Everyone's feeling the heat in the mortgage market, and broker satisfaction with lenders has fallen. Steve Carruthers investigates a possible solution.

Your call is important to us. Six incredibly annoying words that we are all subjected to from time to time. Sometimes for a very long time each time.

Thankfully the number of instances where we’re forced to endure the monotony of hold music has fallen dramatically over the years as companies get better at solving customer problems online through chat, email and social media.

For most of us, two things make our experience of customer service good or bad: speed and resolution.

The latest Mortgage Lender Benchmark survey from Smart Money People records broker satisfaction with lenders’ customer service, and, unfortunately, they’re not a happy bunch.

Everything's going up - except satisfaction

In the second half of the year, overall broker satisfaction with lenders has fallen, down 1.9 per cent to 79.3 per cent, falling below 80 per cent for the first time since H2 2020, when it was 77.8 per cent.

It’s perhaps unsurprising – the second half of last year was pretty miserable. Energy bills going up, mortgage rates going up, affordability shocks facing huge numbers of clients needing to remortgage, strikes, strikes and more strikes, not to mention the omnishambles created by Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng.

I think it’s fairly safe to say we were all irritated by things, but I also think brokers have had it worse than possibly any other profession.

There has been a flood of cases requiring far more work than is usual.

The very real financial disaster facing swathes of homeowners whose deals need to be refinanced has put a huge strain on brokers, who sit at the coalface of our market and have to manage the fear, disappointment and anxiety that clients are dealing with.

They’re also the intermediary and consequently have to manage the lender as well. It’s never a plain sailing process, but as the Bank of England raised rates and the pain started to bite in August, the dam has broken.

There has been a flood of cases requiring far more work than is usual. Add to that the fact that lenders are restricting lending volumes and that that triggers more criteria and product changes than normal – I’m amazed there aren’t more bald brokers around.

Craving stability

Smart Money People’s survey also, perhaps unsurprisingly, showed that brokers are struggling to keep up to date with rapidly changing criteria and rates, with 43 per cent relying on emails to keep updated with changes.

Jacqueline Dewey, the firm’s chief executive, acknowledged that it’s not all lenders’ fault. The market has been all over the shop since October and funding costs have necessitated the rapidity of those changes.

Lenders themselves are struggling to cope.

Do brokers care? They might sympathise, but ultimately, a poor experience with a lender is going to hurt that lender’s volumes.

The survey revealed that Net Promoter Score (NPS) is down 5.8 points on H1 2022 at +21., ranging from -54.5 to +59.3 for the lenders in the report.

Dewey noted that brokers are frustrated by the situation they find themselves and their clients in, with constant changes and products being withdrawn after applications have been submitted.

“Our analysis has found brokers are craving some stability within the market and that brokers need support from lenders – they need to be able to rely on and have confidence in lenders, and whilst processes adapt, communication remains key,” she said.

The survey also showed that 43 per cent of brokers are relying on emails to stay up to date with criteria and product changes.

That’s quite something in this day and age.

Multiply the number of changes and emails by lenders across the market, and you can see why brokers are so frustrated.

Distribution and mortgage efficiency are vital for lenders hoping to compete and key reasons for rethinking processes and technology.

The shape of the mortgage market is changing, and lenders are already having to adapt their processes to cope with more uncertainty and more struggling customers.

Patching existing systems to achieve the service levels brokers expect will rapidly become untenable – updates and redesigns can take days to implement. It took most lenders four days to reprice and relaunch product suites when the bond market collapsed.

Distribution and mortgage efficiency are vital for lenders hoping to compete - key reasons for rethinking processes and technology - and something which we explore more closely in our report, the Mortgage Efficiency Survey, which you can download below.

Dissatisfaction with customer service, communication and a lender’s tech systems have the most significant downward pull on NPS.

Brokers are frustrated by slow service timescales, the inability to get hold of relevant staff and the inability to get the information and answers they need.

Speed and resolution. Brokers value service, and the right platform will mean lenders can deliver it.

This article first appeared in The Intermediary.

Mortgage Efficiency Survey 2022

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The past 12 months have brought much change and new challenges for UK mortgage lenders, but the need to process business efficiently has not changed. Using insight from a broad range of lenders, all with different experiences and approaches, the Mortgage Efficiency Survey shows how the industry's thinking and approach have evolved.

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