How Bots Enhance the Way Cenlar Assists Homeowners
How Bots Enhance the Way Cenlar Assists Homeowners
Bots — software applications that typically perform tasks that are both simple and repetitive — already were part of Cenlar’s digital strategy at the start of 2020, but the pandemic and the passing of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act accelerated the need to implement them. With the understanding that homeowners would have a plethora of questions and concerns about their mortgage options under the CARES Act, Cenlar quickly developed and deployed its first bot: the Forbearance Virtual Assistant.
Two years later, Cenlar has released additional bots to assist homeowners, handling common question areas like “When is my next payment due?”, “How do I make a payment?” and “How do I set up autopay?” To date, our bots have proven to be a key driver in improving the homeowner experience. We have an average of 145,000 bot interactions each month with 80% of callers being satisfied and never having to speak with a live representative.
“We are seeing very high retention rates, which means the bot is doing its job answering homeowners’ questions,” said Brighid Quinn-Gordon, IT Analyst, Digital Transformation. “It’s really allowed us to focus on continuously delivering excellent service to homeowners. Since people with common questions are being helped by the bots, it frees up our representatives to focus on those homeowners with complex issues who need the most attention. Just as important, bots allow us to be there for homeowners whenever they need us, 24/7.”
The forbearance bot is a prime example. Through Cenlar’s automated phone system (IVR), callers who chose to digitally self-serve and not speak to a representative were sent a “Get Started” link via text. The link sent them to the bot, which provided information on various assistance resources. It also provided a link to our “Request Assistance” website, where homeowners could request a new forbearance or to extend, end or cancel an existing forbearance.
The forbearance bot has helped distressed, confused and inquisitive homeowners when they need us most — especially important during a time of crisis.
“This was an enormous enhancement to the homeowner experience during that critical time, as homeowners could have their questions answered right away without having to wait for the next available representative or scroll through a long list of FAQs on the website to find what they are looking for,” Director of Digital Marketing Eric Philp says.
Soon after the launch of the forbearance bot, early findings revealed that 12% of callers opted to self-serve using the bot, homeowner satisfaction increased, and call volume decreased. This successful implementation inspired the development of Cenlar’s next bot: the borrower bot.
The borrower bot facilitates self-service on CenNetTM, the homeowner website, by automating requests, such as how to make a payment, set up autopay, access 1098 tax forms and conduct other common tasks. Homeowners can select from a menu of options or they can type in their specific questions. For more complex issues, the homeowner is offered a smooth handover via chat to a live representative. To date, this bot has handled more than 482,000 homeowner interactions.
Along with the forbearance and borrower bots, Cenlar has additional bots in operation:
- IVR/General Information: Provides basic, general information to homeowners and third-party callers (e.g., attorneys, accountants, title companies).
- Registration: Helps homeowners access and register their accounts on our Loan Administration website. A chatbot seamlessly transitions homeowners to a live agent as needed.
Three teams within the organization partner on the development and deployment of Cenlar’s bots:
- IT: Leads the strategy and design effort, managing the technology to ensure it meets business needs.
- Contact Center Operations: Prioritizes bot initiatives based on current needs and data it has on pain points in the homeowner experience.
- Marketing: Creates the overall Q and A experience by gathering information from across the organization to develop homeowner questions, responses and prompts to design the flow of the homeowner/bot “conversation.”
The bots are monitored, reviewed and updated continually by the teams to further improve the experience.
As Cenlar continues working with this technology, our bots will continue to evolve. Phased rollouts of additional bots are on the horizon, with increased personalization being a goal. The data we gather and analyze from homeowners’ interactions serves as a key driver in making our bots even smarter.
“It always goes back to the homeowner,” Philp says. “As our bots capture and gather information, they become more intelligent and improve the amount of information they can provide. Our bots are not static. They learn. They improve. They deliver better service. And that means a smart bot that can help deliver an excellent homeowner experience.”
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