Dear Chase Mortgage: Voice of the (Unhappy) Customer

Wednesday’s post featured a local business that I applaud for their Lean efforts. Great customer service, Lean layout, efficient processes, the whole nine yards. Today’s post features an organization as far on the opposite end of the spectrum as I’ve possibly ever encountered: J.P. Morgan Chase’s mortgage arm.

I’m not alone in my views about Chase. Since I began talking with family and friends about my interactions, every single person has told me they feel the same way about Chase and will never do business with them again. And every single person who has an existing mortgage with them is actively seeking refinancing with another financial institution.

For four months, my usually unflappable neighbor with one of the most stable financial pictures there is shared her frustrations about her refi journey with Chase. What angered her the most were the repeated emails asking her to provide details behind specific deposits into her account. In every case they were automatic deposits from her employer, The County of San Diego. And in very case they were for the exact same dollar amount as the bi-monthly deposits Chase didn’t question. This morning I took her to the airport and told her I was writing this post. She said, “I will never, ever do business with that awful organization again. I’m paying off my mortgage next year just to get away from them. I’ve told every person I know to avoid Chase at all cost.”

So this post goes out to Frank Bisignano, Co-Chief Operations Officer and Mortgage Banking CEO and his leadership team. You have a significant problem on your hands.

Here’s the chronology of my journey brush with your woefully un-Lean organization:

  • April 2, 2012 – Submitted refi application.
  • April 11, 2012 – Received a snail mail letter from Chase acknowledging they’d received my application.
  • April 13, 2012 – Received a introductory snail mail letter from my assigned rep, Emily T, who said “Please do not hesitate to call me any time you have questions or concerns.”
  • April 19, 2012 – Received a letter saying Chase needed a copy of my most recent IRS K-1 (Return of Partnership Income). I don’t have a partnership and this was clear on my application. I faxed them a letter the following day.
  • Late April – early May – Received eight voice mails from Emily T asking me to return her call. She provided no details. Each time, I returned her call within 24 hours. Each time I received a message that she wasn’t available and that I could either leave a message and have my call returned within 24-48 hours or I could hold for the next representative. I did both. I never received a return call from the two times I used the voice mail option. Each time I was transferred to the next rep, the rep could never tell me why Emily was calling. This was after I waited for 10-15 minutes each time while the rep reviewed my account.
  • Mid-May – Emily called one day when I happened to be in my office and said they needed evidence of my book royalties from my two publishers. I expressed my frustration at the repeated phone calls I had received and the fact that I couldn’t reach her directly, nor could their customer service team ever tell me why she was calling. I asked her if I could give her my cell number since I’m onsite with clients more than not. She took the cell phone number and said she’d begin using it. I faxed my royalty statements immediately following our call.
  • Early June – I began receiving voice mails from Emily again – on my land line, not my cell phone. I began returning the calls again and rolled to the general customer support team. Each time, they could never tell me why she was calling.
  • Early July – Enter Twitter. I Tweeted about my frustration with the Chase process and the social media team at Chase arranged for a phone call from someone named Roxana (why not Emily?) — to my cell phone — at a pre-determined time.
  • July 19, 2012 – When Roxana called, she wasn’t prepared for the call and had no idea what Chase still needed from me. After I waited for 5 minutes while she searched my record, she finally said: “Oh, it appears we need evidence of your book royalties.” After I told her I had already faxed them, she said she found the statement from one of my publishers, but not the second one. (Note: the fax confirmation shows that both were received; and besides which, my book royalties comprise 1% of my income.)
  •  July 26, 2012 – After much thought, I pulled my application. When an organization requires me to spend hours of my time attempting to be responsive, accommodate their needs, and move a process along and the process doesn’t seem to be moving, I lose patience. And I lose confidence in the organization. If they can’t get these small details right, what else can’t they get right?
  • Here’s the kicker: When I pulled my application, the rep asked me if I had a second telephone number he could enter into my account in case anyone wanted to call me back to follow up. I said, “You mean my cell phone number isn’t in my account? He said, “No.” Emily never entered it. Roxana never entered it.
So there you have it. A system that’s beyond broken. I’m sure the people are nice people but they are working in an archaic, internally-focused, poorly designed system that will ultimately fail. You just can’t treat customers this way and expect to stay in business. Little by little the customers that Chase needs and wants most are choosing to leave them. Eventually they’ll be left with nothing a pool of customers that will drive up their operating expenses and narrow their margins. Let’s hope Chase takes this seriously and begins an effort in earnest to clean up their processes. They owe it to the few people who are sticking by them.

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