Homeownership and Financial Education Department Receives Exceptional Team Award

On Wednesday, May 16, the Homeownership and Financial Education team received the Exception Team award at this year's Human Service Forum Award Banquet.

Over the course of the last year, this team has implemented a new way of doing business within Way Finders.  Through participation in a national "Sustainable Homeownership Program" (SHP) coordinated by NeighborWorks, this team has come together to improve efficiency and customer service at Way Finders through the delivery of our financial capabilities and homeownership services.  The three most specific examples follow:  

1. Taking a hard look at our current operations.

With the help of tools designed by an operational efficiencies subject matter expert, the team looked at “hoops” that the client has to jump through to get a service, the length of time it took, and the number of times each staff had to touch a client file to properly process it and report on it. Through weeks of additional staff meetings, the team mapped our service delivery system on a wall, arranging and rearranging to draw an accurate picture of our current state of operations. 

The process was illuminating, but it also created a sense of exposure for individual staff members, who were unsure about how their roles might be impacted. Through iterative conversations where the team asked questions and tried to create a safe atmosphere for answers, the team was able to see the value that they each brought to the process, and this lessened the feeling of vulnerability. One example was when staff members offered to audit each other's workshops and shadow each other's housing counseling appointments. Ultimately, the team came together around the goal of providing the best and most efficient service possible for our clients. 

2. Implementation of SalesForce.

In October 2017, the team implemented a customized version of SalesForce, which includes client facing technology that allows customers to create accounts, pay for and schedule services all online. With this new technology, and with the operational efficiency exercises under our belts, we have redesigned our workflows. Without the need to input nearly 1,000 client intake forms annually, we are now able to focus more of our time on direct service.  The team is still meeting on a weekly basis to review SalesForce as a group, and fully trained staff members are now training newer staff members on the system.

 Now, in addition to cross-training, we are using this found time to refine our curriculums and expand our partnerships and offerings in the community. Two of our staff members are now working collaboratively to create and facilitate “Health and Wealth” seminars in three community schools this spring.  Another staff member is redesigning our Orientation curriculum to include more volunteer participation from our partner banks. 

Even in the three months since implementation, we’ve seen a drastic increase in inquiries for homeownership services.  In November and December, we averaged about 90 new customer accounts (or leads) in SalesForce per month. In January, 160 accounts were started by clients.  Our clients are very receptive to the account-based technology, and to online services. Via Facebook, we have seen clients posting about the quality of service they received through Way Finder’s homeownership services, and sharing it with their friends. The comradery we see on social media mirrors the team atmosphere that this system has created among our staff members. 
Most notably, we are serving more clients than ever before.  The team was bursting with pride when we reported that 57 of our first time homebuyer workshop graduates became homeowners during the quarter that we implemented SalesForce.  We always knew that a high number of our graduates purchased homes, but this a testament to the effectiveness of our team and systems now working together seamlessly.  The data now backs up what we know to be true!

3. Working with the other lines of business at Way Finders to deliver a customer service training for staff, focusing on the needs of our consumers.

Through this SHP initiative, we have learned to always think about the clients' needs first.  We're spearheading this throughout the organization, which has helped us to increase space in our waiting area, as well as computer resources for clients. Most notably, our Homeownership Manager Correen Carpin-Gendron has worked collaboratively to design a training curriculum that is built from best practices in the industry. She is facilitating the trainings, which are open to all Way Finders staff, this spring.

Beyond just the trainings, the customer service working group is spearheading a change in the culture of Way Finders. In addition to being more focused on the customer or client’s experience, we are integrating our lines of business to bring the best quality service possible.