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Mortgage Servicers Get Thumbs Up from Customers

The mortgage servicing industry's efforts to adhere to nationwide reforms hasn't gone unnoticed by consumers, according to ""J.D. Power's"":http://www.jdpower.com/ 2013 U.S. Primary Mortgage Servicer Satisfaction Study.

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The study measures customer satisfaction across four facets of the mortgage servicing experience: the billing and payment process, escrow account information, the servicer's website, and phone contact.

According to J.D. Power, overall satisfaction with servicers has increased to 733 (on a 1,000 point scale) from last year's value of 725.

The market research firm attributes the increase to the ""Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's"":http://www.consumerfinance.gov/ (CFPB) release of origination and servicing guidelines, most of which are scheduled to go into effect January 2014. Under the rules, servicers are required to have systems, policies, and procedures in place to ensure customers receive appropriate information and support.

""This study helps gauge the effectiveness of firm's servicing capabilities from the customer's perspective,"" said Craig Martin, director of investment services at J.D. Power. ""The fact that satisfaction continues to increase seems to indicate that changes being made in response to these new regulations are having a positive impact on the experience of customers.""

Another influential factor has been last year's National Mortgage Settlement, which has required the largest servicers--Bank of America, CitiMortgage, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and Ally--to make sure staff is adequately trained, maintain better communication, end improper fees and dual tracking, and appoint a single point of contact for loss mitigation efforts. (Ally has since unloaded most of its mortgage servicing rights to focus on other aspects of its operation.)

According to J.D. Power's study, the stipulation for a single point of contact has had a major effect on customers. Overall satisfaction among those who had a single point of contact was 154 index points higher than those who worked with multiple representatives in the last year, the market research firm said.

While those five servicers are the only ones so far that are required to abide by the terms of last year's settlement, Martin said the fact that they posted large gains in customer satisfaction scores is ""telling.""

""The new policies governing communication, particularly the appointment of a single point of contact, might easily become the de facto standard for problem resolution across all mortgage servicers in the near future,"" he said. ""While there isn't a silver bullet, mortgage servicers that focus on the Voice of the Customer and improve communication by being more proactive and using various methods to provide information to borrowers appear to be reaping the benefits through higher levels of satisfaction.""

As far as rankings go, ""Branch Banking & Trust Co."":http://www.bbt.com/ (BB&T) ranked highest in customer satisfaction for the fourth consecutive year, earning a score of 765--however, that total is down 38 points from 2012. ""Regions Mortgage"":http://www.regions.com/mortgage.rf sat just behind with a score of 764, while ""SunTrust Mortgage"":https://www.suntrustmortgage.com/ earned 762 points, taking third place.

At the bottom were ""Ocwen"":http://www.ocwen.com/ (649) and ""Nationstar"":https://www.nationstarmtg.com/ (610)--both of which have spent 2013 actively expanding their servicing operations.

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