We are in the age of customer experience. When using technology, it is crucial for companies to infuse it with customer insight for it to hit the spot. This is what SimpleNexus brings to mortgage technology. In this conversation with David Lykken, Chief Customer Officer Andria Lightfoot shares how the company uses customer intelligence to improve the customer journey. Andria opens our eyes to the shifting trends in customer behavior and how they should change the way we market, especially to Millennial and Gen Z customers, as well as how we can leverage technology correctly to guide us along the way. Customer intelligence is going to be a massive differentiator for players in the industry in the years to come. There will be a huge separation between those that use this powerful tool and those that do not. Tune in and find out how you can stay ahead in the race!
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Leveling Up Mortgage Technology With Lender Insight With Andria Lightfoot Of SimpleNexus
I’m excited to have Andria Lightfoot with us from SimpleNexus. She is the Chief Customer Officer. This is a nCino company. I always talk about these two companies here on the show. They are now one company since nCino acquired SimpleNexus. The vision and what they are doing are exciting. They are growing and doing well. Let’s welcome Andria Lightfoot. It is so good to have you here.
Thanks so much. I’m happy to be here and joining.
For those that can’t imagine that didn’t know you, give us a little background. We have had you on before. I find your personality delightful. You get anyone who is a sanguine, outgoing, bubbly type of personality who hits in the fun category and you are all of that. It is so much fun to talk to you. For those readers that do not know who you are, give them a little bit of your background, and what brought you to where you are now.
I love mortgage technology. That is not often what you think of. When you are in kindergarten, they ask you what you want to be when you grow up. When everyone else was talking about being a NASA astronaut, I thought, “Do you know what I want to do? I want to wrangle loan officers for a living through technology.”
I have been doing it for many years. I genuinely love this industry. I have a passion for technology. The boring byline is normally transformational change management. What does that mean? I love the psychology and the success criteria of getting individuals all on the same page and moving them forward in a direction. That gets me jazzed, especially in this industry. We can all benefit from stopping, listening and learning from one another.
The thing you said there is listening to one another. The biggest challenge is to listen and listen well but you have done that there. SimpleNexus has listened to its customers. You have developed some exciting products. You spent time both on the lender and the technology side of the business as a provider over the span of your career. How do you apply both of these perspectives to the work you are doing at SimpleNexus?
The number one thing you want to look for in developing a customer feedback program is you need to look at your team and determine, do you have bilingual language speakers. Do they talk engineered? Can they talk to the programmers? Can they talk tech? Can they also talk and understand sales and mortgages? This is a domain-specific industry that we are in. We need folks who understand regulatory compliance. When you get the marriage of those two, you are going to find a sweet spot where we, at SimpleNexus, have been going out and acquiring top talent in mortgage technology expertise.
When you are out there talking to a lender base, a borrower or anyone of that nature, you want to stop and say, “Do I have the right talent internally who can translate and understand exactly what the ask is?” When people bring you their pain points, what they are saying is, “Help me solve this problem.” That is the most exciting part of having been on the other side of the aisle, coming to the dark side of FinTech. I was the lender and I came to the dark side but what I love about it is I can empathize and I have a team of folks who also have been practitioners in this space. They understand pain points with deep empathy. It makes a difference when we are talking to our customers.Understanding pain points with deep empathy makes a difference when talking to customers. Click To Tweet
It is such an important part to have that empathy to understand what they are doing. Identify some of the issues that you are seeing that some of your customers are having. We all know volumes are off. It was working on the production side of the business and they are struggling with that. What are some of the issues that you hear about that SimpleNexus is doing a great job of solving those issues?
The Freddie Mac housing sentiment survey came out. We have seen a drop of 30% in customers and borrowers out there on the street who don’t have confidence in our housing market. I stop and go, “We have great property values holding fast. We have great technology and experiences.” When I hear a customer saying, “Andria, how can you help me improve my borrower experience and drive sales?” I go, “We’ve got the thing for you.”
