Josh Lehr of Total Expert on How Data-Driven Communication Transcends Channels and Drives Lifetime Value

Josh Lehr is Director of Technology Alliances with Total Expert, Minneapolis, a fintech software company that built the first customer experience platform purpose-built for financial institutions.

MBA NEWSLINK: The pandemic changed nearly everything—including how people shopped for houses. What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen over the past 18 months?

JOSH LEHR, TOTAL EXPERT: Borrower demand for a digital lending model continues to increase, but that’s not as much a change as it is an acceleration of a trend. The next generation of homeowners – Millennials and Gen Zs – already expected quick, easy, digital financial transactions in every aspect of their lives. As the COVID-19 pandemic limited their ability to meet with lenders face-to-face, borrowers looked to shop and compare multiple lenders from the comfort of their own homes.

NEWSLINK: Home buyers have a lot more leverage these days—many expect a better direct-to-consumer lending experience. How would you grade the mortgage industry in managing those expectations so far?

LEHR: The industry has come a long way in driving a great direct-to-consumer experience but there are still a surprising number of gaps. Take this situation for example: After filling out a beautiful loan application online, one home buyer, Jennifer, did not receive timely feedback on what was going to happen next. In one case, Jennifer received a call from a lender about her initial inquiry when she had already completed an application on the website. In another instance, Jennifer was sent a cookie-cutter email from a lender asking to set up a call to discuss the opportunity to submit a loan application. Lenders who are looking to offer a direct-to-consumer experience that ushers homeowners along their purchase journey seamlessly and quickly have to leverage technology that automates and lends on data-driven insights to personalize the experience.

As lenders strive to create an efficient direct-to-consumer lending experience, they’ll need to leverage interaction data from all customer facing platforms to drive timely and relevant communications and meet homebuyers’ high expectations.

NEWSLINK: So, lenders can no longer assume a “one-framework-fits-all” approach?

LEHR: Certainly not — but I’m not sure they ever could — especially since tech-savvy customers hold higher expectations for a better, richer, direct-to-consumer experience. In the direct-to-consumer channel, consumers tend to rate the quality of their experience based on three elements: speed-to-response, level of personalization, and efficiency of service. To deliver these high-quality experiences, lenders need to effectively leverage the customer information at their fingertips and communicate on the consumer’s terms, so they can make genuine, data-enabled connections with their borrowers using the channels their customers prefer, from the first interaction.

NEWSLINK: How do iBuyers fit into this?

LEHR: iBuyers are trying to serve the needs of the digital consumer by bringing the entire process together seamlessly.  For example, buyers can view properties, schedule tours, and request information to get the mortgage application processes started within one digital platform. iBuyers are also starting to offer add-on services such as title, homeowners insurance and even moving services to simplify the process and drive a better customer experience.

NEWSLINK: How can lenders better analyze data to manage customer needs?

LEHR: This starts with eliminating data silos across the organization, including lending channels and all customer engagement systems. Across the enterprise through multiple platforms, lenders are able to infer customer preferences and in some cases, they are explicitly telling us what those preferences are. A data-backed strategy should dictate the “Three ‘C’s” that create a unified and consistent customer experience: content, cadence and channel. By first identifying a customer’s preferred communication channel, then providing personalized advice, lenders can drive messaging that resonates with consumers which leads to more closed loans and lays the groundwork for a “customer for life.”

NEWSLINK: And how do these data enable lenders to improve collaboration across other lending channels?

LEHR: With a data-backed outreach strategy, lenders can ensure every new opportunity gets the proper amount of attention and that every touch is personalized.  By leveraging all data you have on a consumer from across the enterprise, lenders can build trust by showing they care and deliver value regardless of where the customer is in their journey.  Giving this data to all customer facing teams in your organization allows your staff to have informed conversations with consumers, regardless of who they’re interacting with or how they reached out to the organization.

NEWSLINK: Are these changes permanent? Do you see them continuing post-pandemic?

LEHR: Absolutely. These customer expectations already existed pre-2020, and they aren’t unrealistic: They simply want the homebuying experience to mirror other online purchase processes in their day-to-day lives. We need to continue to make sure the technology decisions we are making are being well integrated and driving the experience and outcomes we ourselves expect as consumers. 

(Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect policy of the Mortgage Bankers Association, nor do they connote an MBA endorsement of a specific company, product or service. MBA NewsLink welcomes your submissions. Inquiries can be sent to Mike Sorohan, editor, at; or Michael Tucker, editorial manager, at