When Geoff Howard first joined National Funding, he heard from various people throughout his organization that the phone system needed work. Major work. That was November of 2015. By February 2016, the new vp of technology was interviewing vendors.
National Funding, a top 10 alternative lender that works with small businesses, found early on that it made sense to funnel prospects to a loan specialist. Small business owners are busy running their businesses. They’re on the floor of their restaurants or on site at a construction project. They need some hand holding.
“Even if it’s necessary to expand a business and deal with market uncertainty, borrowing money is a scary, and sometimes, daunting process for SMBs,” said Howard.
The firm has subsequently spent time designing digital interactions between interested borrowers and the firm’s customer-facing staff. Whether they come in via the phone or through the web, the San Diego-based company immediately assigns small business owners to a human being to help explain their credit options.
The challenge was, the old phone system, an on-premise PBX, required whoever answered the phone to transfer the caller to another extension. That extra step wasn’t a great experience for the caller and it wasn’t a good use of employee time.
In September 2016, Howard, who spent 14 years at Intuit in engineering, made his selection and chose to discard his firm’s old technology and shift to the cloud. He went with Five9, a cloud contact center software provider.
National Funding runs two major technology platforms: Salesforce as its CRM and a proprietary lending platform. Howard explained that the decision to go to Five9’s cloud solution was based primarily on how easy it was to integrate. Five9 integrates with Salesforce out of the box and has a set of APIs that National Funding used to hook up to its lending platform. Now, when a specialist answers a call, he does so with all the accompanying information about who’s on the other end of the call flashing on his computer screen.
Howard claims calls are getting routed faster, with average wait times under a minute. Calls are more evenly distributed among the firm’s specialists.
National Funding continues to test new communication channels as part of its digital interaction strategy. The company recently rolled out texting capabilities, so customers can send and receive short messages to their loan specialists. Its also testing other technologies in house, like chat.
This is important for a company that prides itself on customer service. Unlike other young alternative lenders, National Funding didn’t set out to build a 100% digital lender.
“Creating one to one interactions with loan specialists is core to what we do and that differentiates us,” he said. “We don’t see that as the right product and experience for most SMBs. We use technology to enable better human interactions.”