SpringFour Partners with Self to Help Their Customers Achieve Financial Wellness

SpringFour Partners with Self to Help Their Customers Achieve Financial Wellness

Building credit is an important piece of creating a healthy financial life. As consumers work to repair their credit and build a solid financial foundation through Self, Inc. and their Credit Builder Account, they are getting on the path to financial wellness.

This path is by no means always a straight shot, and unexpected expenses or financial difficulty can impede even the best of savers.  That’s why SpringFour is excited to announce our recent partnership with Self, Inc.  As Self CEO, James Garvey noted, “We recognize building credit isn’t the only financial challenge our customers face, nor their only financial goal, our customers have a drive to improve their overall financial situations and work towards goals like savings, owning a home, or managing their debt, to name a few examples. By partnering with SpringFour, we can help our customers achieve the financial wellness they seek.”   

With the addition of SpringFour to their website, Self is putting thousands of vetted, local financial wellness resources into the hands of their customers. These resources will help their customers, who are already working to build their credit, know where to turn for help to find local savings and achieve greater financial wellness. As SpringFour CEO, Rochelle Gorey, stated “We are excited to bring SpringFour to Self customers because we know that by offering targeted local resources to people when they need financial help, we can help get them back on track with their payments and create opportunities for savings.”  

 Want to learn more about how you can bring SpringFour resources to your customers or employees? Contact us to find out.

Katie Gottschall Donohue

Vice President, Strategy and Customer Engagement, SpringFour Inc.

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OppLoans & SpringFour – Partnership Done Right

OppLoans & SpringFour – Partnership Done Right

At SpringFour, partnerships are extremely important to us. When we find an organization that is mission-aligned, looking for solutions to improve the financial lives of their customers, and interested in thinking innovatively and testing strategies, we know we have found a great partner. That is exactly what happened with OppLoans.

We began working with OppLoans in November of 2018 and embarked on a full rollout of both applications in May of this year. Six months into the full rollout, we sat down with Natasha Anand (pictured above), Director of Customer Operations at OppLoans, to get her perspective on the partnership.

Tell us about your role at OppLoans.

I am the Senior Director of Customer Operations at OppLoans and I oversee both the servicing and collections side of the business. Our team owns the customer experience and journey once customers are approved and funded for a loan. I focus on the overall strategy for best servicing both current and delinquent customers in our portfolio.

What makes OppLoans different than other lenders?

Unlike more traditional lenders, our customer service and collections teams are not separated – our employees, known as Customer Advocates, perform both the customer service and collections job functions. This is done purposefully, as our philosophy marries customer service with collections. Customer satisfaction is just as important as the ability to collect on outstanding balances. Therefore, our approach to navigate conflicts emphasizes empathy for customers’ concerns, utmost transparency, and providing accurate, easy-to-understand information so that customers can make informed, financially-responsible decisions.

Share with us one or two things that people might not realize about OppLoans.

Our commitment to our customers goes beyond offering them simple, responsible products, it means delivering them a five-star customer experience. Our Loan and Customer Advocate teams don’t just help customers apply for loans and establish a positive payment history, they treat them with the empathy and dignity that they deserve.

And that’s not just lip-service: A portion of our QA scorecards actually grade Customer Advocates on their soft skills and empathy! This is why SpringFour has proved such an effective tool for our Customer Advocates: It allows them to deliver the kind of five-star customer experience that few expect when they are being contacted about a delinquent payment. It’s proof that we genuinely want to help!

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“SpringFour helps our customers by providing them with ways

to supplement their income and get back on track after facing a financial shock.”

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What made you decide to partner with SpringFour?

What SpringFour offers to customers falls in line with our mission and values at OppLoans. As a financial platform serving consumers in nonprime markets, we are striving to make a positive social impact that sets up apart from other lenders. We want to help our customers build a better financial path, and SpringFour is a great complement to our overall strategy.

What has made the partnership successful?

We decided to first pilot the SpringFour S4Pro product with a select group of Customer Advocates. Over the course of the initial pilot, we were able to iterate on how we use the product and best practices for referring customers to useful resources – all done in step with the SpringFour team. They worked side by side with us as we re-wrote scripts for employees providing referrals, tested introducing SpringFour at different points along the customer journey, and supported us with data analysis and reporting. Without this initial trial-and-error period, we would not have been as successful during the broader launch to all fifty Customer Advocates and implementation of the S4Direct product on our website.

