By Kim Doyel, Senior Client Executive
During my 19 years in mortgage servicing, I’ve experienced everything you can imagine good (and not so good) when it comes to managing taxes on both in-house or on an outsourced basis. And I’ve been able to learn what it takes to make those relationships successful.
Tax servicing has lots of moving parts that present challenges to everyone involved – the borrowers, the servicer and the tax service. We’re all reacting to whatever comes down the pike from more than 24,000 taxing authorities across the country.
At the center of it all is the borrower, who is often the least familiar party when it comes to tax and escrow issues. The last thing a property owner wants to receive is a notice that a property tax payment is late or insufficient. Their first reaction is to be upset with the servicer and demand answers. If the servicer is not aware of the problem, they turn to their tax service provider to clarify and rectify the problem. So, in essence, there is a need to build a mutually symbiotic relationship and partnership through a mix of collaboration and communication between the two companies and what I’ll call “empathetic engagement.”
What makes for a successful partnership? It starts with the people. Servicers want to feel they are working with people who really want to help the servicer to succeed. True collaboration requires an open exchange of what’s expected, what the servicer’s special needs are (and there can be many) and forming comprehensive step-by-step procedures from the tax line set up, quality control auditing, compliance, conflict resolution and a continuous feedback loop of proactive communication.
I’ve had the opportunity of working with LERETA as a “client” a number of times during my career and it was those experiences that shaped my desire to join the team. At LERETA, we believe to build that symbiotic relationship you must understand the difference between focusing on your own success and the belief that you succeed only through helping others succeed. It means listening carefully to what the client needs, what their objectives are; where the challenges are and how they can be tackled together.
Where empathetic engagement really pays off is when you’re dealing with the most difficult challenges. For instance, earlier in my career I managed default servicing. Working in that space means getting hit with multiple and simultaneous requests for fast turnaround coming not only from loss mitigation and bankruptcy, but also from the taxing agencies, insurance companies and vendors. Responding to these requests is much easier when you’ve already made the effort to create a rapid response team with your tax service.
Change can also be a great opportunity for heightened engagement. And, trust me, there’s always something that is changing for servicers. Many changes are externally- driven: special audit data reporting requests, new regulations and economic downturns (remember 2008-2010?). Internally driven initiatives require close collaboration like adopting new technology or shifting to a new servicing system. Whether externally or internally driven, you need a partner who is agile and who’s been there and done that. At LERETA, we take pride in working with a client side-by-side to understand what needs to be achieved, setting business rules, compiling detailed project plans, milestones, measurable results and mutual status updates. And, as I mentioned earlier, it means communicating, listening, confirming what you heard and determining where a custom approach would benefit the client vs. a one size fits all approach.
Finally, I can’t stress enough, the need for a tax servicer to establish proactive communication practices. Giving clients a heads up on proposed new regulations and how it may impact them; touching base going into the busy 4th quarter to understand new needs; establishing the right tempo of communication; advising clients about potential areas of exposure like ghost parcels, hidden second liens, irregularities in data reporting and analysis. It all goes a long way. A client really appreciates having the kind of partnership that keeps them informed, aware and prepared for whatever may come.
That’s the secret sauce to creating customer satisfaction at the highest level. At LERETA, we are committed to building customer satisfaction every day, with every client. And that’s why I’m proud to serve my clients the LERETA Way.