March 09, 2004

Better Online Servicing Tools

Online servicing is also a new area of focus for many Scorecard firms. Our research has indicated that those customers who apply for a mortgage online are not only much more likely to desire to service it online as well, but many view online servicing as one of the most important factors in determining with whom they will do business. Nearly three-quarters of the firms in our latest Scorecard offer online servicing, and those that do so see it as an important retention tool, particularly now that the refinance boom has ended and borrowers may stay with their current mortgage providers for a longer period of time.

Reflective of the growth in online servicing tools is the move by more Scorecard firms to put current and historical mortgage tax forms online as well as offer mortgage-related e-mail alerts. However, unlike online banking, only about 10 percent of firms provide message centers for their mortgage customers, whereby they can send and receive secure messages in an authenticated environment. This is an area we believe should be top-of-mind for firms as they consider how to improve their servicing areas. Smartly, some firms are using their servicing areas to market ancillary products to customers, primarily HELOCs.

In this regard, some Scorecard firms are performing data analyses on their mortgage portfolios and not only messaging certain customers that they have been pre-approved for a home equity product but offering them a streamlined application with the vast majority of information pre-populated -- a very powerful method of gaining HELOC customers.

While much of the mortgage industry takes a breather from three years of breakneck refinancing activity, the top firms are not resting on their laurels. Through continued re-investment and feature upgrades to their online offerings, these firms continue to meet the needs of a changing marketplace.

Matt Lehman is a senior analyst at Gomez, Inc., an Internet benchmarking and advisory services firm in Waltham, Mass. He can be reached at mlehman@gomez.com.

NOTE: On March 8, Watchfire Corporation (Waltham, Mass.), a provider of software and services to manage online business, announced the acquisition of Gomez Pro, the benchmarking and Web site assessment services business unit of Gomez Inc. (Waltham, Mass.)