Erika Martin of Enact: How the Customer Experience Has Changed Throughout the Pandemic
Erika Martin is Senior Director of Marketing & Customer Experience with Enact Mortgage Insurance (formerly Genworth Mortgage Insurance). She develops and evolves the strategic direction of Enact’s marketing communications team, and customer engagement and delivery experience. She is certified in Lean Six Sigma and holds an MBA from UNC Kenan-Flagler and a Real Estate Broker license. The statements in this article are solely the opinions of Erika Martin and do not necessarily reflect the views of Enact or its management.
While the pandemic is just part of our everyday lives now, in the beginning of lockdowns and mask mandates, there were numerous changes that forced us to rethink business norms. One area of significant change centered around customer engagement. Customer interactions in every industry saw significant transitions to digital interactions, but this was an especially large adjustment within the mortgage industry; an industry that still relied heavily on in-person interactions and paper documentation.
Let’s discuss just how much the industry has changed in the past year and a half.
How has the customer experience changed over the last 18 months?
When lockdowns were put in place, interpersonal interactions were essentially lost, which made digital engagements more important than ever, because, at that time, they were our only safe option. Not only did digital become mandatory, but it also forced people to get creative in their approach to cut through all the digital noise in customers’ lives and stand out.
In doing so, companies had to work harder to make everything intuitive, seamless, and easy to understand without having to rely on face-to-face interactions. This is a delicate balancing act, as you want to do as much digitally as possible, but also make it known that human contact is there and accessible for help with any complex issues that arise.
What should businesses be mindful of?
Customization and personalization are key. Customers and prospects need to feel the human element and connection even if there’s not a person on the other end of the engagement. It is critical to understand who your customer is, what their role is and what they value in order to personalize their experience with your organization. The personalized experience you are able to provide could very well be what sets you apart from a competitor. When a business partner delivers meaningful value and relevant information, you are more likely to drive the customer’s engagement and cement that relationship.
It is important to learn how customers want to be communicated to and what they expect from you. One of the ways to best identify communication style and the needs of the customers is by utilizing surveys and customer panels. These tools help you uncover what is and is not working and what may be missing entirely. This will help you gather both the quantitative and qualitative data you need, as both are extremely important and informative for your business. Work with your customer facing teams to get information on what they are hearing in order to ensure the experience you provide is the best it can be.
Similarly, our industries are rich on data, especially customer data. Use that data to understand customer behavior and trends to help drive your actions and make improvements in the experience you are delivering.
When it comes to engaging with customers, how do pre-pandemic tactics compare to what makes the most sense for the environment we’re currently in?
We have been forced to accelerate technological capabilities, which is a positive for the industry, as it helps to meet customers where they are. Customers are no longer limited to in-person interaction. While online and mobile were sometimes an option pre-pandemic, they are now table stakes.
Additionally, the pandemic brought a shift to value-added marketing. This is a strategy in which you provide educational resources and methods that deliver value to the customer in order to build loyalty. You can’t just sell anymore; you have to deliver value for your customers in order to stand out from your competitors. This also helps to build trust with the customer and ultimately helps set you apart as a valuable asset.
The pandemic also has taught us to be agile and use testing whenever possible. You must test and learn and try new things – something many organizations learned in response to the pandemic. When the “normal” way of doing things was not working, it took some trial and error and a lot of flexibility to make business happen. Now that most businesses are adjusted to the state we’re in, we can use testing to get to the bottom of why certain processes work or don’t work so the business can quickly pivot.
So much has changed this past 18 months it would be hard to recognize what we always considered to be “normal.” Instead of trying to get “back to normal,” let’s continue to focus on the lessons we’ve learned and how we have improved. The customer experience does not look the same as it once did, and we are better for it.
(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 firstname.lastname@example.org; or Michael Tucker, editorial manager, at email@example.com.)