Mortgage servicers have made substantial progress over the last year in improving borrowers' customer experience, a new survey released by J.D. Power shows.
In its yearly survey of customer satisfaction for primary mortgage servicers, the company found the servicing industry as a whole averages 754 on a 1,000-point scale, up more than 20 points from last year.
Improvements were more pronounced among so-called "at-risk" customers: those who are already behind on payments or concerned about keeping current. Satisfaction among that group increased 42 points over the year to an average 703.
The study measures customer experiences in four factors of mortgage servicing: billing and payment process, escrow account administration, phone contact, and website—the last of which has improved vastly over the last few years with the development of technologies to streamline the experience.
"Satisfaction is improving, specifically among those customers having a hard time paying their bills, primarily because lenders are improving the experience by making it easier for them to use the website or their smartphone to make payments, resolve problems, or get answers to their questions," said Craig Martin, director of J.D. Power's mortgage practice.
"As more consumers use smartphones and tablets and younger tech-savvy borrowers begin to buy homes, the desire to use online and mobile channels will inevitably increase," Martin added.
The study also found that different customer segments use servicers' technology offerings differently. For example, at-risk customers most frequently use their lender's website to check monthly billing information, while low-risk borrowers most often use the site to review their payment and transaction history.
Among customers visiting a website with a question or problem, satisfaction is 105 points higher for those who are able to resolve their issue entirely through the site than for those who have to go through another channel.
Out of all the servicers included in the survey, Quicken Loans ranked highest in satisfaction, earning a score of 835.
Coming behind Quicken was Chase with a score of 782, with Regions Mortgage (777) and Wells Fargo Home Mortgage (772) following.
On average, brand image ratings improved significantly in 2014, mostly on the perception that lenders are moving in a more customer-focused direction, the study found.
"Since the mortgage crisis of 2008, servicers have made substantial progress in more effectively communicating with consumers, including increasing the use of guides and technology to help better educate customers and keep them informed," Martin said. "While many new regulations have recently gone into place standardizing certain elements of the experience, during the past few years some servicers have begun using online versions of such tools as escrow guides to educate their borrowers and create a better experience for them."