option delivers human touch
JupiterResearch found one of the main reasons consumers
did not apply for a mortgage online was they felt the
need to interact with a loan agent. “They wanted to
speak to a human to get advice or information, or to
receive validation that they were making a good
decision, [JupiterResearch’s Asaf] Buchner says.
The use of a chat feature satisfies some of the consumer
desire for human interaction, Buchner says. “Chat helps
give some confirmation. Before a consumer goes through
what is probably the biggest transaction in their life,
they definitely want to know that what they’re doing is
right,” he says.
Buchner cites three different chat solutions currently
offered by software vendors: chat by request, invitation
to chat and co-browse.
“In its simplest form, a ‘click to chat’
button is placed across all of the application pages,”
the JupiterResearch study says. “A more sophisticated
approach places the chat button only in application
areas where problems were identified,” the report says.
Invitation to chat tracks individual consumers’ behavior on a
Web site and invites them to chat if they are identified
as having a high sales potential, Buchner explains.
Co-browse is a feature that allows agents to
follow the application with customers, Buchner says.
“When you speak to an agent over the phone or chat with
an agent online, the agent takes over your screen and
can control whatever you’re doing on your screen. The
agent can click on the mouse and point to where you
should put your name or other information. It helps
walk the consumer through the application,” he says.
Co-browse isn’t being used by many lenders,
but the lenders that do use it are seeing good results,
Buchner says. “It’s encouraging people to apply,” he
In its study, JupiterResearch found the
costs associated with acquiring chat software and
training staff required a fairly high online application
volume to make the chat feature cost-effective.
“Chat in general is expensive, and requires
a certain volume on your Web site. If you don’t have
enough traffic it’s not worth it,” Buchner says. “Also,
one of the benefits of online lending is that the
customer is doing some of the work, so if you have
someone chatting online with the customer, some of the
savings is lost.”
But if the traffic on a lender’s Web site is
high enough, a chat feature can increase the level of
mortgage applications, Buchner adds.
feature paying off for Wachovia
since Charlotte, North Carolina-based Wachovia Mortgage
Corporation added an online chat solution about a year
ago, the company has seen a steady increase in the
number of online applications, according to Joan
Sommerer, Wachovia’s vice president of direct lending.
Customers who participated in a chat session
during the online application process were 25 percent
more likely to close their mortgage with Wachovia than
those who did not use the chat feature, Sommerer says.
Wachovia uses Menlo Park, California-based
KANA Software Inc.’s Response LiveTM to give
mortgage customers the ability to send and receive
real-time text messages with a Wachovia Mortgage loan
counselor, she says.
“Engaging customers on our Web site in the
chat is really the most important part of the
collaboration software that we’ve implemented. A lot of
visitors to the Web site will engage in chat and once
they’re comfortable, they’ll either fulfill online or
finish the process over the phone, “Sommerer says.
# # #
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