The reason we called it Nexus is at the epicenter of borrower convenience, things like single platform and single sign-on. All that means is, is it intuitive? The second piece is, can I bring the referrals in with my partner collaboration? That needs to be very configurable and highly specialized for whatever partner you are working with.
We don’t specify who has to be a partner. It could be an attorney, a wealth management advisor, a realtor or a buddy down the street at church. It doesn’t matter. We have a platform that is at the Nexus of bringing borrowers into a delightful experience and including those partnerships through eClose, that final step. When we talk about building solutions that address those pain points, it is the cross-section of, “I can only bring in better sales when I treat that borrower and that customer better.”
It is the user-centric approach that you are talking about there. Give us some ideas, insights, and lessons that you have learned as you have gone through that experience. Any stories that you could share with us?
One of my favorites is about a loan officer who used to have to bring his laptop to his children’s soccer game. That one was painful. You have to get into your VPN and get onto the system. What ended up happening is he called our Cofounder, Ben Miller. His wife was tickled that he could finally be present in his children’s lives because he had an on-the-go loan officer-facing mobile app. We focus on our clients, not on the borrower experience but internal customer journey.
For anyone who wants to know or nerd out, feel free to reach out on anything relating to customer intelligence. I have to set the stage here. Let me give everybody a quick definition there. I eat, sleep and breathe this. Customer experience is focusing on how your customers feel after they interact with you. Most of us do a good job. Most lenders I know got surveys. They are reaching out and ensuring that their reputation and brand are being acknowledged.
The customer journey is a whole different piece. That is understanding how your sales are coming in? How is the borrower at the point of thought coming in and working through your process? Do you have a tool to configure that, SimpleNexus? If you think of an old-school Venn Diagram, David, you got the left side is the experience. How do I feel about interacting with you? The right side is the journey. How do I get there? How do you work the deal and work it through? That middle overlap piece is intelligence because that is the fundamentals of do I know what you need and can I meet that need?
You are hitting on a whole bunch of important points there. I love the story about the loaner not taking this laptop to the basketball game or the track meter or whatever the game is that they are to be involved with the kids and be able to do it on a mobile device and do it effectively and securely. It meets all the requirements of the lender. Most of those will come from financial institutions more so than others. It creates the ability to live a life while doing business.
This is a 24/7 business. You are working with someone on their home. It is the most important transaction. We have a terrible abysmal for those that don’t exit a result on repeat business. It is because the consumer, by and large, hasn’t. I’m encouraged by what you are doing and the experience. Do you have any statistics for those that use your platform and those that are still in the old way? Any thoughts on that, Andria?
We talk a lot about our mobile apps specifically. It is a differentiator for us. It is something certainly for those on this show to think about. If you think web sensitive is enough and HTML5 is fine, you are missing a major trend we see amongst Millennials and Gen Z buyers, which is predominant web activities. Think of sales internet search activities and your old SEO funnel. It is happening in apps. If you are not on social media or don’t have a mobile app strategy, you are not even getting in front of the right eyeballs to bring in the right information.
We are super jazzed that the mobile app has taken off. It was part of Matt Hansen’s vision several years ago to say, “I want to get the lender out of someone’s inbox, their email with all the spam and all the noise in there. I’m going to put them in the back pocket and the mobile app alerts.” When I pull up my phone in the morning, the first thing I look at is the alerts that are on my phone. That is the first chance to get in front of that human experience.
In terms of the virality of that mobile app, the sharing impact for every time it shared out 2 to 3 more times. The ability to get a connection to those eyeballs and the mobile app results in a faster turn time of dock receipt. If you do dock a receipt, think about whether I need a pay stub or a bank statement. Anything that is time sensitive for underwriting or processing when it is done through the mobile app, less than 30 minutes.
Disclosure signing is less than 30 minutes from the point of asking to get it processed and back into your system. Email is over a day. Even that would be pretty great. People are picking up phones. They are calling. No knock on that. Think about the power of the tech stack itself as eliminating friction because we are giving people the same behavior they want, which is to scroll TikTok and get lost on social media.
