, five years ago, but have loads more features. It’s frequently possible at a glance to see where you can download product brochures or where the online affordability calculator is.

Easier than ever

In most cases, using this technology is easier than ever before. Lenders have sought to break down processes into easy stages. You may be able to run though demonstrations before you start doing business with customers, and get answers either by e-mail or phone if you do get stuck. These innovations are there to help brokers do more business. Beyond this, they can help you gain more insight and be bang up to date with what is going on.

The more interactive, attractive and comprehensive lenders can make their websites, the better this will be for business. Many intermediaries see clients out of hours – a great website, packed with easy to understand information and product details, which also allows online trading, helps the broker look professional too.

Even if you only use a particular lender infrequently, visiting their website while you’re on a coffee break can help you gain an immediate picture of where they are. You may find developments which shift your perceptions.

Lenders committed to the broker marketplace have ongoing investment programmes to develop online solutions aimed at intermediaries. They should also recognise that not everyone is a natural with technology – but, there is support available. If you want training, you should ask for it.

Things are happening fast and all intermediaries should be getting the most of advances – everyone is entitled to some hand-holding. If you tend to visit the same websites for the same day-to-day tasks, why not take a fresh look at some of these new features? We’ve come a long way – and many lenders have plenty more planned for the future.

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