What excites you the most about the partnership between SpringFour and OppLoans? Going forward?

We’re still in the relatively early stages of the partnership, but I look forward to measuring and tracking the impact we are having on our customers by offering them SpringFour resources. (Part 2 of the blog post – more coming soon!)

 How does SpringFour address the needs of your customers?

SpringFour helps our customers by providing them with ways to supplement their income and get back on track after facing a financial shock. Many of our customers live paycheck to paycheck, so a sudden unforeseen financial expense can impact their ability to manage their money in the short term. They might find themselves unable to pay all their bills on time or be forced to carry over high-cost credit card debt. We want to help our customers avoid situations like these by working with them on their debt obligation with us and helping them manage their other expenses – all through connecting them with financial wellness resources in their area.

Where in the customer journey are you currently offering SpringFour?

–    We offer it over the phone when customers mention financial hardship or additional unforeseen expenses.

–    We offer SpringFour in some email communications to customers.

–    We also have SpringFour listed in the “Resources” section on our website.

What makes SpringFour different than other technology vendors?

We love how collaborative the SpringFour team has been during our implementation and rollout. They always want to hear about how things are going and are actively involved with any troubleshooting or problem solving. It is clear they take client feedback seriously, and they have talked about iterating on their product solutions to better meet our needs. It is always refreshing to have a true partner who wants to work with you rather than for you.

 Tell us what your Customer Advocates are saying about SpringFour

Our Customer Advocates love it! First, it’s very easy to use. All they need is the customer’s zip code and email address in order to get them the desired resources quickly and efficiently. According to one Customer Advocate, Ricky Alvarado, customers love SpringFour “because it’s fast, free and confidential. They don’t feel embarrassed because they can look at it directly on our website or receive [resources] directly to their email box.”

Customer Advocates also like that there are many resources to choose from, so that they can tailor their email to what the customer actually needs at that moment. And it makes their jobs easier. Ricky added that SpringFour helps him to “switch the conversation – here’s what we can do for you because we care for you. It’s a tool to make [the job] less stressful.”

And it’s this response from customers which resonates deepest with the OppLoans Customer Advocate team. When he gets a customer on the line who is facing financial hardship, Ricky says he can “hear their voice changing over the phone” when he starts talking about SpringFour.

What are you hearing from others at OppLoans about having SpringFour applications available?

As a company, we’re always looking for new ways to deliver for our customers. As we’ve rolled out SpringFour to overwhelmingly positive responses from customers, our leadership team has frequently pointed to it as a success story. Our mission lies in helping our customers build a better financial path, and our leaders understand how this partnership with SpringFour speaks directly to that.

Want to find out more about how your company can partner with SpringFour to create significant impact, then reach out!

Katie Gottschall Donohue

Vice President, Strategy and Customer Engagement, SpringFour Inc.

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How You Can Help Solve The Student Loan Crisis

How You Can Help Solve The Student Loan Crisis

I remember feeling physically lighter, like taking off a heavy backpack after a long hike. It was a warm spring morning just last year when I opened my email to find an official notice. I had reached an important milestone that will set me up for a healthy financial future – No, I’m not talking about buying a house or opening a retirement account (or reaching a mountain summit). I’m fondly remembering the day I learned that I had paid off my last student loan.

I’m lucky to have been able to accomplish this before turning 40. In fact, student loan debt is not just a problem for recent graduates. A recent AARP report found that Americans over 50 owe almost $290 billion of the nation’s student loans, up from $47 billion 15 years ago. In total more than 44 million Americans have outstanding student loan debt, owing more than $1.5 trillion. Despite prolific media reports about students who borrow upwards of $100,000, the large sums that are owed don’t illustrate the true problem. Studies show that those with less student loan debt are actually more likely to default because of lower earning potential and other debt obligations and financial struggles. In fact, almost 1 in 3 people who owe less than $5,000 for their education default within four years, compared with just 15 percent of borrowers who owed more than $35,000. Defaulting on even a small student loan can cause a borrower’s credit score to tank, forcing them to pay higher interest rates, and delaying asset building. 

A recent survey from Student Loan Hero showed most borrowers harbor a lot of misconceptions about how to handle the debt, from believing that you don’t have to pay off your loans if you can’t find a job after graduation, to thinking that student loans don’t impact your credit score. Findings also suggest that in many cases, misconceptions, lack of clarity about how to pay off debt, and general feelings of being overwhelmed are more an indication of whether a student will default, rather than the actual loan amount. 