The mobile app is a mixed blessing. It is a blessing but I also find myself getting distracted by it. I’m going through a refinance of my construction loan. I did a massive remodel on my home. We had a contemporary one-year construction loan. We are refinancing going through a company. It has to be a credit union that doesn’t have SimpleNexus and it is painful.
I love working with you guys. You’re a great group of people. You are scoring high on the people side but on the technology side, it is painful. If you are not using a technology like SimpleNexus, it is in your hand. Your loan officers are out there. It is the only thing they need to be able to interface with everything and what is going on. You are missing out. We can go on and on about it. I want to touch on one thing that you touched on briefly. It is called customer intelligence. Give your definition of that, Andria. What are you doing with customer intelligence?
Customer intelligence is taking a layer off of. I don’t want to trigger anybody with any privacy terms here. Think of an anonymized dataset. It allows you to compartmentalize and group buying behaviors from your customer base. We are fortunate that we have several years’ worth of data and data storage for anonymized data. It is incredibly lucrative. There are businesses out there. All they do is sell and resell information.
If you are not leveraging deeper insights into the patterns and buying behaviors of your customer base, how do you know you have designed the right customer journey for their preferences? Back to the Venn Diagram, that middle intelligence piece, you need three simple pillars to get started on that front. Do you have a corporate database or some unified data storage? The data is got to go someplace. We want to collect large amounts of data. There are tools for data processing but first and foremost, you got a canister to put it in.
Second, point of sale. There are lots of point-of-sale providers but if you are only still using a LOS for your upfront engine, you are missing a huge opportunity to understand the point of thought and lead gen patterns. How many clicks? Where did they drop off? Why did they drop off? What are the conversion rates in there?
Last, this is an easy one. We have some great partners at SimpleNexus in this space. It is a solid CRM. It always pains me when a lender, even a small broker, goes, “I can’t afford a CRM.” If you are going to get any insight out of customer intelligence, you have to have a baseline customer relationship, lead sales, demand gen and a sales system that works in conjunction with your point of sale. Those are your three pillars. Once you have that, come back and talk to me. There are ways that you consult and start.
I recorded and interviewed Joe Welu, the Founder of Total Expert. I know you guys are great partners together. They speak as well of you as you well of them. It is fun to see. There is an emerging term but it is coming up. It is customer intelligence and customer insights. You can’t have enough of the tools. There is going to be a huge separation between those that have and have not in the mortgage of any process. If you are not using these two powerful tools and some others are right around it, you are going to be challenged. You guys have a big exciting event coming up. It is the SimpleNexus user group, also known as SNUG. It is going to be in Snowbird.
You are getting snuggie, David. That is what we like to say. Come out. It is cold. We have a great swag offering for those that are coming. Everybody knows about our cool funky t-shirts. We like to keep it fun. SNUG, for us, is such a unique user conference. I think of it as more than a conference. It is more of this intimate setting. Worthy attendees have an opportunity to go one-on-one conversations, leaders to leaders.
A lot of times, it might be perceived as, “It is for my admin.” No, we have production managers, sales managers and CMO marketing leaders. It is a great who is roster of those on cutting-edge emerging technology trends. It is there to both receive and learn. It is there to listen. We are there to hear from our customer base. We want them to have that chance to co-mingle as well.
Give us a little insight into what some attendees could expect when they are there.
From March 13th through 16th, 2023, we are going to be up at Snowbird Mountain Resort. If any of you powder heads love the slopes, it is not required but they did get 24 inches of fresh powder. It is going to be great. Our theme is Level Up. We did that strategically because we felt like after the tumultuous 2022 that we had, all those dramatic shifts and challenges, we wanted people to focus on what they need to do to prepare for when the market turns up for what they can do now to take market share. We see that from many of our partners who are able to go out. They are pack manning the total addressable market. If you are not thinking in that space to level up, you are going to be left behind.
