People dread picking up the phone. So much so that, during the last decade, cellphone owners made half as many phone calls as they had in years past. A 2019 survey found that vast swaths of millennials and baby boomers suffer from phone anxiety, which inclines them to avoid phone calls in favor of less confrontational text-based options.
But there are some things — mortgage subservicing, for example — that just can’t be done over text. When a customer has a mortgage-related question or conflict, they need to speak to a knowledgeable pro who can get them the answers they need, as quickly and painlessly as possible. Much as (especially millennials) dread it, that means they have no choice but to pick up the phone.
Fortunately for our customers, TMS has a need for speed. From our earliest days in subservicing, we knew that, if customers dreaded calling customer service, that was a recipe for unhappiness. Helping Grow Happiness is kind of our thing, so we made it our mission to raise the bar.
A huge part of that was giving call wait times a buzzcut. If our customers got used to waiting hours to talk to a representative, they wouldn’t want to call, and much needed assistance or issues might go unaddressed. But, if they got used to talking to a friendly, knowledgeable CAREologist in less than a minute, they would not hesitate to call, allowing for us to proactively do as much for our customers and our clients as humanly possible. Prior to the pandemic, we did exactly that, reducing our average call wait times to 45 seconds — more than a minute faster than the industry average.
The pandemic complicated things a bit. As mortgage payers scrambled to get the help they needed, we endured a dramatic rise in call volume, and we grimaced as our 45-second average ballooned to 6 minutes. That meant that a handful of people were waiting 30-40 minutes to speak to a CAREologist — to us, completely unacceptable.
In this article, we explore how we turned it around, keeping call wait times low, and satisfaction sky-high.
Staffed Up & Studied Up
First things first, we strengthened our vetting and training processes to hire more than 160 new team members, between CAREologists and overflow staff. Growing our team meant having more hands on deck when we needed all hands on deck — which, as pretty much everyone in the mortgage industry experienced, was the entire year.
On a very basic level, this helped us handle the higher volume of calls, as there were more people able to answer the phones. That, plus 220+ hours of training, along with the use of our award winning SIMe Portal, allowed us to give customers richer information in a timelier manner. Shorter wait times didn’t just mean getting customers in and out the door; it meant giving them top-quality strategies for navigating the pandemic, much more reliably than a wild Google goose chase.
But it also allowed us to dive deep into our customers’ psyches. As we analyzed data from these calls, we learned that our customers were remarkably empathetic to our situation. That is, they understood that unprecedented complexity meant longer wait times, and that, as long as their calls ended in resolution, they didn’t mind the extra time.
Staffing up let us act faster; studying up let us act more compassionately. Throughout the year, we grew with our customers, and the happy results came flowing in.
We were able to get our average call wait times back below one minute, posting our highest-ever Net Promoter Score (82.1), 98% customer satisfaction, and adding 200,000 loans to our platform (among other thrilling results). Perhaps best of all though, we delivered a 92% first-call resolution rate, meaning our customers hardly ever had to call back to get what they needed.
We take immense pride in the statistics, but it means even more to us that our customers stayed happy — and happily in their homes. It’s often said that culture eats strategy for breakfast, that no matter how savvy and informed you are, success starts with great relationships. Growing happiness with customers and keeping our representatives as accessible as possible is our culture. And it’s that sustained and deep rooted culture that sets TMS Subservicing apart.
Time Waits for No One
Why shouldn’t people look forward to calling their mortgage servicer? Why shouldn’t a conversation like that, which typically sounds about as fun as scheduling a root canal, be one of the bright spots in a customer’s day? On Saturday, July 17, why shouldn’t customer service reps pick up the phone, and say, “Hello! Happy National Emoji Day!”
Disruption always depends on finding the flaws in conventional wisdom. The idea that customer service had to be slow and dull has always been our target. Keeping call wait times low is one major way that we turn sub-par subservicing into a thing of the past. It’s a basic element of respect — you wouldn’t keep a friend waiting, so why keep a customer waiting? You pass your customers on to us in hopes that we’ll treat them with all the respect and compassion that you would. When we’re able to act fast and make people smile, they’ll be that much more comfortable coming to you for their next purchase, refinance, or whatever else the future may bring.
We’ve made our name by settling for nothing less than Subservisational. The past 14 months have been challenging, but we’ve consistently risen to the occasion, creating processes and procedures on the spot that will continue to pay dividends long into the future. We’re stronger and faster now than ever before.