Iowa Land Records, the Electronic Services System and Iowa county recorders have a strong orientation toward customer service. Training and support are ongoing activities. Numerous training videos are posted online, and there are monthly webinars for E-Submission customers. Periodic training webinars about searching for land records online are also provided. Recently, the Iowa Land Records team completed a 52 county training series to help users prepare for the roll out of a new E-Submission interface for customers. In preparation for this report the Iowa Land Records team conducted an online survey of both E-Submission customers and users registered to search for records online. Participation in the survey was very strong, and we are gratified by the proportion of customers who are satisfied or very satisfied with the service they are receiving. The following is a summary of the survey results which reflect the perceptions of current customers and stakeholders.
Between November 16 and December 6 of 2021, the Iowa Land Records team collected feedback about the perceptions of the services provided by Iowa Land Records, including the E-Submission application, portal search application, and overall satisfaction with customer service from counties and Iowa Land Records support staff.
Six hundred forty-five responses were received. Of the 645 respondents, 58.45% (377) identified as current Iowa Land Records e-submission customers and 95.35% (505) identified as current Iowa Land Records search portal users. The industry makeup of those respondents was as follows: Abstract/Title Company, 6.05% (39); Attorney, 29.92% (193); Bank, 22.48% (145); City Government, 1.86% (12); Credit Union, 2.79% (18); Federal Government, 2.48% (16); Media, 0.31% (2); Mortgage Company, 1.71% (11); Realtor, 7.13% (46); State Government, 2.79% (18); Surveyor, 5.12% (33); Other, 17.36% (112).
While 94.95% of customers responded that they are satisfied (33.61%) or very satisfied (61.34%) with Iowa Land Records e-submission service, that leaves approximately 5.04% surveyed as feeling neutral (1.96%), dissatisfied (1.40%) or very dissatisfied (1.68%).
Among the top-ranking benefits of using the e-submission service are Speed of Recording, 91.85% (327); Speed of Receiving the Recorded/Stamped Document, 77.53% (276); and Speed of Error Correction, 54.49% (194), with Customer Support from the Iowa Land Records Staff, 38.20% (136) and Customer Support from the Counties, 31.46% (112) following closely behind.
Those surveyed reported the primary concerns of electronic recording as Rejection of documents due to image quality, 38.25% (127) and Rejection of documents for other reasons, 32.83% (109), with Cost of electronic recording including the service fee, 10.24% (9) and Customer Support from the Counties, 7.83% (26) following behind. Additionally, 33.73% (112) of the respondents reported Other, noting in their comments the primary concerns of using Iowa Land Records e-submission.
While many noted they had no concerns, a few recurring comments were noted:
- A lack of standards consistency across counties
- An outdated interface with a need for a more user-friendly work process
- Document rejections due to fee changes.
When asked to reflect on whether the $3.00 per document E-Submission service fee, used to support and maintain the system, is reasonable when considering the services received with respect to electronic recording and searching for land records, 95.22% (339) respondents said yes, the $3.00 service fee is reasonable, with only 4.78% (17) saying no it is not reasonable. (Note: to better understand this response rate, it should be noted that only e-submission customers were asked to respond to questions about the $3.00 per document service fee.)
Portal Search Application
While 89.39% of the respondents indicated that they are satisfied (42.26%) or very satisfied (47.13%) with Iowa Land Records search portal application, that leaves approximately 10.6%% surveyed as feeling neutral (5.91%), dissatisfied (2.43%) or very dissatisfied (2.26%).
Among top ranking benefits of using the portal search service are: Access to documents in all 99 counties through a single website, 85.46% (488); Ability to search by different criteria (name, date, location or reference number), 68.83% (393); Speed of finding recently recorded documents, 67.78% (387); and Ability to find older records, 62.35% (356), with Customer Support from the Iowa Land Records Staff, 16.64% (95) and Customer Support from the Counties, 14.71% (84) following closely behind.
Those responding reported the primary concerns of the search portal as: Digitized documents don’t go back far enough in some counties, 61.36% (335); Not able to find all documents using the search tools, 44.14% (241); Variability in data among the 99 counties, 31.68% (173); Inability to search by parcel number, 26.56% (145), with Inability to search by subdivision name, 11.54% (63) following behind. Only 2.75% (15) of respondents reported concerns with Customer Support from the County Recorder and only 1.83% (10) reported concerns with Customer Support from the Iowa Land Records staff.
An additional 16.48% (90) of the respondents reported Other, noting in their comments the primary concerns of using the Iowa Land Records search portal. While many noted they had no concerns, a few recurring comments were noted:
- Limited number of searches or blacklisted
- Interface is not user friendly and difficult to navigate
- Search criteria and indexing inconsistent across counties
- Access to older records statewide
While overall perceptions of customers and stakeholders is positive, the survey results also indicate that there is room for improvement. The need to modernize the system and the website has been known, and this knowledge provided the motivation to seek the legislation in 2021 to provide the budget flexibility for making improvements. In December the Iowa Land Records team started the roll out of a new, streamlined application for submitting electronic documents for recording. This roll out will continue through the first quarter of 2022 until all E-submission customers are migrated to the new system. Behind the scenes the administrative and payment infrastructure is also being migrated to a new platform that will ensure greater security for the entire system. And we are looking forward to the coming months as we plan and develop the next generation land records search engine and customer interface. Iowa Land Records customers and stakeholders will be a part of that process. We look forward to keeping policy makers informed of the progress on these important changes.