Residential Magazine

Connect Through Digital Humans

Advanced artificial intelligence can galvanize your interactions with borrowers

By Danny Tomsett

Even for the seasoned home-buyer, purchasing a home and successfully acquiring a mortgage can be a tumultuous experience. The questions, concerns and doubts of the typical first-time homebuyer add another dimension. Although some of the latest technologies such as chat-bots and smart forms are helping to streamline and automate the mortgage application process, they are solving for a transaction rather than the important interaction that can only be achieved with personality and emotional connection.

Enter the digital human — the virtual intersection of humanity and automation. These lifelike characters powered by artificial intelligence (AI) deliver human-level conversational capabilities and are helping borrowers by building trust, simplifying the loan application process and, in some cases, even completing it on their behalf. The faces of digital humans are created with algorithms and are able to track complex facial expressions in real time.

Being overwhelmed or confused can be a huge part of the burden when it comes to applying for a mortgage. Originators who utilize digital humans allow both first-time and repeat buyers to ask as many questions as they want, as many times as they want, in a judgment-free manner.

Entry barriers

Mortgage applicants are not “one size fits all.” They often have many questions, but it can be frustrating for prospective buyers to find answers online. On the other hand, reaching out to a mortgage professional can feel like too much pressure and effort early on in the process. These consumers often walk away without critical financial information — and sometimes abandon the loan application process altogether — due to the barriers of entry.

With today’s advancements in conversational AI, however, mortgage companies are increasingly turning to digital employees to better serve their clients while addressing an array of questions and concerns. Imagine one of your prospects being able to complete the loan process with the assistance of a digital-human adviser who can hold the client’s hand, so to speak, as they plan their future. A single digital human can simultaneously answer hundreds of common questions posed by mortgage applicants in any language.

Arcus Lending, a California-based mortgage company, recently launched its own digital-human employee to help answer questions that borrowers may have about the mortgage process. “Digital humans bring this emotional connection back to online customer service, thereby humanizing the mortgage experience,” said Arcus CEO Shashank Shekhar.

Emotional connection

Digital humans interact using both verbal and nonverbal cues, such as tone of voice and facial expressions, and recreate natural human interaction at scale. This makes for more engaging client communications that build trust, improve brand awareness and provide around-the-clock support. Digital humans accomplish this with the most universal, time-honored and in-demand interface known to man: the human face.

Studies show that effective communication and emotional connection are greatly affected by tone of voice and body language. Digital humans can even decipher the meaning behind the consumer’s words and adapt their nonverbal responses to create more meaningful and lifelike human conversation. By comparison, a chatbot displays no emotion whatsoever, relegating its usefulness to transactional inquiries such as, “What time is it?” 

Digital humans actually bring automation technology to life. Think of them as Amazon’s Alexa with a human face. They are powered by a groundbreaking AI platform that drives behavior and emotional intelligence, which is delivered at near real-time speed for naturally flowing conversation. Most importantly, a digital human can learn something once and never forget it.

Although digital humans sound futuristic, they’ve already been implemented in an array of industries, from health care and retail to real estate and financial services. Digital humans serve as advisers, customer-support representatives, brand ambassadors and digital influencers. In the mortgage business, digital humans lend an emotional connection to online client service by humanizing the mortgage experience, which can be universally frustrating for all types of borrowers.

This humanization increases engagement among online visitors, improving lead conversion and time savings for a mortgage company’s operations and sales professionals. Digital humans give lenders and originators a competitive advantage.

The purpose of a digital human is to augment and assist, so you can think of it like a superpower for your brain.

Productivity boost

None of this means that human mortgage professionals will disappear. The human touch is still required in many instances, such as underwriting checks to ensure fair lending practices are being followed. A digital human, however, can free up a time-constrained originator to delve into the complexities of underwriting. The purpose of a digital human is to augment and assist, so you can think of it like a superpower for your brain.

Because digital humans are on call 24/7, a mortgage company’s productivity could increase exponentially from where it is today. Whether it’s 2 a.m. or 2 p.m., digital humans are available to professionally handle a client’s request. Automation naturally drives down costs and these savings can be passed along to borrowers.

Mortgage companies that embrace digital humans and other AI-based tools will gain a competitive edge as digital lenders increase their market share. A 2018 McKinsey & Company survey of more than 1,200 residential mortgage borrowers found that roughly half of respondents weren’t satisfied with their mortgage process. For nondigital lenders, these dissatisfaction scores were even more bleak. 

According to David Lykken, a veteran consultant for the finance and mortgage industries, “bringing consistency of service and doing it in a consistent, emotional way” should be today’s No. 1 priority for mortgage companies. Due to ongoing investments in digital humans, Lykken predicts that productivity could increase up to 10 times above its current levels.

In years past, chatbots and voice assistants attracted attention, and undoubtedly helped millions of mortgage applicants navigate the process. These technologies were the early building blocks of the final form of conversational AI — the digital human. Across the mortgage industry, digital humans inject compassion into a process that can sometimes feel too impersonal. Lenders and originators that hope to succeed in 2021 and beyond would be wise to consider adding digital humans to their workforce. ●


  • Danny Tomsett

    Danny Tomsett is the founder and CEO of UneeQ, an Austin-based company with offices in New Zealand and Australia. UneeQ offers an intelligent digital-human platform to design and launch AI chatbots, helping companies reimagine the customer experience through a conversational platform designed to leverage the human touch. He is a serial entrepreneur who has a passion for creating disruptive technology solutions that place emotional connection at the heart of the customer experience.

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