ALTA announced the winners of the Title Webbies, an awards program recognizing member companies that have created or redesigned the best title industry consumer-facing website or page within the past year.
The two Title Webbies were presented during ALTA ONE, the largest annual event for the land title insurance industry, currently being held Oct. 9-12 in Los Angeles. Nominees in the two categories—Best Website-Title Agents and Best Website-Underwriters—were judged on mobile friendliness, overall user experience, social-media integration, image/video use and content quality.
“For many consumers, buying a home is the single largest investment they will make in their lifetime, and ALTA’s Title Webbies shine a spotlight on the importance of consumer education and accessibility,” said Cornelia Horner, ALTA’s interim CEO and chief operating officer. “We encourage the land title insurance industry to focus on clearly explaining the closing process and communicating the benefits of title insurance to consumers. We wholeheartedly congratulate FTIC and Westcor for winning these well-deserved awards. We admire them for their hard work, creativity and ingenuity as well as their obvious thoughtfulness about the title industry’s big picture.”
Florida’s Title Insurance Co. (FTIC) was selected as the winner in the Best Website-Title Agents category. Randy Gilbert JD, FTIC chief happiness officer, accepted the award on the company’s behalf.
“We designed a completely unique approach using original content, cheeky humor poking fun at our industry, simple analogies to help the average person understand title insurance, interactive documents typically seen at a closing, easy-to-navigate buttons for ADA accessibility and over 80 high-definition ‘playful family’ images of multicultural demographics, races and handicaps that real people can relate to so they go in to the closing expecting an experience – not just a paper title policy. Hopefully, our website comes as a wake-up call to the industry to refocus on who our end users really are.”
Additionally, FTIC took an intentional approach to making a mundane product, such as title insurance, fun. The homepage is interactive: The cursor causes the main water photo to “ripple” as you navigate the page. The links, including “Title Insurance for Dummies,” “Who Pays for What,” “70+ Ways to Lose Your Property,” and “Mission Kreplach,” which details the company’s values, provide useful consumer information in an entertaining way.
Westcor Land Title Insurance Co. was chosen as the Best Website-Underwriters winner. Westcor’s website draws consumers in with vibrant colors and the memorable phrase, “Title insurance is boring. We’re not.” The website includes simple language explaining why a homebuyer needs title insurance; a national rate calculator also is easy to find from the top navigation bar.
Westcor COO Scott Chandler, CTIS, NTP accepted the award for the company.
“We are super excited to have a fresh, new look to our company website,” Chandler said. “Being one of the first points of contact many people will have with Westcor, we wanted the website to reflect both our company culture and our Number One asset that makes us who we are: our people. While we’ve greatly simplified the design of the site, we also were able to add new features that make browsing, contacting us and getting more info on becoming an agent much easier.”
By Andrew Acker
There’s a classic quote that business leaders and managers love to throw around (and spoiler alert, I’m about too as well). It comes from Peter Drucker, one of the original management gurus. He classically states that “what gets measured gets managed.”
Before you roll your eyes and cringe from hearing this quote again, let me tell you that it’s most often taken out of context. It’s typically used as justification to eliminate measuring tasks that cannot easily be quantified. However, there’s a big difference between a business quote, and the application to business.
The “business application” that Drucker was addressing was identifying the difficulty in measuring work and making sure the right work was getting done; right work being defined as work that contributes most directly to the bottom line.
The real challenge in business is identifying the tasks and activities that, when tracked, provide the greatest business insights and ROI possible. To further quote Drucker, “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” Finding the appropriate measurement is hard work, and often executives apply simple concepts for complex decisions; utilizing models that include straight line metrics for everything from staff reductions, to increased sales, to expense reductions.
In an industry fueled by people with detailed expertise and an extensive knowledge of the product and process, how do we blend that passion and knowledge with data and strategy to quickly evaluate our most profitable systems, processes, and products?
Data can’t be the final decision maker, but with so much time spent in front of a screen and in software applications, are we missing potential opportunities and threats by not better leveraging data points that are easily accessible? You think Customer X is so profitable, but do you know how much time it actually takes to complete their work? Do you know how rude and unprofessional the customer is to your employees and what this costs in production time? Do you know how happy your employees are at their jobs? Do you know your ‘compliance confidence score’?
In order to find the best answers, we first need to identify the right questions to ask and then we can effectively use data at our disposal to provide better insights and decision making.
Andrew Acker, chief operating officer at D. Bello Associates, and Tish Bush, principle of TDB Advisors, will discuss this topic during the session “Managing By Metrics: How To Measure Your Success” at ALTA ONE. Click here to register for ALTA ONE.
