30 Nov 2018

How Being Faster, Friendlier (and Fun!) Can Boost Form-Fill Loan Application Completion Rates

No one enjoys filling out forms.

Many view the task in same category as dental fillings and trips to the DMV, but at least those experiences are relatively rare. We fill out forms all the time.

Anyone who’s recently completed job applications, FAFSA documents or a federal 1040 long form only did it because they had to. So when you ask customers to fill out extensive forms as part of a mortgage loan application, are you at risk of driving them away?

You need the customer’s information to do business. But you may not get their data or their business if you overwhelm, confuse or frustrate them with forms. This type of friction can kill your conversion rate and send annoyed prospects elsewhere.

That’s why it’s on you to make the loan application process as painless as possible, starting with the forms themselves. Simply telling customers to fill in some blanks won’t cut it anymore.

A streamlined, user-friendly form isn’t just more likely to be completed, it also demonstrates that you value the customer’s time. That can generate goodwill throughout this loan application process and others that may follow.

Make It Fast

If you asked your customers what they’d want, they’d probably prefer not filling out a form at all. While that’s not a practical option for a mortgage loan application, it’s still a good idea to ask yourself what questions are truly necessary at this stage of the mortgage loan application. If it’s extraneous, leave it out.

From there, it comes down to form design. It’s worth taking extra time to get this step right, because the easier the form, the better your loan application completion rate. Lending Manager, a technology company focused on solving problems in the mortgage industry with new products, rolled out a new one this year called LendingConnect  created specifically for the banking industry.

“The banks want completed application forms,” said Wayne Steagall, Founder of Lending Manager and the LendingConnect product. “The borrower gets tired of filling out loan forms, so we created one that remembers the borrower’s information. All they do is double check what’s been pre-populated.  Our clients report form completion is up 2X.”

Is your online form auto-fill friendly? Even if auto-fill only collects the most basic information, such as an address, phone number or email, every step you shave off the loan application process is one less friction point.

Are there secure ways that the information can be imported from other accounts? Ask anyone who recently filled out a FAFSA how much time they saved transferring data from digital tax records. Job seekers really appreciate applications that can be imported from a third party, such as LinkedIn. AllTruckJobs uses Google Maps to import addresses and phone numbers when an applicant types the name of a past employer, saving users the tedium of typing it out every time.

Your forms should be as intuitive as possible, especially for mobile users. Can you limit answers to multiple choices or offer drop-down menus instead of making them type out full words? Can you use predictive text to narrow down certain choices — the name of a state, for example — the moment they type the first letter? If you need users to provide a specific date, do you offer a drop-in calendar? Without one, the user might leave your page to look it up, get distracted elsewhere on the internet and never come back.

Make It Friendly

Your online forms should be clean and easy to read with conversational language throughout. If jargon is absolutely necessary, offer explanations through a pop-up box or hover-over display. Make answers to common questions available at the point where those questions are most likely to come up, so the user doesn’t have to leave the page or scroll back.

Other form design features, once innovative, should now be considered essential in a mortgage loan application:

Scrolling page: With more people doing computing through smartphones and other mobile devices, the user experience should take cues from those platforms. Users would rather have forms presented in a single scrolling page instead of multiple pages they have to click through.

Step-by-step error correction: Getting error message upon trying to submit a completed form because of incorrect or incomplete answers is a good way to annoy users. Instead, catch any mistakes as they go and explain what went wrong, giving users the opportunity to correct them right away.

Flexible Formatting: Some of the most common “mistakes” users make while filling out forms are simply not conforming to its format, such as whether to include dashes within a phone or Social Security number. Forms that automatically convert and correct these types of errors prevent users from having to go back and re-enter the data.

Progress bar: Users tend to show more patience when they know how far into the process they are, whether it’s displayed as a percentage of work completed or an estimated completion time.  It helps reduce worries that they won’t have time to finish the form before they have to do something else. Some argue that a progress bar shown too early in the process of a particularly long form can be a deterrent. If you think this is the case, consider showing the user how many sections remain.

Save option: If a user gets interrupted while filling out a form, don’t force them to abandon their work and have to start from scratch later. (They may never return). Allowing them to save their work as they go or finish the form later, possibly even offline, makes the loan application process easier.

Make It Fun

Let customers know you value their time and information, by giving them something in return. Maybe it’s a discount code or offer you were going to give them anyway. Maybe it’s an ebook or similar piece of content. Maybe filling out the form saves them time elsewhere in the course of your business. Or maybe, treat them to adorable pictures of baby animals at the end of each section. Whatever feels best for your business and your brand, try offering customers an incentive to answer your questions.

A mortgage loan application doesn’t have to be a dry, boring experience, either. Brands, should they choose, could inject some fun into the loan application process. One type of form might let mobile users answer questions via Tinder-style left and right swipes. Financial companies might create a progress bar that looks like a fattening piggy bank or a virtual home that gets “built” as the user finishes each section. Some questions, when appropriate to the occasion and the brand, might be worded in snarky or playful ways. The goal is to improve the loan application completion rate by taking their minds off the tedium.

That doesn’t mean asking irrelevant or time-wasting questions. It simply means finding ways to inject appropriate levels of energy and personality into the process without making the form longer than it needs to be or making the user feel like you’re wasting their time.

The Bottom Line

Like the dental filling or DMV appointment, filling out forms are one of life’s unpleasant necessities. But they don’t have to be. By taking the pain out of the mortgage loan application process and adding a little creativity, you can save your customer time and improve your loan application completion rate.

You might even get them to like you a little more.

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