So let’s do something about this. As innovators in FinTech we can’t relieve everyone’s debt tomorrow, but we can do better to help consumers find assistance. 

How can we get student loan borrowers the help they need to get out of debt faster? 

By providing information through channels that struggling borrowers are already accessing for assistance, like SpringFour.  

Did you know the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program could eliminate some of your student loan debt if you work in a public sector job? Or about possible interest rates discounts for enrolling in autopay? I certainly didn’t when I graduated from college. And I wish I had. A lot of information is available on the internet, but how do consumers know that it is trustworthy and unbiased? 

At SpringFour our mission is to provide financial institutions, employers, and nonprofits with the tools they need to improve their customer’s financial lives. Our subscribers are already using SpringFour to make thousands of referrals each day to local resources that address financial challenges. We’d like to extend this helping hand further and offer documents with concrete, clear steps that anyone can take to improve their financial situation and save money in a variety of areas. 

SpringFour Tip Sheets for Saving Money are now available in a variety of categories to all subscribers through both our call center application (S4pro) and self-serve tool (S4direct). Tips for Paying Back Student Loans Faster is our latest tip sheet that provides suggestions to better understand repayment options, save money on interest rates, and find deferment and forgiveness programs. Our expert data team drew upon our personal and professional experiences to create this easy to reference list of tips and tricks that can help any borrower lighten their load, pay off their student loans faster, and put them on a path to achieving true financial wellness. 

Contact us to find out more about what you can do to help your customers and employees who are struggling with student loan debt. 

Cassandra Compton

Vice President, Data Integrity & User Experience, SpringFour Inc.

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SpringFour + Partners = Impact

SpringFour + Partners = Impact

Financial Health for consumers has quickly risen to the strategic forefront as a huge focus for many companies across our nation; especially knowing that 40%+ of Americans don’t have $400 in the bank for emergency expenses (per a report published the Federal Reserve). And, with all kinds of creative solutions being devised, partnerships with emerging FinTechs being formed, and billions of dollars being invested into the “Financial Health ” strategy bucket, it has most of us wondering “are we making an impact?” Well…at SpringFour, we ask that question every day, as we want to be certain that our solutions not only sound like the right thing to do, but also confirm what we believe to be true – that access to local, vetted and trusted resources helps to reduce expenses and financially stabilizes households. 

Solutions That Work

SpringFour solutions (S4pro and S4direct) enable access to nearly 14k local non-profit and government resources aimed at reducing household expenses in up to 30 spending categories (Food Savings, Utility Savings, Medical Savings, etc.). By annually connecting over 250k struggling Americans to these high impact resources, SpringFour gets individuals and families living paycheck to paycheck back on track and helps to create a cushion for paying down debt and setting aside savings. And, in partnership with our clients, we have proven that offering SpringFour solutions really DOES make an impact.

Consumer Impact & Case Studies

Published case studies with our client partners U.S. Bank and LendUp demonstrate the positive impact SpringFour is creating for the consumer, the employee, the business and its brand. Evidential data within these studies show that the SpringFour solutions increased debt repayment by 10% and more than doubled the likelihood of consumers participating in key activities such as foreclosure prevention. These figures were fueled by the finding that many of those who received SpringFour resource referrals reduced their household expenses by as much as $250 per month, with some cases showing savings north of $1,000 per month. These savings impact figures were highlighted by the fact that many of the struggling consumers receiving SpringFour referrals stated that just a $50 per month cushion would greatly assist in managing repeated and unexpected income swings.

Employee Well-Being & Productivity

Going a step further, SpringFour has also pursued other meaningful and impactful measures with our client partners. Beyond the impressive portfolio impact and consumer expense savings figures stated above, we also found that offering SpringFour to consumers had an impact on the purpose and well-being of the employees providing the SpringFour resource referrals. With nearly 75% of employees stating that SpringFour improves their ability to provide customer service and over 80% of employees agreeing that SpringFour allows them to provide quality financial health resources to their consumers, SpringFour has found a way to create a stronger mission-based bond between not only a company and its consumer, but between the company and its employee. Consequently, we are seeing upticks to key employee measurements such as employee retention rate when SpringFour is part of the equation. And, the benefits of this stat alone can save a company thousands of dollars per employee each year.

