One-size-fits-all digital workflows are hurting customer satisfaction with mortgage lenders, according to an annual consumer survey that concluded “some level of human interaction” is still required to help borrowers negotiate the application and approval process.

The J.D. Power 2021 U.S. Primary Mortgage Origination Satisfaction Study measured a five-point drop in overall customer satisfaction with mortgage lenders from a year ago, largely driven by borrowers who were caught up in last year’s rush to refinance.

“Mortgage originators have been working for years to create an effective and efficient origination process, primarily through digitization of the process and implementation of self-help tools, but the massive surge in volume has exposed some serious weaknesses in that approach,” said Jim Houston, managing director of consumer lending and automotive finance intelligence at J.D. Power, in a statement.

Both banks and non-banks saw declines in scores in all four customer satisfaction factors measured in the survey: application and approval process, communications, loan closing and loan offering.

Digital self-service combined with live personal service is key to retaining younger customers, J.D. Power concluded, with faster approval times demonstrating that the application and approval process “still requires some level of human interaction.”

The survey also found there’s a danger of communicating through too many channels, with customer satisfaction dropping when all three channels — live personal service, digital self-service, and traditional email or texting — are utilized.

“Today’s mortgage customers expect personalized, highly customizable experiences that include the right mix of technology and personal interactions based on their unique needs and wants,” Houston said.

J.D. Power 2021 Primary Mortgage Origination Satisfaction Study

Source: J.D. Power

For overall customer satisfaction, the top five lenders on a 1,000-point scale were: Guild Mortgage (884), Rocket Mortgage (876), Citi (875), CrossCountry Mortgage (874) and Fairway Independent (871).

Also scoring above the industry average of 851 were Bank of America (859), Better Mortgage (859), loanDepot (856), Movement Mortgage (855) and PNC (851).

The five lowest scoring lenders were: Newrez (786), Mr. Cooper (800), AmeriSave Mortgage (803), Flagstar Bank (822) and U.S. Bank (823).

Also scoring below the industry average were Truist (825), Guaranteed Rate (825), PennyMac (827), Freedom Mortgage (829), Wells Fargo (832), Citizens Mortgage (837), Chase (843) and Caliber (850).

In a press release, Guild Mortgage said the 35-point, year-over-year increase in the company’s overall customer satisfaction score was one of the biggest gains posted by any lender in the survey. Guild not only finished first for overall customer satisfaction, but it was the highest-ranked lender in each of the four measured performance factors, the company said.

“As the mortgage industry faced so many changes this past year, our more than 4,000 employees embraced our commitment to continuous improvement,” said Guild Mortgage CEO Mary Ann McGarry in a statement. “They excelled in many of the areas covered in the study and remained committed to customizing how they communicated with different customer segments, getting more efficient with all systems, automating processes to give our people more time for providing sensitive human support, and integrating the personal touch with our digital initiatives. All of this dedicated work helped us to continue building trust in our existing markets and new ones as we furthered our growth throughout the U.S.”

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Email Matt Carter

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