We have keynotes from folks like our Founder, Matt Hansen. He is the Chief Product in nCino. He got the pulse on both international global financial institution trends as well as US local base and US mortgage market trends. Graham, our good friend at Strathmore, is going to be there, as well as Marina Walsh, to come to talk about the economic outlook for the market and Ben Miller. If you did a great time, come out and hang with Ben Miller. He always got good energy and ideas relative to sales. I’m excited about the opportunity to be back in person still. We had a wonderful event in 2022. I’m excited to be able to get out there and listen to what our customers are saying.
I am very excited to hear what is going to come from that. There is a lot of people that are not traveling or going to conferences because of budgetary reason but this is one of those they need to get to. One thing you are passionate about is a lot of key issues evolving in the mortgage landscape. Can you give us some of the issues that are on your radar screen and why they are important?
I would say, “Buying behaviors, buyer beware.” You need to pay attention that Millennials are in the market. We talked about it but I cannot stress enough that you need to stop and think about maybe your traditional target marketing plays. Think about the use of the mobile app and social media because eyes on the screen are making purchases, not from web shopping and web browsing. The old school, “Let me google this and find the best rate,” you will find that over 60% of Millennials are getting their shopping information from social media. That is a big one for me.
The second one was what we touched on with customer intelligence because it is going to enable businesses to create dynamic customer profiles that deliver customer experience. That is the differentiator. There are three acts of what worked in the industrial revolution here, where we made things. Think of Henry Ford. We innovated and made new products, the light bulb and the car. That has been going on for a while. How do I get faster grocery and delivery? There are so many options. I want a new clothing service. I can choose from 100 different suppliers in the marketplace.
We are in the age of customer experience. It is where you are going to differentiate yourself. Here’s a wonderful book. If anybody wants to see it from some of those that came out of Oracle, the customer success, I’m happy to give anybody a reference if they want to read a good book or load it on Audible. It is called the Customer Experience Economy. We are in a new economic system.We are in the age of customer experience. It is where you are going to differentiate yourself. Click To Tweet
I firmly believe that you can tailor-design cross-channel communications and these marketing strategies beyond what worked before. Think of the old going into the grocery store. You are taking your kids in and picking up a carton of milk. Where did you see the retailer’s face? We saw it on the grocery cart. Think of these new evolutionary processes and customer experiences.
It is a new funnel for bringing in clients. Once you have captured them, the retention will go up. The conversion rates will go up when we understand those unique buying preferences. A lot of that data is in your point of sale. Partner with a point of sale that has strong APIs that can give you that data at your fingertips.
There is so much going on in the industry. There is going to be a big dividing line in the chasm between those that have and have not when it comes to this area. Andria, I love your energy and intelligence. You bring so much out in such a short amount of time. What have we not covered? There is much we could talk about.
Anytime you want me back on, David. I’m happy to chat. I love this show. I have been following you for a long time. This is such great content, not me included but your other guests.
You are included. We are honored to have you, Andria. We do want to have you back soon. I would like you to have a report of what you hear from SNUG at the user conference. If you could have a plan on coming back on and giving us an update on what you are hearing, we would like to have as much feedback on what is happening from our customers. Let’s get some of your customers on here on the show to give some testimonials about what is going on. We love that as well.
We have a wonderful event for our executive advisory board and we get some great insights from those senior leaders. We are talking about CEOs and CIOs from various companies that are coming in. We are going to bring together mortgage thought leaders in the same room.
That is happening at SNUG.
13th through the 16th of March, 2023, we will be there. We will be ready for that good powder up on Snowbird Mountain.
I look forward to it. Andria, it is so good to have you on. I love what you do, the energy you bring, and what the whole SimpleNexus team is doing. It is very exciting. I hope to see everyone at SNUG.
Thanks so much.
- Andria Lightfoot Previous Episode
- Joe Welu – Past Episode
About Andria Lightfoot
As Chief Customer Officer at SimpleNexus, a nCino Company, Andria Lightfoot oversees all customer-centric activities of the homeownership solution’s customer division, including professional services, customer success, support, training, and integration engineering. She is a renowned mortgage technologist with experience leading mortgage operations, providing strategy for enterprise software solutions, and implementing innovative change management solutions.