Mission 007, The Extraordinary Experience was LendingTree’s context for this year’s Partner Summit. However, neither the mortgage nor the lead generation business is synonymous with ecstatic consumer experiences. In fact, recent media coverage and tests from consumer reports tend to indicate an appalling blender of unfulfilled promises, missed expectations, and maybe even deception.
In contrast, at the recently concluded LendingTree Summit, consumer experience seems to be the strategic focus of LendingTree under new CEO C.D. Davies. Unfortunately, reversing the tarnished perception of a battered mortgage industry, where only 11% (according to one summit presenter) of customers will chose to return to the same mortgage company, will not be an easy task.
Emphasizing Consumer Experience
Certainly the since of urgency, priority, and a focused framework for execution has been set forth by LendingTree. Built on a pyramid of service, value, and trust, Jessica Ordeman (Senior Director of Consumer Experience), laid out the roadmap that LendingTree is confident will create a more positive consumer experience, higher quality inquiries, and ultimately repeat customers and promoters.
Focusing on Service to Create Loyalty
In the domain of service, a notable paradigm shift was presented. A transition from assessing consumer experience as satisfaction to one of loyalty. To do this LendingTree will begin using a concept, used by other major consumer brands, known as a net promoters score. This score relies on one fundamental question: Would you recommend us to a friend, family member, or colleague? The assessment on a scale of 1-10 is then compiled into the percentage of promoters (9,10) and the percentage of detractors (0-6). The net of that number is the net promoters score (NPS).
How is LendingTree doing today? Based on all consumers that closed a loan that score is 53%, which is considered very strong when benchmarked against other highly regarded brands like Southwest Airlines, at 60% and Enterprise Rental Car, at 53%. However, when assessed against all consumers that submitted an inquiry for a mortgage to LendingTree that score dramatically plummets to -20%. This number should strongly illustrate the logic underlying many of the changes and commentary coming from LendingTree’s leadership.
This current negative NPS certainly underlines comments from LendingTree Executives during the summit concerning the strategy for managing the lender network and recent announcements of price increases.
Closers create loyalty. Closers create repeat customers. The effects of a network full of Closers advantages the consumer, LendingTree, and the lender. Consequently, if a lender is not managing the LendingTree consumer inquiries and experience effectively; therefore, not closing–then the new price structure will not work for their mortgage business. And LendingTree is okay with their logical departure from the network.
Ensuring Value and Expectations
As the strategy presentation moved to value, the message was clearly a need for reliable expectations and then delivery. This seems a strong contrast to the current online proliferation of unrealistic payment teaser advertising. The mechanism for driving consistency and compliance? Offer standards. Standards that are monitored and enforced with advanced analytics. Keeping tabs on discrepancies in comparative offers and the initial versus final offer. The bottom line was obvious. LendingTree’s research shows that speedy delivery of an offer and consistent delivery on that promise converts and creates loyalty.
Trust is the Foundation to Loyalty
Trust seemed to be the most challenging of the three initiatives to articulate. I think this stems from the relative uncertainty of what builds trust online. A whole new channel for the concept of trust.
The most obvious first step was to allow consumer the ability to verify the lenders that are directly responding to their LendingTree inquiry. This was referenced as an improved lender verification process. This process was labeled as a direct response to the increasing impact of credit trigger leads to crush the consumer with unsolicited calls for mortgage services.
Now it’s about Execution
All in all, I was impressed with the new cast of leadership and strategic thinking that LendingTree is bringing to the market. It seems consistent with my philosophies for the new market, presented over the last year–put the consumer at the center, create expectations you can deliver on, effectively manage the lead experience, and create transparency. Now the proof is in the pudding. What will execution look like?