Brand Value

At SpringFour we also see that the brand value of a company offering SpringFour solutions improves. And, brand value alone can have immeasurable impact over the course of a company’s journey with their consumers. In fact, we have client partners that are tracking significant improvement to NPS scores due to the introduction of the SpringFour offering. This impact to brand and company loyalty can be attributed to 94% of surveyed respondents noting that SpringFour helps provide for a better experience and that 88% of those same respondents stating that SpringFour addresses real-life problems and greatly reduces stress. These impact stats are also echoed within an insightful Q&A piece with BMO Harris Bank where we share how SpringFour is changing the typical collections conversation and is providing a tool that is easy to use with 90% of those surveyed noting appreciation by the consumer for the referrals delivered. 

Looking Ahead

We are proud of the work we have been able to accomplish alongside our client partners over the last 15 years we have been in business, but we are not stopping there. At SpringFour, we have our sights set on continuing to expand and improve our solution offerings. This will enable us to build on the already incredible impact that we have created. 

In order to continue and accelerate our impact, we will look to build on our nationwide coverage – currently offering financial health resource listings in all 50 states and in 475 cities. Additionally, we will work hand-in-hand with our client partners to ensure that our product evolves with the need of their consumer base and continues to provide access to the most trusted local resources aimed at reducing expenses and increasing overall financial health. Lastly, we will sustain our track record of building partnerships that respond to and deliver required scale, ensuring more consumers have the help they need and deserve to be financially healthy. In doing all of this, SpringFour and its client partners will resoundingly answer “YES!” to the question of “are we making an impact?” 

Want to find out more about partnering with SpringFour to make an impact? Get in touch. 

Scott Freeze

Chief Operating Officer, SpringFour Inc.

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When there is a WILL, there is a way

When there is a WILL, there is a way

I am feeling energized, inspired and hopeful as I begin this week. You see, last week I attended the Financial Health Network Members Summit meeting.  The energy was palpable and as someone who has spent the last 30 years working in the financial services and community development field, it was thrilling to be surrounded by so many like-minded people and companies that are turning what was once just an idea of “financial health” into tangible action and dare I say an industry?!  There is so much going on and so many different ideas, models, strategies, products and services that are all geared towards helping people become financially healthy. 

AARP Foundation kicked off the Summit sharing the work that they are doing to ensure income security for older Americans because 83 percent of older Americans have financial issues. I met companies like Gerry, that are looking to help families burdened by the costs of long term care and finding the appropriate and affordable solution for their loved ones; ChangEd who is focused on helping those experiencing financial challenges due to excessive student loan debt; MedPut, that is helping people who find themselves with no way to pay for expensive and unexpected medical care costs; Salary Finance, that is helping employees get loans from their employers to help with short-term cash flow issues. We heard from behavioral scientist Matt Wallaert who’s recent book Start at the End implores us to examine the behavior we are trying to change and start from there. I also saw innovation and leadership from traditional market players like U.S. Bank who has developed a small dollar loan product (Simple Loan) that is helping meet the needs of their customers who on average borrow $400 to meet an unexpected expense. They are showing us that this can be achieved without exorbitant fees or interest rates.  

When people want to get things done, they do.  And when products serve a real need, they get traction. 

One thing is clear to me–curing the financial health of millions of strapped Americans is a solvable problem. We have the technology, the people, and the resources to help people become financially healthy. As the old saying goes, “when there is a will, there is a way.”

This is this difference I feel. The collective will is here.

Rochelle Nawrocki Gorey

Co-Founder & CEO, SpringFour Inc.

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Our Data is the Difference Part II: A Recipe for Data Integrity

Our Data is the Difference Part II: A Recipe for Data Integrity

I’m an amateur baker, which means I have way too many ingredients in my pantry and probably too many cookbooks. When I find a recipe that I like, I just can’t resist making it again and again until it’s perfect (and since it’s dessert my family doesn’t complain). I like to share my recipes with anyone who is interested because I believe that we can all benefit from a good meal.

I’m also a financial technology professional and the VP of Data Integrity at SpringFour. SpringFour’s award winning solutions inspire me to work everyday to ensure that the resources our customers access are the very best possible. So in the spirit of recipe sharing, I’m going to outline the four key ingredients that make up SpringFour’s data integrity strategy and insure that we are delivering the best data possible to our clients. 

