New tools for call centers.

AuthorSchneider, Howard

CALL CENTERS TRADITIONALLY HAVE OPERATED ON THE THEORY That all customer inquiries are equal and should be answered in the order in which they're received, states Barry Hays, cofounder and senior vice president of Houston-based TeleVoice. Yet, for mortgage servicers it makes sense to prioritize the incoming call of someone nearing foreclosure over another borrower who simply wants confirmation his last payment was received.

Compliance issues also make routing calls the old-fashioned way impossible today. Regulators require servicers to provide homeowners who are in default, loan-modification negotiations or in foreclosure a specific servicing employee as a single point of contact (SPOC). Incoming calls no longer can be sent just to the next available servicing agent.

SPOC was inaugurated in 2009, when the Department of the Treasury established working procedures for borrowers seeking mortgage modifications under the Making Home Affordable[R] program. Its impact grew with the national mortgage servicing settlement of 2012, which enshrined SPOC in its servicing standards.

More recently, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) endorsed SPOC in 2013 as part of its menu of specific practices servicers must perform when working with delinquent borrowers. Guidelines issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac also encourage servicers to employ SPOC practices.

Translating a "bureaucratic idea" into a daily practice is challenging, Hays suggests. He describes the SPOC concept as "a perfect solution that's nearly unworkable."

Servicing workers typically are assigned 200 delinquent borrowers, notes Hays. Regulators also allow a small team of servicing agents to serve as a borrower's SPOC.

Three agents may work with 600 borrowers at a time, says Hays. If one of them goes on vacation or takes a day off, other team members can handle their accounts.

Workplace efficiency is critical to implementing SPOC successfully. Calls regarding loss mitigation tend to last longer than a typical borrower inquiry.

Homeowners may be assigned a SPOC only to discover that person is talking to someone else whenever they call. SPOCs then wind up spending too much of their day returning voice messages.

A new wheel

Late in 2013, TeleVoice released SpotLight--a patent-pending call-processing system--to help servicers handle SPOC requirements. Hays recalls that TeleVoice decided "to reinvent the wheel" regarding how incoming calls are treated.

Algorithms were developed to...

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