Wipro Digital: Transforming the Mortgage Buying Experience

Our client, BankCo, is one of Ireland’s pillar banks and the market leader for mortgages. But in 2016, it was becoming a victim of its own success. A surge in mortgage applications put pressures on its ability to deliver a seamless experience for every customer. What started as a problem statement about declining NPS became a far-reaching programme that would eventually span the company’s operating model, processes, IT systems and every customer touchpoint. Service Design was the key to making it all work.

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“Our NPS is falling, can you help?”

Our client is one of EU country’s pillar banks and the market leader for mortgage applications, with a 10% lead over its nearest competitor. But in 2016, this client was becoming a victim of its own success. A surge in mortgage applications put pressures on its ability to deliver a seamless experience for every customer. Gaps in the mortgage journey were driving a decline in the customer experience and ultimately NPS.

What started as a problem statement about a declining NPS score became a far-reaching programme that would bring the bank on its own journey of reimagining the entire home buying journey, while at the same transforming the bank’s ways of working. This ambitious programme would eventually span the company’s operating model, business processes, IT systems and every customer touchpoint.

Buying a home: a critical moment of truth

The relationship people have with their banks comes in to sharp focus at a few critical moments in life. Buying a house is one of those moments. Just over half of BankCo’s mortgage customers are first time buyers, which means a process that is naturally stressful is also deeply unfamiliar.

The Design team set two research work streams to establish a baseline of the current state. Our research took in business insights, voice of customer and colleague reports, operational & process data and technology insights. To flesh out the nuances of the experience, we conducted research with frontline staff across different bank branches throughout the country.

Our research showed that while customers appreciated direct interactions with BankCo staff, the process was overly long and communication often lacking. The eligibility criteria for loans was not clearly signposted, leading to a constant stream of ineligible applications that still needed to be processed. For hopeful applicants, the waiting time to receive a decision was two weeks and
longer. And once a loan was approved, many customers were frustrated by the time taken to receive their funds.

A key problem was the lack of alignment across channels. This resulted in an inconsistent experience for the many customers who switch between branch, phone and online channels during the home-buying journey. In order to solve these issues, we need to get to the root causes.

Driving stakeholder alignment

The mortgages process touches every part of the bank, so in order to change it you need to bring everybody on board. After conducting the initial research, a two-day offsite session was conducted with 40 key stakeholders representing every department involved: Mortgages, Customer Experience, Legal and Compliance, Change Management, Branch representatives, Technology and Business Performance.
The objective of the offsite session was three-fold:

  1. Set the mandate for change via the executive leadership, to ensure the necessary support across the business
  2. Chart the as-is journey to highlight the pain points in the experience and their root causes - starting from lens of the customer experience and working our way through supporting processes
  3. Identify and prioritise solutions to the problems - from customer touchpoints, communications and processes, to core IT systems and the operating model itself

Painting the picture

We needed to convey the complexity of the current process in a way that everybody could appreciate. But how we do you get a disparate group of people to mobilise around a multi-faceted problem?

Our insights were synthesised into a large-scale experience map that highlighted the challenges with the current process. A large-scale (5m x 3m) printout of the experience map was placed front and centre of our war room. As we discovered, size matters!

The map served as a focal point for discussions with stakeholders throughout the project and was critical to ensuring a shared understanding. Stakeholders could clearly see the impact on the customer, inefficiencies, and the frustrations that staff felt. Collectively, we were clear on the problems we were solving because they were staring us in the face each day.

Co-creating a better experience

This programme needed to be truly collaborative to succeed. It involved a diverse group of 50 people committed to improving the mortgages customer journey.

The plan for phase 1 was ambitious but focused. From over 60 ideas, we prioritised 25 initiatives that could make a tangible impact within a 12-month timeframe. These initiatives were grouped into 7 themes.

  1. Fast decisioning
    How do we accelerate the process of approving or rejecting a mortgage application?
  2. Omni-channel experience
    How do we enable customers to switch between channels throughout the journey - while ensuring that sales get attributed in a
    fair way?
  3. Inform me
    How do we ensure that each customer is kept up to date at every stage in their journey - and knows exactly what’s next?
  4. Empathic communication
    How we do turn banking jargon and opaque communications into language that people can understand?
  5. Digital enablers
    How can we use digital tools to deliver a consistent experience that minimises the burden on the customer?
  6. Mortgage community
    What training, support and incentives are needed so that staff can deliver the new home buying experience?
  7. Metrics that matter
    How do we measure effectiveness across the milestone moments in the customer journey?

