Accelerating the digital transformation of the customer experience is now one of mortgage industry executives’ top five imperatives. And customers could not agree more.

In the Accenture Banking 2020 Consumer Survey Report, consumers reiterated that they want to communicate electronically. They view the online customer experience as the single most important area that banks need to improve.

The demand for transparency and self-service, plus the need for compliance management, means lenders must reinvent the customer experience. Our philosophy is to start planning a customer solution with the essential customer needs and build from there. When it comes to compliance, this is even more critical. Satisfied customers do not complain to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

Instead of focusing on customer pain points, many financial organizations are racing to build out a big data strategy. In the meantime, lenders already have access to the small data that can (and does) address consumers’ and the CFPB’s concerns.

If the financial benefits of improving your customer experience are not enough incentive to make reinventing it your number one priority, your compliance department will agree that the best way to avoid CFPB problems is to be proactive. And J.D. Power has the insights to back this approach.

The J.D. Power 2015 U.S. Primary Mortgage Origination Satisfaction Study reported higher satisfaction among customers who use digital channels for activities related to mortgage application, such as completing an application and submitting documents. The satisfaction drivers are transparency and communication. Satisfied mortgage customers told J.D. Power that they “definitely will” recommend their lender, and 76 percent say they “definitely will” consider reusing the same lender for their next home purchase.

Below are five tips that will increase customer satisfaction, which will decrease CFPB complaints.

1. Create a customer journey map and address the areas of dissatisfaction first.

The process of building a customer journey map furthers the understanding of the context in which customers interact with your brand. In plain speak, a customer journey map is akin to walking in your customer’s shoes — from the first hello and welcome to the contractual end of the financial relationship. The goal is simple: learn about the customer. The mapping process helps identify customer pain points and the opportunities across channels, devices and departments to reduce any gaps between what the customer wants and what the customer receives.

2.   Provide personal, two-way transparent communications.

Lenders already have extensive information about the customer to create a truly personal and relevant experience, and the majority of them have the tools (personal customer microsites and self-service accounts) to do so. The issue is that they do not optimize the customer experience. If a lender has a portfolio of a million mortgages, it creates the perfect opportunity to cross-sell customers on a credit card, deposit account, refinance or wealth management product. Time-bound contractual situations offer a unique touch point that only financial institutions can leverage. Turning the payment process into an exceptional experience increased one lender’s J.D. Power customer satisfaction scores by leaps and bounds year-over-year. Offers and advice throughout the year combined with financial reminders and other pertinent information make for happy customers.

Industry research consistently tells us that personalization delivers five to eight times greater ROI and lifts sales 10 to 20 percent.

Consumers like personal microsites because they provide the transparency, personalization, communication and relevant updates they are seeking. If your only communications are bills and sales pitches, you are not creating a relationship.

3.   Build trust through clear confirmation of any online transaction.

Validation is important. Just because people decide to engage with a brand online does not mean they are willing to trust you. The ability to automate a response to a customer request at the end of each step and when the process is completed via text or email is one of a website’s most effective and efficient ways to improve customer service and increase confidence and trust. People trust online transactions less than personal ones because they cannot see a response to their request. Providing confirmation communicates that a user’s request was submitted AND received.

For lenders, many transactions are multi-step processes (applications, loan modifications, etc.). Waiting until after the user completes all the steps to acknowledge or to interact with the person is poor communication. Keeping someone engaged through two-way interaction creates a positive experience and encourages completion. Success messages, visual confirmation that a step is complete, entice a user to finish.

4.    Solicit customer feedback so issues are identified before they reach the CFPB.

It is very important to allow consumers to engage online in an easy way — at the moment of need. Clear and encouraging calls to action should:

— Let users know they can return and make changes

— Make it easy to return to a step

— Provide a final option to edit an answer before a user presses submit

— Encourage feedback

5.    Automatically show the current status so consumers know where they are in the approval process at any time.

The Nielsen Norman Group, the guru of user experience, says status notifications are one of the most important aspects of a good customer experience. We all want to know where we stand, offline and online. That is why wait-animation indicators (spinning clocks, hourglasses, progress bars) that show you something is in progress are ubiquitous. For lenders, requests or processes typically take days or weeks to complete. Whether the transaction is short or long, it is important to provide the customer with a status. A status report helps users understand and be patient, especially when it comes to a multi-step process. This best practice provides the transparency that reduces anxiety and communicates that you are responding.

At one time, a consumer’s relationship with a financial institution was akin to marriage; they were customers until death do us part. Today, Accenture reports that 79 percent of American consumers categorize their banking relationship as merely transactional. This change of attitude has negative consequences for compliance as well as customer retention, cross-selling or up-selling.

Lenders must provide individuals with the information they want within the right context, when and how they want it, and in a form that is meaningful to them. When you have this capability, customer complaints decrease and customer retention increases exponentially.

If you map the customer’s journey and listen closely, design the right solution, and treat your customers as individuals, you will profit. You will also reduce your compliance risks and direct mail, call center and customer service costs.