The best servicer last year retained the top spot this year, but there was a new world order among the remaining top five, according to a customer satisfaction study. The report found that overall customer satisfaction is decreasing, while online account management is becoming increasingly important among borrowers.
Branch Banking and Trust ranked highest in J.D. Power and Associates' 2008 Primary Mortgage Servicer Study announced today. The Winston-Salem, N.C.-based company, which also topped the 2007 ranking, scored 839 out of a possible 1,000 score.
BB&T scored well in the four areas analyzed by J.D. Power: billing; payments; contact with the lender; and annual account administration. The firm also achieves high levels of commitment from its borrowers.
The study was based on responses from 10,241 borrowers during July.
SunTrust Mortgage scored 825, making it the second highest ranked servicer. SunTrust moved up from No. 5 in 2007 and was the only other top-five servicer from last year to be ranked among the five best servicers this year.
Wells Fargo was No. 3, with a score of 813, followed by Chase, at 812. No. 5 was Bank of America, which scored 811.
Spots No. 6 through No. 10 were respectively held by Regions Mortgage, Wachovia, CitiMortgage, U.S. Bank and PHH Mortgage.
A total of 27 mortgage servicers were ranked.
Overall satisfaction with U.S. servicers fell from 2007, with the overall index dropping to 784 this year from 798 last year. In 2006, the index was 812. J.D. Power attributed the decline to increased billing errors, less hands-on service and a growing number of delinquent borrowers.
"For most customers, their mortgage servicer is akin to a utility company -- they just want things to work, and they expect a friction-free experience," Rocky Clancy, executive director of financial services at J.D. Power, said in the statement.
The report suggested making improvements to the billing and payment processes and noted that overall improvements to a servicer's process might increase profitability by around $30 million for every 1 million loans serviced.
Payments made through a Web site or through automatic deductions are used by 56 percent of borrowers. Just 36 percent still utilize mail to send payments.
"Satisfaction with payment processing is 50 points higher for people making payments electronically instead of through 'snail' mail," Clancy said. "Automatic deductions, in particular, are associated with fewer problems because once things are on auto-pilot, the chances of something going wrong are slim."