It’s no secret that we like the number four. SpringFour’s FOUR guiding principles: connections, impact, integrity and savings are informed by our mission to connect consumers to the financial health resources they need. Our executive team of FOUR committed go-getters and do-gooders, has been recognized by our partners and the industry, including large financial institutions and innovative FinTechs, for excellent relationship management, forward thinking, commitment and innovation in the field of financial health.

So what’s the winning recipe?

Step 1:  Professionally Vetted

In the age of AI and advanced technology many people are surprised to learn that SpringFour resources are updated manually. Each listing is reviewed by a trained human eye at least 3 times before being seen by a consumer. 

Web scraping, the process of importing information from a website into your own files or spreadsheets, is used by many other referral systems as the source of the information they provide to their customers. We don’t do it, ever. Ethical concerns aside, those of us that work with data in the realm of public policy know that there is no perfect tool for evaluating the complexity of a nonprofit and government program offering. A computer can not look at a list of services or even a list of phone numbers and decide which would be the most useful to a person struggling with a number of financial challenges.   

Instead, we rely on the eyes and experience of talented people who review each resource for suitability and accuracy. Our Resource Integrity Team includes quality control specialists and research analysts with years of experience in housing, community development, social services, community health, education, and small business development. Our team of nonprofit and business professionals have graduate degrees, serve on nonprofit boards, and volunteer in their community. 

Our passionate team is motivated by the impact their meticulous work has on hundreds of thousands of people who receive SpringFour referrals each year. 

“It’s amazing to work for a fintech company that is focused on a mission to help those that are less fortunate. Through the training process I learned about the sheer number of resources that SpringFour provides to those that are down on their luck. Everything from utility assistance, to immigration support, to paying for medication.  And there are numerous resources across several categories in every state. Each listing provides all of the information you need to make a call or visit a location to take advantage of those services. It really is a game changer and I’m so excited to be a part of the team.”

Jessica Williams, Resource Integrity Specialist,  SpringFour

Step 2: Curated

Not only is our information vetted but it is also heavily curated. According to the National Center of Charitable Statistics, there are 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in the U.S. In New York City alone there are close to 100,000 nonprofit agencies, meaning it would take a New Yorker about 30 years to call every agency to find help. 

People in financial crisis are already overwhelmed. A survey last year found that 85% of Americans are stressed about money. For those that turn to the internet for help, the sheer amount of information can result in a feeling of powerlessness and confusion. A person searching Google for “help with debt” will see 500 million results, many of which are unscrupulous actors that may wish to take advantage of a desperate situation. 

Similarly, call center agents and counselors looking to help their customers don’t have the extra time it takes to sift through most referral websites. Agents that are juggling back-to-back calls, pulling up financial information and listening to customer concerns, need to find relevant information that can be reviewed and delivered in a matter of seconds. 

Our goal at SpringFour is not to list everything available, but to list the very best resources available at the local and national level, for each particular financial challenge. 

Step 3: Unbiased

Our revenue model allows our data integrity team to be completely unbiased in their work. Other applications in the hands of consumers charge a “referral fee” to organizations and companies who wish to be listed or earn affiliate fees for the products or services that are “recommended”. SpringFour never charges the organizations listed in our database or accepts any kind of self-reported information. Any information that comes through our doors is always vetted and evaluated by our professional data team. 

“It’s great to have a service like this that provides unbiased referrals to non-profit and government services because we never have to question the authenticity of the information we’re passing on to our clients in need”.

-Non-profit Counselor

Step 4: Quality

The talent of our professional data team combined with our processes for vetting and curating contributes to a resource quality that is unmatched in our industry. The protocols for updating our proprietary database meets or exceeds Information & Referral (211) Quality Assurance StandardsOur own quality standards are outlined and reviewed bi-annually. 

We’ve been perfecting this strategy since 2005 to bring our users and their customers resources they can trust.  

So if you’ve ever tasted a perfectly crafted tart or pie crust (here’s my favorite recipe by the way), you’ve benefited from a pastry chef who knows the benefit of following a strict process and taking the extra time to get it right. I believe we should expect the same from our data, especially when people’s financial health is at risk. 

Are you hungry for trusted resources? Want to find out more about how you can leverage our vetted and curated quality resources and easy-to-use platform to help your customers? Get in touch

 

Cassandra Compton

Vice President, Data Integrity & User Experience, SpringFour Inc.

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