New business practices instituted in the wake of nationwide reforms appear to be contributing to the increase in overall customer satisfaction with primary mortgage servicers, according to a recent J.D. Power 2013 U.S. Primary Mortgage Servicer Satisfaction Study.
The study measured satisfaction in four factors of the mortgage servicing experience: billing and payment process; escrow account administration; Web site; and phone contact. Overall satisfaction with primary mortgage servicers has increased to 733 (on a 1,000-point scale) from 725 in 2012.
Overall satisfaction substantially increases year over year, as performance at large national servicers improves. However, overall satisfaction with some smaller national servicers that have performed well-above average in previous studies has shifted toward the industry average. This leveling off is potentially the result of an increase in new clients combined with a new set of rules released by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)—effective January 2014—which has had many firms focused on ensuring their policies and procedures are fully compliant.
One of the overarching concerns covered by the CFPB addresses general servicing policies and procedures. Under these new rules, servicers are required to have systems, policies and procedures in place to ensure customers receive the appropriate information and support from servicers.
"This study helps gauge the effectiveness of firms' servicing capabilities from the customer's perspective," said Craig Martin, director of investment services at J.D. Power, in a statement. "The fact that satisfaction continues to increase seems to indicate that changes being made in response to these new regulations are having a positive impact on the experience of customers."
Reforms have also emerged from the National Mortgage Settlement, an agreement reached in February 2012 between 49 state attorneys general and the country's largest mortgage servicers, which include Bank of America; CitiMortgage; J.P. Morgan Chase; and Wells Fargo. The settlement requires these firms to make several changes to the way they service policies, including adequately training staff; ending improper fees and dual tracking; maintaining better communication; and appointing a single point of contact for loss mitigation efforts.
Without a single point of contact, customers in a distressed credit situation may receive mixed messages and become confused, especially concerning loan modifications and foreclosures. Funneling all customer communications through one mortgage representative may help ensure consistency and clarity, thereby creating a more satisfying customer experience. Overall satisfaction among customers who indicate they had a single point of contact is 154 index points higher than among those who indicate they worked with multiple representatives. Servicers may also benefit by reducing the extra staffing required to respond to the additional demands created by customers making multiple contacts regarding the same topic.