ELM's CEO Discusses the Importance of School Feedback
Updated: Feb 25, 2022
We recently had a chance to sit down with the President and CEO of ELM Resources, the country's leader in private student loan processing, to talk about goals and the outcome of its 2021 School Survey.
Q: You have been heading ELM Resources since early 2018. What change(s) have you made in approaching company goals since taking over as the head of the leadership group?
Phillip Wade: Prior to stepping into the role as ELM’s President and CEO, I was fortunate to have spent ten years leading many diverse business and technology teams at ELM and successfully navigating the organization through crucial events such as the FFELP shutdown. This experience equipped me with a valuable and comprehensive understanding of our team members, technology, and customers and what drove each in harmony. The passion of our team for our customers and mission, I knew, was an incredible asset upon which ELM could build.
During my first All Hands meeting in 2008, I conveyed to our team members that I did not want anyone to know who ELM was within one year — because if we were fulfilling our purpose, our company would not regularly be a topic. All transactions would process seamlessly and as intended, giving schools and lenders the ability to focus on more important aspects of their work. After over a decade of highly stable technology and exceptional customer service levels, that statement remains true.
That creates a fun and challenging opportunity for our teams as we want our customers to know we are always available and accessible for their needs. In 2018 we updated our service model and approach to create a greater focus on being an organization that is fueled by the relationships we have with our customers. To do so, gathering and acting on our customer’s feedback and opinions are crucial. How we approach our communication, service, and even our development cycle is all about our customers and building trusted relationships.
Q: What would you say is the most crucial aspect to the future of ELM?
PW: The most vital part of ELM today and our future long-term plans is our commitment to our staff members and our community of schools and lenders.
We maintain a strong focus on caring for and respecting our team members. In turn, their priority and passion can concentrate on ELM's sole mission— to serve this industry to the fullest by creating efficiencies while expanding upon our high level of capabilities. It all starts with our customer's voice and having that intimate relationship regardless of the number of loans they process a year.
This means listening to feedback, having open communication, and reaching out to contacts to ensure that our products and services are efficient and effective for their particular needs. We realize that the private student loan sector is a small piece of their organization, but ELM wants it to be a productive and convenient aspect of their day-to-day.
Q: One of the ways you collect feedback is surveys, correct? Why do we incorporate this method?
PW: We utilize multiple ways of gathering feedback, such as following up with our newly implemented schools, regular check-ins with our existing customers, etc. But, our annual survey is critical. We send it to every person who touches our system or utilizes our solution—so it goes to thousands of users who interact with ELM in one way or another.
The survey data is one of the catalysts for shaping the year's priorities. Over the years, we have evolved the survey to be very pointed, making it very short and focused, yet still provide our schools with the freedom to express how they feel, how we are doing as an organization, what opportunities they see for improvement, and so much more.
ELM evaluates the feedback to determine the actions to be taken. Within days of receiving constructive feedback, we will reach out to our customers with training opportunities, configuration settings, and fundamental process changes. Additional feedback will be utilized as an agent to shape our priorities for the year, whether process improvements, new features or enhancements to current offerings.
Not to be lost in all the actionable feedback is what approximately 90% of the comments contain...kudos! Being able to deliver these positive messages to the teams of customer appreciation is an incredible experience and further ignites the passion for what we do.
Q: Why is it essential to get this pulse check from all schools?
PW: The environment is constantly changing in private student loans. It is cyclical with peaks throughout the year, but each school may function differently with its procedures and timing. As we discussed, the voice of our customers is critical to the success and direction of the organization. As an example of the interactions, the pandemic impacted the typical daily function of many financial aid offices. ELM knew our tools already brought centralization and efficiencies to the process, but with school feedback, we quickly implemented new enhancements to assist their operations and avoid significant delays in processing caused by financial aid offices having to work remotely.
Q: What type of feedback did we receive this year?
PW: Every year, we break down and analyze each piece of feedback we receive. From our latest survey, the majority were recognition-based, and the others were around training opportunities, enhancement requests, and sometimes we even get feedback on process changes. Here are some real examples of feedback we received this year:
"One of the BEST tools within the financial aid process."
"I am very pleased to have ELM as a partner in helping students with additional financial aid options. Working collaboratively with ELM makes such a difference! Additionally, their availability completely provides excellent customer service to myself and our students, making their overall financial aid experience a successful one!"
"I would recommend ELM Resources wholeheartedly to any school or lender; their ELMOne product allows for fast, accurate loan certification, as well as allowable changes and updates. I can't imagine July and August processing without them."
"ELM is awesome, user friendly and I really like the fact that I can certify, edit, and keep track of the private loans for our students/parents. Very grateful for this system, the ease of not having to complete paper certifications and email/fax/mail back to lenders. Thank you for all of your support!"
Q: Any closing thoughts on ELM's School Survey you want to share?
PW: This year, our overall School Satisfaction rating is over 97%, marking the 11th year in a row of 95% and higher satisfaction ratings.
I want to thank every one of our school customers for putting their continual trust in ELM. We remain focused each day on providing the best possible products and services and finding ways to enhance their overall experience. I ask our community to continue to provide the most honest and transparent feedback to ensure we make our solutions the best they can be.
Reach out to us any time. Every team member is available to you, and many times, just a brief chat can provide the answers you need and help to avoid delays.
Phillip Wade brings 30 years of business and technology leadership to the role of Chief Executive Officer for ELM Resources. Before becoming the CEO of ELM in 2018, he led ELM's Technology and Operations teams as COO/CIO from 2008-2018.