Phone Alerts Increase Customer Satisfaction

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Quicken Loans, a direct marketer of mortgage loans, reported last week that customer satisfaction increased as a result of phone-message alerts that update them on the progress of their loan applications.


Quicken, a division of Intuit Inc. based in Livonia, MI, implemented a voice alert system from PAR3 Communications, Seattle, four months ago. The customer relationship management solution automatically sends personalized phone messages to customers.


Using the system, Quicken sends customers automated voice messages telling them that a loan package has shipped or that the company has received information sent by the customer, said Ken Pawlak, PAR3 senior vice president of marketing and sales. The system is tied to Quicken's customer database, which it uses to personalize each message to the individual customer automatically.


Customers can respond to the messages using the touch pad on their phones, Pawlak said. In Quicken's case, customers who receive alerts can contact a Quicken call center agent or can forward the alert to someone else, such as a family member.


Customers have cited customer service as the company's primary weakness, said Sonny Spearman, vice president of marketing at Quicken. The experience of buying a new home and applying for a mortgage is emotional for customers, and they often demand high levels of service.


"This is the biggest purchase people ever make," Spearman said. "It's nerve-racking."


In a survey of its customers following the implementation of the phone-alert system, more than one-third said the alerts changed their perception of Quicken for the better. Half said they would be interested in receiving promotional voice messages from Quicken, and 85 percent said they would use the alert service again.


When it first implemented the system, Quicken customers were allowed to opt in for the alerts when they applied for a loan, but the company found that its call center agents were asking only about 10 percent of loan applicants whether they wanted to opt in. The loan application process is so involved that the agents may simply have forgotten, Spearman said.


In December, Quicken decided to send the alerts to all loan customers while giving them the option to opt out. So far only one customer has lodged a complaint and opted out, Spearman said.


Quicken eventually plans to return to an opt-in system for registering people to receive the alerts, although it does not have a timetable. Also, customers will be given the option to receive alerts through other channels, including e-mail and voice mail.


In addition to improving customer service, Quicken sought to reduce call volume at its 400-workstation contact center in Detroit. Quicken sampled call volumes at its call center before and after the implementation of the PAR3 system and believes that agent workloads have improved. However, Quicken plans to do a more detailed analysis to quantify how much it has saved at its call center.


Quicken may use the alerts as a lead-generating tool. For example, Quicken could offer customers $200 coupons for property appraisals to give to their friends, who could use the coupons if they apply for a Quicken loan.
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