J.D. Power and Associates shook up its list of top mortgage servicers from last year, based on a collection of borrower surveys.
JPMorgan Chase (JPM) jumped from 11th on the list to fourth overall. It was the most improved servicer and topped the other four large firms Wells Fargo (WFC), which came in at seventh, GMAC Mortgage at ninth, Bank of America (BAC) in 13th and Citigroup (C) at 14th.
Servicers are graded on the billing and payments, ease of website use and how phone calls with borrowers are handled.
"We have strong commitment to helping customers. At the number 11 position last year, we said to ourselves we are not doing enough. We need to do more," said Eric Schuppenhauer, head of servicing at Chase, in an interview.
Each of the big-five servicers that signed consent orders and the $25 billion foreclosure settlement with federal and state officials improved in the J.D. Power rankings to some degree. New guidelines and standards have come down after years of widespread abuse and shortcuts surfaced in 2010.
"Over the past few years, among the primary reasons for lower levels of satisfaction were challenges in addressing the needs of customers concerned about making their payment or who were already delinquent," said Craig Martin, director of the mortgage practice at J.D. Power and Associates. "Significant improvements in mortgage servicing, particularly with the method in which calls are handled, have improved customer satisfaction for the first time in three years."
Schuppenhauer said while they made their website simpler and made other arrangements, they retrained their call center employees, too. Chase was the first to use a Fannie Mae single-point of contact training program. Most of the portfolio remains current and performing, but 7% that's behind on their payments is the challenge, he said.
"We made a massive number of changes, particularly in payment, call centers and fee practices and we're really happy that we did that," Schuppenhauer said.