Online consumer lender Elevate Credit is on a roll. The financial services provider posted record net income in the fourth quarter of 2019. Considering Elevate’s business model is based on lending to non-prime consumers, a financially risky demographic, that’s quite an achievement.
What’s the key to Elevate’s growth? Apart from its airtight underwriting, Elevate offers a 100% online consumer lending experience and is hyper-focused on putting customers first using technology.
We sat down with Elevate’s Brad Tharp, VP of Product Optimization, to learn how the online lender delivers an innovative digital customer experience.
What Elevate does differently from other financial services providers
For Elevate, it all boils down to a relentless focus on creating a stellar customer experience — both online and offline. Here’s exactly what that translates to:
Prioritize the website user experience
Elevate operates four different websites where prospective customers can secure loans, so maintaining a good website user experience on all four is of utmost importance.
“We’re constantly working to optimize the websites,” Tharp said.
To this end, the company prioritizes a clean user interface, with a focus on ease of navigation.
For example, Rise, one of Elevate’s four product websites, features a prominent call to action, prompting prospective customers to apply now or learn more about their loan options.
Elevate’s Rise Credit homepage points prospective customers towards the information they’re looking for.
In addition, the Rise page proudly displays the company’s high customer review ratings via Trustpilot and details its step-by-step process to getting a loan, making potential customers feel at ease before reaching out.
Use tech to put customers first
Tharp said what makes Elevate unique is its customer-centric focus. To that end, the company invests heavily in customer service, with the goal of resolving customer issues as quickly as possible. Calls are answered in “seconds, not minutes,” Tharp said.
One tool that helps Elevate improve the consumer lending experience online is cobrowsing. Elevate uses Acquire Cobrowse to guide customers on-screen and troubleshoot any issues. Cobrowsing, short for collaborative browsing, allows customer service agents to securely work with customers on the same webpage.
Mike, an Elevate Rise customer, said the online application was easy to use and the process was streamlined.
Cobrowsing helps Elevate serve customers who might need a little extra help with tech while providing valuable insight into their problems.
“Customers have a broad range of technical skills and tools,” Tharp said. “It’s not uncommon to have issues of compatibility with our websites and app flows on our website working with different computers, operating systems, browsers, and browser versions. Cobrowsing helps us guide those customers through our applications. If they run into tech problems, we can see them with cobrowsing and help remediate them.”
Build features around customer data
Part of being customer-first is understanding who your customers are, and making sure your product and services cater to them.
In addition to conducting customer surveys, Elevate also convenes customer focus groups two to four times a year. The company invites a handful of customers to ask them what they like and dislike about the product and industry.
It doesn’t stop there, though. Elevate takes those insights and feeds them back to the product development team
“We put a lot of value in making sure that learned info cascades down the organization,” Tharp said. “We try to take those learnings and bring them back into the product.”
Often, this input directly informs new feature development. Like payment flexibility.
Elevate customer survey data revealed that some borrowers had difficulty making payments on time because of changing jobs and payroll schedules. With a fixed loan repayment schedule, aligning payroll dates became cumbersome for consumers. “Customers want their payments aligned to their payroll dates because it means they have to do less cashflow calculating,” Tharp said.
Elevate responded by creating payment flexibility options. Consumers can now skip and move payments around, modify loan repayment schedules, and cap interest rates. The feature helps Elevate create a better consumer lending experience. “We track how many times they make changes. And we’ve seen an improvement in customer outcomes.”
Create a culture where risks are accepted
Elevate’s secret sauce is its underwriting technology, which Tharp calls “near bulletproof.” It’s what allows Elevate to loan to a riskier demographic.
But that’s not the only level of risk Elevate is comfortable with.
With a nimble team and an ambitious product roadmap, Elevate’s leadership prioritizes trying out new things. In addition to cobrowsing, on their list to try include robotics process automation, IVR, AI, desktop and workflow automation, and conversational AI chatbots.
“We have a fairly aggressive product roadmap and good controls in place to deliver good quality features,” Tharp said.
That appetite for risk comes from the top. And it seems to have benefitted Elevate’s business. It’s something Tharp is proud of.
“We’ve been able to be a successful company while at the same time driving down the interest rates fairly noticeably that we charge customers.”
Incremental innovation is still innovation
It can be intimidating to try to affect digital transformation in the financial services industry. Many companies must work around legacy systems and a big book of business that can feel untouchable. No one wants to rock the boat, after all.
However, improving digital customer experience begins with a few small steps, according to Tharp.
“Don’t be scared of iterative change,” Tharp advised. “Change is scary. You can do a lot with small changes. If you have a lot of small changes they can add up, and move the needle.”