By Michael Chodos
Title agents have always been at the forefront of the mortgage experience: they are trusted guides to usher signers through one of the most important decisions of their lives. With so much riding on the home buying and seller process, it’s up to the title agent to ensure that the consumer’s experience is the best one they can have. So how are today’s mortgage technologies driving change when it comes to the signer experience?
Michael Chodos, senior vice president and general counsel of Notarize; Alan Fields, senior vice president and director of underwriting services for WFG National Title Insurance; Brian Hughes, president of Amrock; and Nancy Pratt, vice president of partner relations and government affairs for Pavaso, will discuss this topic during the session “NextGen Closings” at ALTA ONE. Click here to register for ALTA ONE.
By Mark Fleming and Paul Stine
We’ve all heard that artificial intelligence (AI), robots and automation will soon replace our jobs and many people feel real angst because of the perceived threat to their livelihoods. Yet, automation angst is not new.
The term luddite, one who is resistant to technological change, exists because Ned Ludd led an uprising of handloom weavers in 1779 to protest the adoption of mechanical, steam-powered looms. Ned and handloom weavers were not alone in the industrial revolution. After World War II, automation angst appeared again with the mechanization of agriculture in the U.S. Today, the angst is based on the belief that the information revolution and advances in AI will make robots smart enough to take over many of the jobs humans perform today.
With each “revolution” jobs that humans performed are replaced by machines, but new jobs are created. Think of all the people building mechanical looms, farm tractors or apps for your smartphone. This process of creative destruction is one of the primary reasons economic productivity, the amount of work output one can produce per hour, is almost 4.5 times greater that it was 70 years ago. AI should not be feared as it represents the opportunity to innovate in ways we have not thought possible before and make us more productive and better enabled to do our jobs.
Let that sink in for a minute.
Consider the following examples of AI we utilize on a daily basis without even knowing it:
Not that scary, huh? In fact, most AI is extremely helpful and makes our lives better. In fact, Google’s AI will soon be calling restaurants and theaters to secure reservations and movie tickets for you. These examples just start to scratch the surface of the benefits AI can provide.
As it relates to customer service, AI is changing the landscape. 81 percent of consumers now say that businesses are meeting or exceeding customer service expectations, but the way that service is being provided is changing. Today, more than 6 out of 10 U.S. consumers say their preferred channel for simple inquiries is a digital self-service tool.
That’s a LOT of people. And in the title industry, we’re focused on the needs of the consumer, as well as the Realtor and mortgage professionals involved in a transaction. And each of these customers is demanding digital tools.
With all that in mind, here are three digital self-service tools to consider when shifting your customer service strategy to keep up with customer demand:
Chatbots are defined as, “a computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users, especially over the internet.” Or in other words, virtual assistants/companions that communicate with us through text messages, websites, applications or messengers. Believe it or not, 80 percent of businesses want to deploy a chatbot by 2020 and 85 percent of consumers prefer to interact with a bot.
The good news is that implementing a simple chatbot is pretty easy. Most of the high-rated providers claim a 15-60-minute implementation time. So, even if you multiply that implementation time by five (because we all know tech typically takes just a little longer than you think), it’s still very reasonable in terms of the return it could provide.
Have any idea how much time you and/or your employees spend in email every day? Perhaps we’d prefer not to know. Yikes! AI virtual assistants can help you automatically read, route and respond to emails. In title, we’re opening and closing orders all month long. While there are always complex problems to solve, there are opportunities to enhance efficiency that could free you and your team up to be more strategic and drive your business forward.
With Google Home and Apple’s HomePod entering the market, the smart speaker went from a gimmicky Amazon concept to a full-blown product category. Ok, so perhaps Amazon would argue that it had already done that, but analysts predict it will be a $12 billion market by 2023. It might sound like a stretch, but the smart speaker is the next frontier for customer service. Giving customers on-demand information through Alexa, Google Home or HomePod raises the bar in terms of meeting customers where they currently are, and more importantly, where they will be. Like chatbots, building an Alexa “skill” isn’t terribly difficult, and you could be up and running more quickly than you think.
Creative destruction can mean a lot of things and can take on many shapes and sizes. AI is driving creative destruction in customer service and offering new opportunities to change how we’re approaching it. Remember that more than six out of 10 U.S. consumers prefer a digital self-driven customer service tool. The good news is that AI-driven customer service is more attainable than ever. We can and must adopt new technologies to drive our businesses forward.
Mark Fleming, chief economist for First American Financial, and Paul Stine, co-founder of CloseSimple, will discuss this topic during the session “Let’s Talk Robots” at ALTA ONE. Make sure to stop by for more ideas on how you can start bringing AI into your customer service offering. Click here to register for ALTA ONE.
Have you ever felt the urge to sell your title agency, but you don’t know what it’s worth or where to start? Or are you on the flip side and curious about expanding by buying a title agency?