Seven cross-functional cells were created and collocated on a dedicated floor to work on the seven themes identified. With a clear mandate from the executive leadership team, each cell was empowered to deliver on its set of interventions. This way of working represented a massive shift for the organisation. By centring efforts around the customer journey, we succeeded in breaking down the traditional silos that are often impediments to change.

The next challenge was coordinating these initiatives to ensure a holistic experience. To that end, a “Cell of Cells” made up of senior BankCo managers worked alongside the Wipro Digital team, providing the oversight, support and direction to drive change. A to-be experience map depicted the future state we were all aiming for, complemented by daily ‘show don’t tell’ sessions to drive knowledge-sharing and alignment between teams. Cross-team ’swarms’ were formed on an ad-hoc basis to address the many areas where overlaps occurred.

Making it real: from design to (rapid) delivery

It was critical for BankCo that we deliver value to customers as early as possible. To achieve this, we changed the organisation’s design-to-delivery workflow so that teams were working cross-functionally from idea through to launch. This represented a big shift from the traditional approach of “throwing designs over the fence” and eliminated the knowledge gaps and delays that occur with handovers. Our platform engineers worked alongside BankCo engineers to redesign its code deployment pipeline, which further reduced development time. With the right production model in place, we could now release and test features incrementally rather than betting the house on one
big launch.

Orchestrating a true omnichannel experience

When we set out on this journey with BankCo, our objective was to facilitate a completely channel- agnostic mortgage buying experience. But our research showed that few people want to complete a mortgage process completely online. Customers appreciate and need the conversations and expertise they receive from BankCo’s mortgage advisors.

Often, the first step of the journey occurs in the branch. Research showed that those local customer relationships are a key asset for BankCo With that in mind, our focus with digital touchpoints was to enable the journey without supplanting the human touch that customers value.

At the same time, we needed to design for a changing demographic of mortgage buyers: younger people who are more comfortable with a purely online process.

My Mortgage app
The answer was the My Mortgage app - a digital platform to support the application process as a lynchpin of the experience. Regardless of the point of entry, the My Mortgage App serves as the tool to facilitate the home buying journey and make cumbersome tasks that bit easier. The mobile-responsive application includes digital capture and send of documentation, negating the need to send documents by post. A chat facility allows for easy and fast communication between the customer and his or her dedicated mortgage advisor. The app’s timeline shows which stage customers are at in the process and any upcoming tasks they need to complete. All of those
tasks can be completed directly from the app. Simple, focused and effective.

A new way of working

To ensure that customers get a consistent experience from staff on every channel, BankCo developed an entirely new operating model for the mortgage process - changing roles, responsibilities and incentives accordingly. This operating model is being rolled out by a dedicated Business Change team to ensure its success and sustainability over the longer term.

Improving the colleague experience too

It was important to BankCo to ensure that new services provide value to staff as well as customers. This meant investing in the mortgage advisor community so that staff received the tools and support they needed to deliver a great experience.

Initiatives included:

  • new classroom, online and on-the-job training for all mortgage advisors, with a focus on customer engagement and driving staff awareness of the end-to-end customer journey
  • a new Homes Centre of Excellence that advisors can turn to for complex cases. The Homes COE also directly supports customers throughout the journey - right up to the point when they receive their house keys
  • a new sales attribution model to support the omnichannel customer journey
  • a clearer career progression path, from mortgage advisor to mortgage guru
  • improved staff feedback mechanisms for continual improvements to the customer and colleague experience
  • training for staff on the new My Mortgages app

The impact

The impact of the new journey has been immediate and profound. BankCo has reached its target of 7 out of 10 applicants receiving their loan approval decision within one hour, compared to a minimum of two weeks previously.

Customers are happier too. The NPS score for the mortgage approvals journey has increased by 17 points. For mortgage drawdowns, NPS is up 19 points. This can be attributed to a number of factors, not least the new operating model, the new digital tools, and BankCo’s investment in people as a core component of this transformation programme.

The program will result in an estimated €5m reduction per annum in cost to serve, thanks to automation and elimination of wasteful processes. Overall, mortgage drawdowns are up 20% YoY to end of 2017, which can be partially attributed to the process being easier.

There are less tangible impacts too. The Mortgages project represented a new way of working for our client, centring efforts in a coordinated way around the customer journey. Its success has provided a template for collaboration between departments on future programmes. Together, we’ve proven to the business that service design is not just good for customers - it’s good for the bottom
line too!

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