After the Handshake [SPONSORED]

handshakeIt goes something like this: borrower finds the vehicle of their dreams, borrower signs on the dotted line, receives the keys, their official car note, a handshake, and they drive away.  What if there were more after the handshake? There is a tremendous amount of opportunity for lenders to continue to cultivate a relationship with borrowers over the course of the next 36, 48, 60, 72 months. And in an ideal world, retain that relationship forever. Recent Fiserv research supports the notion that it is a relationship with their lender that borrowers want, as they take on this lengthy financial journey.

With a world of information and options at a borrowers fingertips helping formulate opinions and decisions, lenders need to reach for that handshake early in the loan process. We shared a piece at the end of 2016 on the importance of engagement at origination. Perhaps though, it is in the servicing of the lease or loan where lenders have the most opportunity to delight their customers into return customers using high touch, personal engagement.

During the spring of 2016, Fiserv conducted a survey on borrower trends and sentiment related to borrowing. In that survey, 54% of respondents said customer service was an important factor when choosing a lender, right behind obtaining the best rates and minimizing fees. Furthermore, 61% said prior experience with a lender influenced their subsequent choices.

What does that desired customer service experience look like?  Although borrowers are comfortable doing a lot of the auto financing process themselves on their phone or tablet — check their account, make payments or request a payoff amount — they really don’t want to do it in a vacuum.  They want meaningful engagement with their auto finance company that reinforces the partnership and trust they’ve placed in their lender’s hands whether interacting digitally or via any other form of communication.

Through the effective use of technology, lenders can achieve and surpass these customer service expectations with reaffirming handshakes throughout the life of the lease or loan.  Modern servicing systems are a tool to  provide greater  through a variety of different communication channels, alerts and notifications to improve helpful communication, and more statement and payment options to increase overall borrower satisfaction.

Channel accessibility

While it’s important to be accessible, it is also of equal importance for the borrower to know there is someone on the other end of the digital line to also answer the phone, meet them in person, or respond via webchat with personalized, real-time information. Servicing systems that can relay borrower information in a timely and accurate manner, consistently among channels, reinforce the partnership and trust they’ve placed with their lender through their selection.

Alerts and Notifications

To make the customer engagement model more interactive, more frequent, lenders also need a way to let borrowers know when they need to take action or be aware of a pending change.  Sending real-time alerts and notifications, triggered by the servicing system, are becoming a go to tool for lenders provide value-added services to borrowers.  Common industry alerts and notifications include notice of unusual account activity, reminders to pay, and updates on changes to the serviced lease.

Rather than being an intrusion, customers invite these alerts into their daily lives and rely on them as way to clarify their financial lives. The average consumer already receives nearly six different types of alerts, with fifty one percent finding loan payment statuses extremely helpful in managing their finances.

Today, eight-four percent of loan related notifications today are received via email, twenty three percent via text, and eight percent via phone. However email alerts run a high risk of getting lost in the volume people receive each day.  Texting has become the preferred media to receive important alerts and notifications and presents a competitive differentiator for a lender to offer additional notifications via text.

Statement and Payment Options

Every borrower manages their finances differently.  It can even be different for the same borrower from one month to the next, if their income changes during different periods of the year.  This means providing flexibility to how and where a borrower can make a payment is of utmost importance for not only great customer service but also increases the chance a lender will receive on-time payments.  A self-service portal and recurring payments make great tools for some, where walk-in location provide greater convenience for others.  While the number of borrowers interested in stopping use of paper statements within the next year has grown forty percent year over year, paper statements have their place.  They provide a great way to communicate with borrowers about complimentary offers or promotions, inform them of upcoming changes and reinforce your brand promise.  The goal is to provide the options and let the borrower decide their path.  A servicing system that can accommodate all of this lends itself to greater returns.

Borrowers are capable and comfortable of doing a majority of tasks that engage with their lease or loan online but want to be confident that their lender will respond with the right level of engagement when it’s inevitably called upon.  Providing different channel, helpful and timely information, and offering a variety of payment options ensures the customer service expectations are met and will dictate whether or not borrowers will come back for that next financing term.

The next time you think about a handshake in auto finance consider it a hello, rather than a goodbye. A lot can happen over the course of 72 months.  Make it count by taking advantage of the inherent engagement opportunities you have to service your borrowers.

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