How Does Weber and Associates Stay Current, Competitive, and Consistent?
During the past month Weber & Associates has had several new partners join our third-party service and it has caused us to reflect upon what we may have done to attract these new members to our service family. We also asked ourselves and the new partners what it was that the other servicers were not doing, and what we were doing that attracted them to our team? These reflections have caused us to perform some soul searching and self-evaluation regarding what makes a good company a great company.
What other third-party services were not doing that caused the customer to be unhappy, and at the same time what we are doing that attracted them to us?
Feedback from the new customers is listed below:
1. One person reported that their former servicer did not perform verification and comment code evaluations. She said, “all they do is order the money and maintain the fiscal records, we had to do our own verifications and comment code resolutions leaving us open to possible audit findings due to errors”. “Weber does more and reviews every FAFSA that requires verification or a comment code resolution, and the cost is about the same as our former servicer”.
2. It was reported by another that he was very frustrated that his servicer had very few reports which he could rely upon, to help him manage the financial aid functions for his institution. Upon reviewing Weber’s offerings, he saw numerous reports which help project future cash flow, understand what verification documents and comment code documents are needed, and help him to see the students who have completed a FAFSA but have never spoken to admissions. In addition, “there are numerous fiscal reports which our auditor loves”
3. Another said, “The services provided by the other servicers required me to do all the research to certify and originate the student loans which takes a huge amount of my time. All they did was request the funds and keep the fiscal records in their computer system”. She said, “with Weber they do all of the research to comply with originating the loans which includes SULA, Unusual Enrollment History, verification, grade level and master promissory note confirmation. That saves me a great deal of time.”
4. The last and most frequent complaint was customer service. The new client said “I like the Weber Customer Service system. I do not have to make repeated calls to get the answers, when needed. I can open a ticket and present my question and get an answer in a short time, and if there is dialogue requiring additional information from me, the ticket system records the written or verbal dialogue so that I do not have to repeat myself until I have resolution”. The new customer continued to say, “I like the system because I have choices of how we communicate. I can open a ticket and type in my question, I can do a computer chat with a representative or, If I want to talk with someone I have a toll-free number to have a phone conversation. If all fails I have a manager to speak to”.
This insight has given us valuable information to assess the quality of our services. The customer’s ability to respond to the customer service experience and tell us if they are: satisfied with their experience, neutral or dissatisfied, allows us to measure the quality of the customer service experience on a daily basis and make the necessary improvements as needed. If we receive a negative response, it is our practice to call the customer to obtain feedback regarding their experience in order to determine how we can resolve their dissatisfaction. Our negative responses are regularly less than 3 percent of all contacts, and through this process we are able to ascertain areas for improvement to our systems, or to provide additional training for the customer if needed.
Experience is one of the most important elements to the success of a company and there are numerous ways to view “experience”. For example, a person may have 10 years’ experience, but may really only have one year of experience, multiplied ten times! When we think of experience in financial aid we are reminded of a situation we experienced several years ago.
We met at a convention with a chief fiscal officer from a four-year institution. They had lost their FAO and were considering using a third-party servicer and the CFO was very interested in using our service but, his president was negative about outsourcing. The president said that she wanted to manage financial aid on campus and we accepted that and they set about to find an experienced person.
Two years later we met the CFO at another conference and he had moved on to another institution. He shared the experience from the previous institution and the word “experience” took on new meaning. He said that the former institution had found a person who had four years’ experience at a large university in the south and she was employed to manage the school’s financial aid services. Some months later the institution had a program review and the findings were numerous. The program officers learned that the financial aid officer’s experience was indeed four years, but the entire four years was spent managing the previous institution’s Federal Work-Study program and she did not understand the many other functions involved with Federal Financial Aid. The institution had substantial funds to repay and were put on HCM-2 Cash Management restrictions. This anecdote details why a person’s experience should be measured in depth and knowledge rather than just time in years.
There are many ways to determine experience but the most important measure may be what the financial aid administrator’s duties have been. Were they engaged in and familiar with programs with only one type of academic year packaging: such as two semesters or, three quarters and a summer term? The Weber service team has more than 300 years’ experience, which is valuable, but being engaged in and familiar with packaging and managing financial aid for numerous and varied program types is the real “experience” value. At latest count the Weber team has managed over 200 different programs and delivery systems. These include clock hour, non-standard term, standard term, non-term, Certificate, AA, AS, BA, BS, MA, MS, MD and PhD. In addition, Weber services the student loans for U.S. Citizens attending accredited institutions in 9 foreign countries. This breadth and depth of knowledge and experience helps to guide our clients.
Try to discover the values of the Third-Party Servicer.
If your institution is contemplating using a third-party servicer here are some factors you may want to consider:
Try to discover the values of the servicer through interviews and references.
What is their level of integrity?
Are they dedicated to what they do? Do they care about their customers as much as they care about themselves?
Are they reliable and do they have a can-do attitude? While these values are important, for effective delivery of service, the most import consideration is the service team’s knowledge of, and implementation of, federal regulations.
Finally, does the servicer have a dedicated IT team to keep the all-important software and technology up to date to meet the needs of the Title IV functions and the customers?
Only when all the above areas are addressed, reviewed and evaluated, can the decision maker at your institution make a truly informed decision about your financial aid outsourcing.
Please contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (888) 857-8690.
Weber and Associates