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By: Jacob Petersen for Tomorrow's Mortgage Executive, talking on the importance of customer service in the mortgage industry.

How often does a piece of technology break only to realize you now have to make the dreaded phone call to the 1-800 support number on the back of the device? For most, this is met with a monotone voice reading an infuriating script. Do they think we didn’t try to restart the device? Of course we did. Yes, the router was unplugged and reset, too. In today’s world, consumers expect a higher level of customer service. Whether they need to set up a new account, need help understanding the paperwork in front of them, or need help troubleshooting an issue, support must be seen as a trusted advisor.

As organizations grow, the idea of a customer ecosystem is essential to ensure the longevity and scalability of the company. This customer ecosystem requires that the entire organization work closely to provide only the highest levels of support. What steps are you taking to ensure your customer-facing teams emerge on top of today’s demanding industry landscape?

By: Jake Petersen for Today's Lending Insights

Every organization strives to serve its customers at a world-class level; however, taking customer service past the concept of a “help desk” is often an afterthought. Most companies view support as something similar to the 1990s Maytag commercials, where the lonely repairman is waiting for someone to call so he can spring to action. As a result, support is often seen as a cost — a necessary but basic function that does no more than resolve individual customer issues using entry-level employees.

I believe that this line of thinking is flawed. In my view, customer service can provide valuable insight into the organization and should be seen as an opportunity to collect data that will help drive improvements in lenders’ people, processes, and technology.

By the time an issue makes its way to the customer service team, it has typically affected the customer and has potentially damaged the brand. Many believe a fast response time and a satisfactory resolution can actually increase brand value. While this may be true in some cases, most complaints tarnish the brand and drive costs up. Also, because customers and staff were affected, it is likely that management and/or executive involvement is required to remedy the issue at hand. At Accenture Mortgage Cadence, we refer to this as the “cost snowball effect.” If issues are identified and addressed before they move to the next step, the cost is limited. If an issue is not identified and addressed, the cost to correct it snowballs as the number of individuals and teams involved increases. Taking steps to ensure customer service teams are properly versed in how to handle issues can help keep such issues from snowballing.

As lead of the Accenture Mortgage Cadence service team, I have spent the last two years refining our support process. We have found that the customer-facing support group should not simply be a “help desk.” In today’s complex business environment, these teams cannot simply follow a series of scripted questions and responses and expect to resolve customer issues. Most issues require a highly capable individual with the authority and skills to resolve specific issues and refer others to the appropriate subject matter experts.

To resolve an issue in a timely and complete fashion, the support team also needs direct access to the organization’s subject matter experts. Customer service should be responsible for driving continuous improvement across the organization. They do this by seeking root cause, determining what needs to be fixed, and identifying what actions need to occur to prevent that specific issue from appearing again.

In most organizations, support uses a ticketing system that includes varying amounts of data about the specific support incident. Typically there is a description of the incident, the potential resolution, and a field that classifies the type of incident that occurred. This data should be used in conjunction with feedback from support subject matter experts, looking at aggregated data to drive continuous improvement within specific individuals, teams, processes, applications and infrastructure.

Support within any organization should be viewed as much more than a cost factory. Instead, it should be viewed as a feedback mechanism that can drive continuous improvement throughout the organization. Properly structured, customer support should be an agent of change for people, processes, and technology.

March 28, 2013 – Mortgage Cadence LLC, a leading provider of Enterprise Lending Solutions (ELS), Document Services and Compliance for the financial services industry, announced today the promotion of Jacob Petersen to Chief Service Officer, effective immediately. Petersen, currently president of Finale Document Services, assumes front-line customer service responsibility for all Company product lines, including Orchestrator, Symphony, Prelude, Finale and Opus. He continues to lead Finale as well.

“Customer service is one of three tenets in our vision statement. This move puts additional emphasis on this important area. Creating a chief officer role that focuses on client service across all products supports our expanding organization as well as our greater prominence in the mortgage industry,” said Mortgage Cadence CEO Michael Detwiler.

Mortgage Cadence is well ahead of its plan from a new customer and product suite integration perspective since its acquisition of Prime Alliance last July. Leading mortgage lenders are positioning for the coming change in the market, where delivering a memorable borrowing experience while steadily increasing compliant efficiency are the essential elements of success. “Our customers rely on us for more than technology. Under Jacob Petersen’s leadership Mortgage Cadence will be known for its service as well as its solutions,” added Detwiler.

Petersen holds an MBA as well as Bachelor of Science in Finance and Economics from Wayne State College. He has been leading customer service and quality control teams within the mortgage industry throughout his career, joining Mortgage Cadence in 2010. “Working with customers as part of their team and their success is what I enjoy most. I am also pleased by the opportunity to build a world-class team for our organization,” said Petersen.