Chatbots are increasingly being used by lenders to answer simple questions from mortgage brokers and free up time for staff to deal with more important matters.
However, with an often limited set of responses, they can garner mixed reviews from brokers, with some viewing them as a waste of time as unsatisfactory responses lead them to call Business Development Managers (BDMs) anyway. lenders.
So this week, Mortgage solutions asks: Are there any cases where a lender chatbot has successfully solved a problem or answered a question?
Dina Bhudia, CEO of P2M Group
I tend to use chatbots when I need clarity on loan criteria, especially what types of income they will consider. It’s faster to get answers and can save time in some cases, especially when you just don’t know where to look on the lenders website due to complexity and different layouts.
I would avoid chatbots though when it comes to clarifying things that aren’t really viewable on the website. Things like the type of property the lender would lend on – number of floors, multi-unit freehold buildings (MUFBs), apartments above a commercial unit like a store; or where the client’s circumstances are soft facts, such as a house with two or more kitchens or outbuildings.
Customer scenarios are also something that chatbots are pretty useless with – where there are extended families living in the property, multiple incomes are needed for affordability and a disability income. Or when regular expenses change drastically, such as when a child moves from paid schooling to regular schooling. Clients’ circumstances also change if they move into the property they were renting.
There’s also the cultural element, like how BAME (Black, Asian and minority) communities are more likely to share costs, and bills are paid by other members of the household, which is something subscribers typically have a lack of understanding, not to mention chatbots. .
Payam Azadi, director at Niche Advice
In short, they are damn annoying.
You have a few lenders doing different things – more historical lenders have a live chat with a person behind them and it’s not a standard script engine. They are really useful because it is difficult to get a BDM. The fact that it is written and recorded is great, especially when we are looking for criteria.
However, the people handling these chats often need better training – you can ask the same question and get three different answers – but the ease and use of this one is absolutely brilliant.
Then you have a “lazy live chat”, where the lender puts a bot there with a set of answers. It’s useless and a glorified FAQ.
It’s ok if you have very basic questions, but we often deal with several issues, like “what is your minimum income and minimum age, are you going beyond retirement to earn an income” – you merge three different things in chat, for which FAQ bots are useless. Lenders better have a more comprehensive FAQ section rather than wasting their money on a semi-smart bot.
Nick Mendes, Mortgage Technical Director at John Charcol
Sometimes this can be very frustrating depending on the lender and their system. With Natwest, for example, their chatbot will often steer you away from what you want, but other lenders, like HSBC, have one where if it can’t answer the question, it will direct you directly to BDMs, which which is awesome.
Ultimately, chatbots are good for the lender to filter out simple or silly questions, which frees up BDMs to answer more complex questions. As a broker, we like to talk to people, but sometimes you’re on the phone with a client and the chatbot can give you an answer while you’re talking to them.
There are just a few things that need to be ironed out.
This is another time-saving tool, but basically I wouldn’t trust anything it offers. It’s like trusting new tech in general – you type in the things you need to check, it gives you an answer, but then you check the website or talk to BDM anyway just to be sure.
Lenders that are really encouraging people to use technology, like Accord, are very clear about what the chatbot can help. It also offers higher source questions and uses that data to quickly funnel things that come up frequently and bring them to the top, which is really helpful because there’s normally a reason why it’s going to be a common theme.
This helps in spotting things like an anomaly or knowing who to contact. It is really clear and offers quick updates.
Niamh Byrne, mortgage manager at the Financial Advice Center
Personally, I have found chatbots efficient, useful and time-saving, especially when used for quick criteria checks or application progress reports. I use the bots regularly, often for simple advice on criteria and I like not having to sit in a queue.
Also, many lenders have now integrated their update team into the chat service, again saving time when we are just checking receipt of documents and lender assessment timelines.
The team that handles the chat is trained to the same level as the phone reps, which gives me confidence in their reliability and ability to get the job done when needed. Downloadable chat transcripts also support our compliance measures by evidencing research, tracking and due diligence for each job application. Chatbots have certainly improved processing and would be my go-to service for basic advice and processing.
Admittedly, by the nature of the chatbot, they have limitations. Due to the complexity of some cases and the individuality of client circumstances, I believe telephone access to a BDM or call center will always be required. Rapport, understanding and one-on-one relationships are not easy to build on an online service, and given the personalized nature of our counseling process, we often still rely on offering interaction telephony services “human”.