First Mortgage to Rework Voice and Data

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First Mortgage Network, Plantation, FL, is scheduled to run a new Web product in its call centers that will enable the company's agents to walk customers through an online mortgage loan application using voice and data simultaneously, a big change from the company's previous system that does not allow for synchronization of agent and caller.


First Mortgage expects the Java-based application, which is currently being tested in its Ft. Lauderdale call center, to increase efficiency in its call centers and provide more effective service to customers.


Previously, the speaking and the viewing parts were disjointed, said Garth Graham, senior vice president and national sales manager for First Mortgage. "We would be speaking about a product and [the caller] would be looking at another page," he said "The other thing is that individuals surf a lot; they hit your page, they call, and then they continue surfing. So we lost the continuity that is presented because the agent has to guide them back to the page."


The Java-based application, Contact, manufactured by Web Line Communications, Burlington, MA, will give agents the ability to navigate callers, demonstrate software and transfer downloadable files.


"It fits our overall strategy of trying to provide information to consumers so they can make a decision on what product they want and then take action."


The company delivers mortgages directly to consumers without the middlemen, Realtors and referral arrangements typical of the industry.


"We are doing this, frankly, to dramatically reduce the cost associated with a mortgage, and be a low-cost provider of service," Graham said.


Graham added that in 1994, First Mortgage Network became the first mortgage company to use the Internet as a way to get consumers to execute transactions and obtain interest rate information and find out about different loan options.


"We found that for a borrower to make a decision, he needs clarification on different points and the comfort level provided when another individual is at the other end of the phone," he said. "Our customers are not buying impulse products here; they are conducting a financial transaction."


Contact is currently online at First Mortgage Network's call center, located in Fort Lauderdale, which is staffed by 65 agents. According to Graham the company will not need to hire additional agents. It plans to take the most technologically inclined operators from the current staff and train them on the teleweb software.


"One piece we do not have up on the Internet yet is the part where a consumer can initiate the session themselves," said Graham.


Graham said one element of the program is currently being tested where consumers click on an icon which prompts a return call from call center agents who provide more information. The outbound call is based on the number that was entered and at the point of contact. The consultant is able to gain control over the prospective client's browser.


"We have tested it. It works fine, but it is a training and deployment issue for our consultants on exactly how we are going to do it," Graham added. "We have 50 pages on our web site and we have to get it out in multiple versions."
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