Putting the ‘Service’ Back Into Servicing

NEW ORLEANS ― An evolving retail experience is spurring higher consumer expectations for loan servicing.

Consumers shop with ease online, and expect delivery in one or two days. “That’s the kind of service your customers expect,” said Lori Millard, chief operating officer at Wells Fargo Dealer Services, at the AFSA Vehicle Finance Conference here.

It’s important to monitor the competition, but lenders must also keep tabs on what the Amazons and Costcos of the world are doing, because consumers expect their financial institutions to keep pace, she said.

“You have to execute flawlessly on every single item,” Millard added. “We’re moving into an area of zero tolerance. A 5% or 10% error rate is no longer acceptable.”

In an effort to bolster customer satisfaction, Wells Fargo Dealer Services has created an “Office of the President” channel to interface with consumers who disagree with servicing decisions, among other things. “It’s not that the Office of the President will overturn the [service center’s] decision, but it has a way of communicating differently ― talking to the consumer about the issue and deescalating it,” she said. “They feel they have an avenue to get their issues resolved.”

These days, speed has become more critical in resolving customer issues. “You must act on feedback, and act quickly,” Lee McCarty, executive vice president of loss mitigation at Ally Financial Inc[SP2] ., said during the session. Beyond normal interactions, lenders must have efficient processes to deal with complaints, he said, adding that they should also conduct regular surveys to gauge sentiment.

Wells Fargo Dealer Services conducts such surveys. “You can’t assume you know the customer,” Millard said. “You have to get their feedback.”

Wells Fargo initiates communication with new customers within the first week they’re funded. One of the lender’s best practices is its “onboarding” process, which includes a welcome call and a welcome letter. “We want them to know we are their financing source,” Millard said, adding that reps will review payment options and answer questions to help customers “feel welcome.”

Along those lines, lenders should work to ensure “smooth transitions” between departments, said George Halloran, auto finance program director at Benchmark Consulting International. “Seamless handoffs are always an issue,” particularly from servicing to collections, he said.

Communication methodologies play into the servicing equation, too. Lenders must consider what gets communicated, and over what channel, Halloran said. Those decisions become more critical as customers evolve, he added.

In addition to efficient processes, lenders should expend effort to make solid hiring decisions. “Having the right people in place ― that are driven and feel like they’re making a contribution ― it’s significant,” said Dan Heinrich, senior vice president of remarketing solutions at General Motors Financial. “We feel it’s a core competency. We’re focused on our employees, and giving them ownership to make decisions in a way that’s impactful.”

Wells Fargo encourages team members on the front lines to suggest process improvements. “They know what needs to change,” Millard said. “We encourage team members to float these ideas up through this [designated] team.” Employees whose ideas are implemented may be recognized in an internal publication or receive monetary rewards.

With the proper training, collectors and servicing executives should feel that their mission is to help customers solve their problems, Halloran said.

-Marcie Belles



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