Breaking News: Fannie Mae Training Servicers To Be “Trusted Counselors”

For anyone who has sought a loan modification or some other pre-foreclosure solution to their distressed housing situation, they must surely recall the treatment – or lack of treatment – they received from their lender or servicer.  In some instances, one knows in a heartbeat that the processing job has been outsourced to some third world country, where the communications break down before they start. In other instances, the processor has the monotone of one that has just taken a Valium before getting on the line. They have the same people skills as zombies reading teleprompters. Perhaps the most ridiculous ruse is the official title these folks are given, considering their low-level status on the corporate ladder:  “Office of the CEO and President.” Given the number of employees carrying that title, this “Office” must be the size of a football stadium.

The question that has plagued me for the last several years has been, “Why don’t the Big Banks improve their customer relations?”  For every distressed borrower they offend, they’ve not only lost a future customer, but possibly a half dozen more family and friends the borrower tells.

Well help may be on the way!  Of course, not from the Big Banks and servicers. No, they’re far too busy and important to develop an outreach program that actually injects a sense of humanity into the process of helping others. In a sense, when it comes to aiding distressed homeowners, the job of Big Bank public relations has also been outsourced  – this time to Fannie Mae.

As reported in DS, Fannie Mae has announced a customer care training program:

“What we’ve learned through the housing crisis is that if everybody takes the responsibility to work together and act early, then we can prevent foreclosures and keep families in their homes in many cases,” said Leslie Peeler, SVP of Fannie Mae’s National Servicing Organization. “We want our servicers to be trusted counselors to their customers, from attentively collecting documents to advising them of their options and guiding them through the process.” [Underscore mine. – PCQ]

Well, Riddle Me This Batman: Where were you guys in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011?  Why is this just now occurring to you?   Have you had an epiphany?  Are you only now realizing that it helps to treat borrowers like human beings?

Here are some P.R. tips for Fannie’s servicer trainees:

  • Don’t lose the borrower’s paperwork;
  • Don’t insult them with requests to update information that cannot and does not change [such as a lifetime disability];
  • Don’t work with a borrower while at the same time initiating a foreclosure against them – that isn’t a trust-builder;
  • Don’t play the “trial modification” game, where you take their money, never credit it to their account, and then after 8-10 months, unceremoniously deny them for permanent mod for unspecific reasons;
  • Don’t state in your recorded voice-messages that you return all calls in 24 hours, if you have no intention of doing so;
  • Don’t give your supervisor’s name and number on your telephone greeting, and conveniently fail to include their extension;
  • Don’t….well, you get the point.

According to the DS News article:

“One key component of the program is to create a single point of contact in the call center for each customer to ensure that a relationship can be built between the homeowner and their servicer representative.  A single point of contact can also help ensure that foreclosure prevention options are properly presented.”  [Underscore mine. – PCQ]

Hmmm.  But what good is a single point of contact, if they can’t seem to keep their job?  I have one client seeking a modification and we’ve had five different “single points of contact” in less than a year. Where is the “relationship building” there?

Memo to Fannie Mae: Have as required reading for your trainees, Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends And Influence People” and – as difficult as it may sound – Have them memorize the entire Golden Rule. Yes, all eleven words!