According to a recent WFG study, more than half of mortgage lending executives cited transaction turnaround times as the top operational challenge facing the industry. This is a startling increase from 2020 where only a quarter of executives cited turnaround times as a top challenge.
With lenders more closely considering and examining the SLA performance of their title partners, it’s more important than ever for title & escrow companies to have the right title software in place. The right software—when properly set up—has the power to dramatically improve efficiency and enable better tracking of key SLA performance metrics such as turnaround times.
Qualia’s Director of Title Strategy, Alex Brown, has identified several common mistakes that title businesses make when setting up their processes. He has also identified a foundational process creation framework that businesses of any size can leverage to find success.
4 signals that your processes aren’t working
Investing in top-tier title & escrow software is not a silver bullet. The software provider’s promises for improvements in communication, efficiency, and organization all require a solid base workflow. The technology must be properly set up and adopted by staff for the business to see true efficiency gains. Brown says there are four telltale signs that software is not set up properly.
1) Symptom: Lack of employee buy-in
Signal: Employees are using their own personal checklists and cheat sheets to complete the work on a file. Title & escrow folks are masters at identifying the most efficient way to get a job done, so if your staff is using workarounds, it’s a signal that your process isn’t working.
2) Symptom: Inability to transition files between employees
Signal: An employee’s individual knowledge of files is the source of truth on the status of files instead of an established process. When employees are out of the office, this signal becomes glaringly obvious because the file faces major disruption. When properly set up, the process should have the ability to allow other team members to step in and understand what has already been done and what still needs to be completed with an individual file.
3) Symptom: Excessive manual progress tracking
Signal: Employees and management spend an inordinate amount of time creating and maintaining manual status tracking spreadsheets to keep tabs on production pipelines. Also, when an operations manager says something like “I didn’t know my staff wasn’t doing X until after I audited the file,” it’s a sign that processes aren’t set up properly for operations to track specific task completions.
4) Symptom: Over-reliance on familiar system features
Signal: If you see that you have 50+ workflows with no Smart Actions (see below for definitions of these terms) then you are likely over-utilizing certain system functionalities. This is often the root cause of the other symptoms described above.
Foundational process creation elements
It’s important to have a complete understanding of the procedural tools within the title production software and use them to set up effective team-wide processes. Using title production software to guide processes can do more than just ensure that your staff remembers all the steps in a process, it can also enable better reporting, vendor performance tracking, and automation of simple, repeatable functions.
Within Qualia, there are 3 foundational elements: workflows, Smart Actions, and document types.
Workflows (what types of transactions do you do?)
Workflows are the basic tasks required for the processing of a transaction type. Workflows are meant to be the foundation of a process, not the whole process.
These basic elements are always the same regardless of the client or location. By narrowing to a handful of basic workflows (for example a workflow for refinances, one for residential purchases, and one for commercial purchases), it’s simpler to train staff and to track performance. Workflows also give teams a backbone of common elements for reporting across multiple offices, states, and clients.
Smart Actions (what are the variations to these transactions?)
If workflows are the foundation, Smart Actions are the ground floor built on the foundation. They should encompass the next layer of complexity in a workflow which includes the tasks that are specific to a location, client, or product type. For example, in a purchase transaction occurring in Arizona, the workflow used would encompass the common elements to all purchase transactions while the Smart Action Group would include the specific tasks required in Arizona cash transactions.
Document types (how can you support the transaction types and variations?)
Document types are the various supporting documents that are used for each Smart Action Group. They should be named with a standard naming convention that allows the team to easily identify what a document is for by simply looking at the title of the document.
How to set up powerful workflows
To properly set up workflows, it’s important to carefully plot the tasks within each workflow and workflow variation. “Title is a ‘pay now or pay later’ industry and saving an hour of setup time is going to cost an exponential amount of time in workarounds on the back end,” Brown says.
Brown recommends that each transaction possibility is mapped from start to finish and “literally drawn out” on a whiteboard or in a process visualization tool. After the process is mapped out, an experienced staff member should review it to ensure nothing is missed. “We all have biases and knowledge gaps, so going through this exercise can surface those gaps while things are still conceptual and easy to change,” Brown says.
Tasks within Qualia include multiple elements that allow businesses to get granular in their workflow set up. Brown recommends that the following elements be mapped out for every task.
- Placement: identify where the task should be placed in the workflow. Brown recommends that tasks are grouped in chronological order by role type.
- Name: use a naming convention to set up tasks so you can quickly identify where the task falls in the order and who should complete it (the name should include: role, what the task is, description of task being done). Task names are often an overlooked tool; however, they are quite valuable when used correctly. In fact, when used consistently, task names can actually help staff understand the progress of a file just by looking at the list of current active tasks.
- Start trigger: assign when the task should start. It’s important to trigger a task only when it’s possible to start working on that particular task. “Task tracking dashboards are useless if most of the files tasks are started at one time but cannot actually be completed until a later point,” Brown says.
- Work: a single task should track a single activity vs an entire set of activities. For example, “create a closing package” should be divided into multiple activities such as “get closing documents from the lender” and “email documents back to the lender.” Defining the work being tracked by a task can often help managers surface over or underused tasks.
- Due date: when properly set up, due dates should “stack” on top of one another. Brown noted that this step is often where admins fall short and fill in due dates with ad-hoc estimations. When due dates are not correctly assigned, it’s impossible for an admin to see which files are falling behind and where extra support is needed.
- Completion trigger: The completion of a task will either be manual or system triggered/automatic. There is a common assumption that more automation is always better than less. Brown warned that automation for the sake of automation is never a good idea. For example, balancing a closing disclosure (CD) likely requires one or more revisions. If a CD task is automatically marked complete after the file is sent to the lender, then there would be no indication or reminder that more steps are needed to apply revisions to the file. In this case, the staff would need to remember to apply revisions which opens up opportunities for missed or delayed tasks.
Success starts with the right title software
The right title software can make or break your operations. Larger title & escrow companies often need more granular workflows because of the many hands touching a single file. A software provider with the necessary level of task granularity is foundational for success.
On top of having the necessary automation to ensure every piece of the operational puzzle can be mapped out, the right software provider will also offer an intuitive user design and on-demand training to ensure every staff member can easily learn the operating system.
To learn more about Qualia workflow features designed for your operation, click below to schedule a time with one of our Qualia specialists.