From an agency seller’s perspective, let’s face it, it’s been one heck of a five-year run in the title industry and valuations are very strong. Unfortunately, some title agency owners may not have a well-thought-out exit strategy. There may not be any family members who wish to continue the legacy, and there may also be a lack of interest from employees who do not have the coin to buy the company. On top of that, technology changes and regulatory matters may be difficult for a title agency owner to keep up with. So, what do you do? How do you prepare?
On the other side of the table are hungry buyers who may be looking to plant capital or expand their already existing title empire. These companies may have technological advances and can scale up into a new market quickly and easily. But they need sellers. And this is where all the good times begin.
When a willing seller meets an anxious buyer, it provides for an interesting back and forth over valuation with discussions over earn-outs, net income multiples, EBITDA and other words that spell F-U-N. But it doesn’t end when the parties agree on a price. What about financing, the office staff, the office building itself, the physical assets, the training, the new infrastructure costs of consolidation?
Craig Haskins, chief operating officer at Knight Barry Title; Quinn Stufflebeam, chief executive officer of Title Financial Corp.; and Juan Guzman, a member of Houlihan Lokey's Corporate Finance business and Financial Institutions Group, will discuss this topic during the session “Mergers & Acquisitions: Better Together” at ALTA ONE. Heck, if you can get these guys to put the microphone down, there will even be time for audience Q&A. Click here to register for ALTA ONE.
There is no greater feeling than knowing you have made a difference! Imagine hearing about a recently passed piece of legislation in the news and knowing you had a voice in influencing how the bill was written. That is how many title industry professionals felt the evening of Dec. 15, 2017, when the final version of the tax reform bill was released. The language passed into law maintained the current capital gains tax exclusions for Americans selling a home. Thanks to the aggressive advocacy efforts of the title industry, this much hoped-for but unanticipated outcome was a reality. You can be part of those types of legislative victories. You have the power to create change that benefits our industry and customers. Being part of advocacy efforts gives you the opportunity to be a difference maker.
Don’t miss out on the only ALTA ONE session where you could walk away with a $50 gift card! Join us for Brand Bingo, as we discuss how to be a top-notch policy influencer in your state capitol and Washington, D.C. Learn how you can build a brand that makes you an effective advocate for the title industry, and play Brand Bingo for a chance to win prizes provided by the Title Action Network (TAN). Have fun, participate and hear from experts who have successfully promoted the benefits of the industry to lawmakers and regulators.
Diane Evans NTP, vice president at Land Title Guaranty and a past ALTA president; Leslie Midgley, CEO of the Texas Land Title Association; and Elizabeth Blosser, ALTA’s director of grassroots and state government affairs, will lead a discussion on this topic during the session “Build Your Brand as a Policy Influencer” at ALTA ONE. Click here to register for ALTA ONE.
More and more companies have employees that work remotely and technology has made it easier than ever to work from anywhere. Yet, teams still work better when they can easily collaborate and share ideas. The challenge is how to have both—employees that work remotely but still work closely with each other.
The same values apply whether the employees are remote or not: communication, trust and accountability. The key is to use technology to achieve these values while still making sure there is human interaction. It is important to employ multiple methods of communication and to communicate often. Set up regular calls and meetings via conference calls and teleconferencing but also have instant messaging and texting available for casual interaction between the team members. Meeting timelines is important, but so is sharing pictures from a vacation or a child’s graduation.
Working remotely for many individuals is one of the most important factors in deciding on a new job. It is the responsibility of the employer and managers to understand this and establish both technology and communication skills to make the relationship with remote employees work for everyone.
Cheryl Cowherd, senior underwriting counsel for Agents National Title Insurance Co., will talk more in depth on this topic during the session “Remote in Location Only“ at ALTA ONE. Click here to register for ALTA ONE.
You meet someone at a networking event and they tell you that they work for XYZ Company. It’s a company you’ve never heard of. What’s the first thing you’re probably going to do when you walk away from the conversation? If you’re like most people, you’ll Google the company and see what they’re all about.
In today’s world, your website is your digital business card. Whether you market directly to consumers or are B2B, your website is likely to be seen far before your office. Often, it will be what your customers base their first impressions of your company on.
Here are some things to consider when looking into building a website or updating your current one:
There are many things to think about when you decide it is time to set up a website or give your current one a facelift. When it comes time to get serious, find a few sites you like, figure out what it is that draws you to them, take the above list into consideration and you should be well on your way to having a top-notch website.
Susan Green, communications director for Westcor Land Title Insurance Co., will speak more in depth on this topic with Tim Evans, CEO of Evans Title Agency, during the session “It’s Time to Overhaul Your Website” at ALTA ONE. Click here to register for ALTA ONE.