Market and regulatory influences may finally be converging to force many title agents to a reckoning on a classic struggle between “manning the phones” for customer service and putting the staff’s nose to the grindstone to get the closing done. Many title agents will quickly tell you that customer service is job one for any agency. And they’re not wrong. Yet, in private, many of those same agents will tell you that, because they’re forced by the nature of the market to “run lean,” the same staff dedicated to returning the countless calls and emails, or reminding borrowers about closing details, are also tasked with functions that have to be temporarily set aside to attend to those client services—tasks which, when delayed, delay the closing process as well.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t note here that we happen to have a solution to that conundrum! And many agents are starting to realize this. But we digress…
Our own Randall Nelson was recently published in ALTA’s Title News on this very topic. (Thanks to ALTA for allowing us to share!). It’s no secret that the phones and emails are already getting busier for the title agents immersed in the growing purchase market. The nature of a residential purchase transaction generally brings a surge in communications between agent, REALTOR and consumer. That’s just par for the course.
But one of Randall’s more subtle points in the ALTA article was something shared with us by more than a few industry thought leaders. We tend to think of compliance, perhaps to oversimplify it, as what we absolutely need to do to stay out of the crosshairs of the various enforcement agencies keeping a watchful eye over the mortgage and title industry. And, right now, there’s no regulation, statute or ordinance (that we’re aware of) that requires every consumer inquiry to be replied to within, say, 24 hours. And maybe there never will be. Agencies return calls and send proactive emails with details on the closing for market and practical reasons. A closing without a required party present is not really much of a closing at all. Lenders and REALTORS will likely hold the title agency accountable for that. So it’s bad business.
But the thought leaders we talked to reminded us that there very well could be a time when poor communications from the title agency aren’t just of interest to the parties to the transaction or the professionals charged with carrying them out. At some point, an aggressive state or agency could very well tie some guidelines to the agent-consumer communications. Think that’s a far-fetched idea? Ever hear of the Fair Lending Act? A poorly worded advertisement could cost a bank thousands or even millions. What about TRID? Three-day rule, anyone (although we could quibble about how frequently that’s actually been enforced…so far). Knowing it’s been done before; would it really stun observers of our industry to see a state department of insurance regulation that does require an inbound consumer inquiry be replied to in a certain fashion or in a certain timeframe?
Our point is that the tides of both client demand and regulatory shift are pushing hard towards transparency throughout the mortgage transaction. It may just be a matter of time before that extends to the manner in which a title agency interacts with the consumer. And if or when things do go in that direction, will it be costlier to staff up with dedicated customer service staff, train them and monitor them, at the risk of facing regulatory action if they don’t? Judging by the surge in interest in automating the process, and deploying dependable solutions like, say…Alanna, it would seem the most forward-thinking agencies aren’t waiting around to find out.