What the sub-service looks like during a pandemic
As the world continues to navigate the impacts of COVID-19, HousingWire spoke with TMS to learn more about their customer service philosophy and how it has served them during the pandemic.
HousingWire: So, right off the bat, let’s talk about the results. How did TMS fare compared to other sub-servers during COVID-19?
TMS: In short, we did well – and all because we saw it coming.
Let’s go back to this period in 2019. Mortgage delinquencies (DQ) in the United States were at their lowest level in 13 years. It was great, sure, but while everyone was partying we thought: We don’t know how or when, but QDs will increase. Under this assumption, we have entered the worlds of failure and loss mitigation. Sure enough, a completely disruptive force – COVID-19 – has struck and DQs have increased.
For many people, COVID-19 was a total punch, and they needed to act fast and sub-optimally. But because TMS has always thought about growth and increasing delinquency, we weren’t trying to keep pace. We had already added new employees to help manage an influx of loss mitigation work. We had long embraced remote working, so our infrastructure was not burdened by a massive office relocation. Our online portal made comprehensive information instantly available (as always). We have had more brand voice trained carologists from our clients, providing expert advice to more clients than usual. Ultimately, we were able to keep our DQ rates well below the industry average.
We were also able to keep abstention rates below the industry average. Through our proactive and in-depth client education, we have kept clients free from tolerance that absolutely did not need it. Forbearances can cause problems for both customers – who might have credit problems down the line – and customers, who essentially lose money when their loans go for forbearance. Through our high-tech, high-touch sub-service approach, we were able to work with our clients to determine whether abstentions were absolutely necessary for their situation – and if they weren’t, we presented other options.
HW: Besides planning for an increase in QDs, what do you think distinguished TMS’s sub-service approach during COVID-19?
TMS: The approaches that set us apart during COVID-19 have set us apart for many years. We like to brag about SIME – Servicing Intelligence Made Easy – our proprietary sub-service platform, which offers full transparency into clients’ loan portfolios in real time, while providing the monitoring tools on which sub-services services and lenders can count. It provides comprehensive and up-to-date information and insight into customers’ borrowing habits. He brings total knowledge to our clients, to our clients and to ourselves. Especially during a crisis, this is extremely important.
More broadly, we distinguish ourselves by thinking of the client-subcontractor relationship as – well, exactly that, a relationship. We pioneered the concept of combining the loan originator and the loan processor, so that throughout the life of our loans, our clients speak to one person. This single, consistent point of contact is the cornerstone of customer loyalty.
A client-servant relationship of trust is based on our holy trinity of values: education, empathy and action. We speak in a language customers can understand, educating them on their full range of options. We understand the more emotional side of homeownership, empathizing with our clients and assuring them that we are on their side. Most importantly, we take quick and accurate action, so there is no lag between recommending an approach and taking that approach. This has resulted in 98% customer satisfaction – lots of happy clients and lots of happy clients.
We were great before the pandemic, so we were able to be good during the pandemic. Subcontractors who have not prioritized their customer relationships in the same way have a much harder time. You cannot go from satisfactory to excellent during a crisis.
HW: What are the biggest challenges TMS faced during the pandemic?
TMS: Our main challenge was the same that everyone faced: we just don’t know how long this is going to last. COVID-19 has been a shake of uncertainty for everyone (maybe except Zoom), and people have had to take it day in and day out, hour by hour, moment by moment.
We cannot provide the kind of certainty that everyone wants, which would be like saying, “We will have a vaccine by the xx date, and then everything can be back to normal.” But no one, not even health experts, can provide this. When in doubt, we can provide our customers with a lot of other concrete information. We are experts in the various options available to clients who may be struggling to keep up with their mortgage payments. We can analyze a client’s unique situation and work with them to find the right solution for their situation, rather than just offering widespread tolerance. We can provide peace of mind to our customers, who know they have knowledgeable, brand-aware contractors working on their behaviors.
It all comes down to bringing order to chaos by ordering chaos. In a crisis, customers want to know three things: 1. How can you help me? 2. What does it look like? and 3. What happens next? Being able to answer these questions effectively takes clients from a point of zero knowledge and total panic to a point of full knowledge and zero panic. They know where they are, they know what we can do, and they know what’s going to happen.
Ultimately, it’s the job of the subcontractor to provide as much certainty as possible. If you can tidy up the chaos and help a client keep their home, that client will be infinitely more loyal to you, and infinitely more likely to come to you for their next loan. This is the kind of high level sub service that we are looking for.