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How Rocket Mortgage combines metrics with empathy when designing experiences

Taking out a mortgage is often considered the least enjoyable part of home buying. It’s ironic when financial institutions have decades-long relationships with these customers and transactions are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, yet fail to make mortgages an easy and enjoyable customer experience.

But Rocket Mortgage has cracked the code. Not only has the company figured out how to create a world-class experience by digitizing the mortgage process, but they have mastered how to measure experience effectiveness with precision and actionability in mind.

Design can make or break a digital experience—and any organization can apply the lessons learned by Rocket Mortgage.

Let’s explore how.

The simple truth: digital experiences matter

For consumers, the process of obtaining a mortgage is one of the most challenging rites of passage. They’re under-educated about the mortgage process and face a heap of financial and legal jargon that leaves them confused, frustrated, and anxious.

However, it doesn’t have to be that way.

The structured nature of the mortgage process makes it ideal for digitization. Reach, speed, security, user convenience, and eco-friendliness are advantages of going digital. That’s why it’s clear that the future of banking and mortgage lending is through digital channels. But despite the progress we’ve seen in the past decade, good digital experiences continue to elude too many companies today.

Users who visit Rocket Mortgage, however, overwhelmingly feel their time spent was effective, easy, and enjoyable. As a result, clients tend to not only be happy but devoted to the brand. Yes, to a mortgage brand. And what’s interesting is that to achieve client devotion, they didn’t have to sacrifice their financials. They made a conscious choice not to make that trade-off, but to pursue the perfect balance between client needs and company goals. In fact, for a company that began in 1985, Rocket Mortgage today resembles a profitable high-growth FinTech startup with enviable financial performance. The company has turned its process of creating great digital experiences into a work of art.

What’s their secret?

They design and test great digital experiences by using constant feedback from real users—measuring and iterating again and again, down to the smallest detail in every interaction.

What kind of user feedback are we talking about here? The kind that is so clear and actionable that decision-makers have a gut-level understanding of exactly what their clients need, enabling them to build successful solutions. This kind of feedback requires a learning and measurement process that begins with human insights.

What role does empathy play in digital design?

Human insights are all about empathy. Understanding client attitudes and behaviors with survey data is an important and necessary part of client insight data collection. But client data is insufficient if you stop after understanding needs, wants, and expectations. Developing real empathy means that you go beyond the “what” and peel the onion back, digging deeper and deeper until you know why.

Knowing ‘why’ is the key to having a “gut-level” understanding of what will work in the market. Like a cultural anthropologist who observes and experiences human interactions, empathy grows fastest when you ‘walk in the shoes’ of another person and see the world through their eyes. Voice inflections, pauses, facial expressions, body language—those are all forms of empathic communication that our brains process subconsciously and give insight into the lives and stories of the people we interact with.

Empathy allows you to interpret data with meaningful context beyond the numbers. It empowers you to design solutions that solve the most important and underlying human needs, not just the obvious or superficial. Empathy even lets you ‘see around corners’ to spot potential problems before they happen. And when experience gaps already exist, empathy arms you with an intuitive sense of what you need to do—not only to close the gap but turn it into something amazing.

How do you measure and scale empathy?

Empathy itself is not the metric, but user experience (UX) is the required business discipline at the heart of human-centered experience management and design. And it’s entirely built around human empathy.

Rocket Mortgage uses Qualtrics’ intercept surveys as a highly efficient solution for measuring net promoter score (NPS), customer satisfaction (CSAT), and customer effort (CES), as well as gauging product quality using a variation of the SUPR-Q framework—that they call an XP Score—for measuring user perceptions of a product or service experience. The modifications included an adjustment of some statements to fit the mortgage industry more accurately and attaching a five-point Likert scale to each statement.

Statements that addressed desirability in the original SUPR-Q needed to be modified to be more relevant to the mortgage industry. For example, a statement that reads “I will visit the Rocket Mortgage website in the future,” doesn’t apply to most people because, well, applying for a mortgage isn’t something that typically happens on a daily, weekly, or even yearly basis. These modified statements allow the team to easily compare standardized metrics across disparate products and domains for benchmarking.

Beyond these quantitative metrics of usability, Rocket Mortgage knew that their standardized questionnaires needed additional detail to effectively diagnose problems with behavioral insight. They needed something that was deep enough to isolate specific issues beyond, for example, a rating on an attribute such as “The app is easy to use”.

The UX approach to designing digital experiences adds a level of empathy to SUPR-Q by observing and asking users and potential users what they want, need, and expect from a particular website, app, or other digital touchpoints, such as an email. The goal is to understand what they are hoping to accomplish and why; how effectively they can actually accomplish a particular task and the effort required; and how enjoyable the experience was. Just as important is knowing where they get stuck and what they do in unideal situations.

Rocket Mortgage answers these questions, along with the SUPR-Q questions, through video feedback captured on the UserTesting Human Insight Platform. UserTesting is a video-first platform where anyone can see and hear the experiences of real people as they engage with products, designs, apps, processes, concepts, or brands. Rocket Mortgage uses the platform to capture  perspectives on a wide range client topics from UserTesting’s network of contributors. This large network allows them to target their exact audiences and receive video responses within hours, enabling them to conduct multiple tests in a single day so they can iterate and take action at the speed of business today.

The secret to success in digital experience management

When it comes to usability and client experience, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. That’s why Rocket Mortgage decided to adapt the foundation of SUPR-Q to best fit their needs. In the future, they’re planning to launch the XP Score across additional digital products.

As Rocket Mortgage builds on this award-winning foundation, the company will be expanding its measurement strategy as they continue to iterate and refine every last detail on its continuous testing journey. By actively working with their data teams to identify correlations between the XP Score and key business drivers, they’re able to begin establishing their ROI of UX design.

User Testing // Human Insight Platform

User Testing is the superior Human Insight Platform helping businesses close the empathy gap while empowering teams in the process.

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