PNC Mortgage is making it easier for consumers to check the status of their mortgage applications.
The bank has introduced a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week telephone service.
The service, which became available at the beginning of this month, comes as lenders are swamped with demand for refinancings. But Saiyid T. Naqvi, PNC Mortgage's president and chief executive, said the 24-hour service was not a reaction to the refinancing boom.
PNC Mortgage, Vernon Hills, Ill., has been developing its 24-hour customer service program for 10 months, he said. But he admitted the timing for the rollout of this service could not have been better because of the large amount of refinancings in January.
PNC did customer research and found that many prospective borrowers only have time to worry about their mortgage applications during the evening or on weekends, Mr. Naqvi said.
In addition, they want quick notification of approvals.
"We identified two key factors driving satisfaction for home loan customers: access and speed," Mr. Naqvi said.
PNC will not accept applications through this service, but customers who have already applied will be able to check the status of the loan, find out whether any property evaluation issues exist, and confirm closing dates.
The mortgage lending business is highly commoditized, but customer service could make a difference as borrowers choose lenders, industry observers said.
"The idea of a person at the other end of the line to deal with complexities of mortgages is a very sound idea," said Edward Furash, chairman of Furash & Co., a Washington consulting firm. "This is just one of many, many things going on in the industry to differentiate or create a brand around a commodity product."
Mr. Furash said many lenders have also been promoting their Web sites as quick and convenient ways for consumers to reach them.
Other lenders have been using innovative marketing techniques to lure customers. Last year, Countrywide Credit Industries boasted that it would close loans in 10 days or less and guaranteed a partial refund of closing costs if it failed to meet this deadline.