Tech innovation boosting customer satisfaction at Guaranteed Rate

December 5, 2016 | By

Last June, Joe Burke had an unlikely hero to thank for saving the day: technology.

The Guaranteed Rate loan officer was enjoying a Father’s Day brunch with his family when a panicked real estate agent called. Her customer wanted to make an immediate offer and needed a pre-approval letter.

“I sent the buyer to our website, so he could complete the application for pre-approval and generate the letter,” Burke says. “The minute brunch was over, I checked back. They had completed the transaction, and everyone was happy – including my family.

“That’s the convenience of technology.”

Read more: Lenders look to tech innovation to drive down costs, increase efficiency

Early Adopter

Headquartered in Chicago, with 189 offices and 3,300 employees, Guaranteed Rate is the eighth largest retail mortgage lender in the nation, making approximately 8,000 mortgage loans a month.

Its focus on driving efficiencies through technology has been part of Founder Victor Ciardelli’s vision since the company’s inception, but its biggest evolution came in 2015 when the company introduced its Digital Mortgage.

Nik Athanasiou

(Nikolaos Athanasiou is chief operating officer of Guaranteed Rate.)

The platform allows a consumer to complete a loan application, obtain a free credit report, run their own automated underwriting findings through Desktop Underwriter®, and generate a pre-approval letter. Essentially, the consumer creates an entire loan package.

The key, says Nikolaos Athanasiou, chief operating officer, is a secure portal where customers can safely upload “high-anxiety documents,” such as W-2s, tax returns, and bank statements.

Of course, he acknowledges, some people will still want the face-to-face connection, which is readily offered. “But others want to complete the loan documents on their own time, which often isn’t during regular business hours.”

Initially, Guaranteed Rate assumed the Digital Mortgage process would appeal mainly to Millennials, but before long they noticed that customers of all ages were engaging with the technology, too. “That’s when we knew we were on to something, when it was so easy to use that all of our clients could engage equally,” says Athanasiou.

According to company surveys, 95 percent of users report being satisfied with the Digital Mortgage.

Secure Connections

The roll-out of Digital Mortgage was only the beginning.

Early on, the company realized some customers would drop off during the process. At first, the company thought those consumers weren’t ready to move forward with buying. “But what we found was that they wanted to have a safe environment to play around anonymously with rates and products,” Athanasiou notes.

In response, Guaranteed Rate rolled out Intuitive Loan Finder in April so customers can research mortgage options without disclosing personal information.

Read more: 6 tips for working with those digitally-attuned, ever-connected Millennials

Beyond Satisfaction

Of course being “satisfied,” is just one metric – a customer’s desire to actively promote a company is another huge leap.

A core way to measure that type of affinity is called a “Net Promoter Score,” which uses one question to identify loyalty: “On a 0-10 scale, how likely is it that you would recommend [brand] to a friend or colleague?”

Guaranteed Rate’s scores place it into the 80th percentile, in what Athanasiou calls “Apple and Amazon territory.”

Guaranteed Rate’s Digital Mortgage technology has also won industry accolades, including two Silver Stevie Awards at the 2016 American Business Awards: Its Digital Mortgage was acknowledged in the Consumer Services category and CIO Martin Logan was named Information Technology Executive of the Year.

Employees Drive Success

Quality begets quality, says Athanasiou, so the firm focuses on attracting the best talent, employees who routinely land on industry lists of top originators.

“The goal with our technology is not to render jobs obsolete, but rather to move employees to business development and other high-level tasks,” he says. “You can’t provide great customer service if you’re bogged down with manual work.”

Happy staff add up to happy borrowers, he notes, and the efficiency tools Guaranteed Rate offers its employees allow them to do more loans in the same amount of time.

The bottom line?

“If you like the people you’re working around and believe in the vision and goals of the company, it makes hard work easy,” Athanasiou says.

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