Home Loan Correspondence

Capital One

While I was on the Capital One Home Loans team as a UI / UX designer, customer complaints brought attention to a particular piece of mail correspondence: The Annual Escrow Analysis. For the next few months, I dropped my usual focus on digital experiences and became the sole designer recreating this confusing home loan legal document.

I challenged my product and tech partners to approach this problem with a seemingly simple idea, to hide and show content on the statement so that the customers only saw disclaimers relevant to them.

In the quarter following release, redesigned escrow analysis statements led to a 50% decrease in Tier 2 complaints into the call center and no escalated Tier 3 complaints related to statements. General escrow accounting calls were also significantly impacted, dropping by 24%.

Since designs were built with scale in mind, I was able to replicate the success of this report in other correspondence. This consistency sped up letter production and reduced cost by reducing the number of different envelopes used.

One version to rule them all. Or not...

The same version of this statement was sent to everyone, so disclaimers littered the page and forced customers to search for the instructions relevant to their particular situation.

the old version of the escrow analysis statement with disclaimers highlighted
"If you're bankrupt..."
"If you have a shortage..."
"If you're surplus is more than $50..."
"Your escrow account may contain a cushion..."

These disclosures are giving instructions for situations we knew the customer wasn't in.

Then three were tested,
head to head to head.

This study was conducted to understand how participants viewed the current escrow statement and their comprehension and preferences between two new statements.

Research Goals

For each version of the statement, we wanted to understand if participants...

Understand why the mortgage payment has increased
Understand what causes a shortage
Understand what will happen next, and feel confident in their options
Would be compelled to contact customer service after receiving the statement

Major Findings

New Concepts

Participants appreciated having the three payment options side by side; they are clearer and easier to understand
Participants favored concepts with color that drew their attention to the most important information
[On the legal size concept] Participants favored numbered sections to direct their attention sequentially
[On the legal size concept] Participants favored alternate options presented on the front page
"It makes it really clear as to what my 3 choices are without having to read over everything to get an understanding of that."

- Participant referencing the legal size version

Control Version

1 of 12 preferred the control statement over the letter and legal sized statement concepts
Most felt the control statement was confusing and difficult to understand
Participants could not easily understand the payment options available to them on the control
"Where do I look to find the payment? ...to understand it?"

- Participant referencing the control

"I’m still not quite convinced of what the next steps would be. I would definitely need help in reading this further.”

- Participant referencing the control

Research Info

Method

Research was held live online over one day
Participants were given an access link and randomly assigned to 1 of 3 tests
Each test included the 3 versions in random order, followed by corresponding questions
Questions focused on understanding shortage, escrow, and monthly payment changes

Participant Info

Responsible for household financial decisions
Between 25 - 65 years old
FICO score between 600 - 800
Have an escrow account with their mortgage lender
Have had mortgage between 2 months and a year

And the winner is... the customer.

Below is the result from this research, a long collaboration with the legal team, and discussions with agents and developers. Each customer received one of 15+ versions of this statement, customized to their situation.

Escrow Statement for Non-FHA Loans with a shortageEscrow Statement with a surplus over $50Escrow Statement with a surplus under $50Escrow Statement for someone in bankruptcyEscrow Statement for someone with a prearranged planfinal escrow statement

But that's not all!

Building on the success of the Annual Escrow Analysis statement, this design philosophy and process was then applied to Capital One home loans letters as well as payoff, mortgage, and home equity statements.

Not only did this make a huge impact to the understandability of the documents, but also aligned disparate patterns and reduced costs. This means, for example, versions of envelopes could go from ~5 down to 1.