While a combination of relief efforts and pivots to digital solutions helped mortgage servicers earn high levels of customer satisfaction during the pandemic, much of that improvement in satisfaction came from non-bank companies that have started to gain an edge over bank lenders, according to a recent study from J.D. Power.

The J.D. Power 2021 U.S. Primary Mortgage Servicer Satisfaction Study found that overall satisfaction with mortgage servicers had increased by a significant six points on a 1,000-point scale over last year’s results.

“Mortgage servicer satisfaction was buoyed by the industry’s response to the pandemic, with some of the biggest gains in customer satisfaction being driven by at-risk and moderate-risk customers who participated in forbearance programs,” Jim Houston, director of consumer lending intelligence at J.D. Power, said in a statement.

Bank-affiliated servicers have historically outperformed non-banks by a large margin, JD Power said, but gained only four points in satisfaction this year. Non-bank servicers saw a significant 17-point increase in satisfaction.

“[A]ll that pandemic-driven goodwill belies a bigger set of customer experience challenges – particularly for bank-affiliated lenders,” JD Power said. “As loan forbearance programs come to an end and more normalized customer interactions resume, traditional banks are starting to lose their edge over non-bank lenders.”

Bank lenders did have high satisfaction with customers who use multiple products at the institution. Satisfaction scores among customers who use other bank products was 55 points higher compared to customers who have only a mortgage at the bank.

Customers experiencing problems paying their mortgage helped drive satisfaction this year. Overall satisfaction among at-risk customers increased 15 points year-over-year while satisfaction scores among low-risk customers declined by one point. Customers who participated in forbearance programs had the highest levels of satisfaction, scoring 846 out of 1,000 points compared to 783 for those who never enrolled in a program and 776 for those who previously enrolled in a program but were no longer enrolled.

Post-pandemic customer behaviors and the responses of low-risk customers indicate that the lift in customer satisfaction might be short-lived, Houston said.

“In fact, despite the attention on relief programs, nearly one-fifth of current mortgage customers have had no interaction with their servicer during the past year,” Houston said. “Mortgage servicers will really need to up their customer engagement games as the marketplace stabilizes.”

Website usage increased 5 percentage points this year, but J.D. Power said there was still room for improvement. Only 38 percent of customers said they found the desired information on the servicer’s website within the first two pages. Overall satisfaction declined 55 points for customers who had to visit more than two pages.

Top reasons customers gave when asked if they would switch lenders if given the opportunity included better rates, better or improved customer service, and “easy access to help myself to information about my loan.”

Rocket Mortgage, which includes Quicken Loans, was the highest-ranked mortgage servicer with a score of 860. Guild Mortgage (825) ranked second and Huntington National Bank (827) ranked third. The industry average was 787.

J.D. Power: Satisfaction With Mortgage Servicers Increased During Pandemic

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 2 min