How a customer-first mindset helped this company through COVID-19

customer first mindset

It’s been a difficult year for companies across the globe, with many needing to adapt to the unique challenges facing their industry, business and customer base. 

Closer to home, as unemployment spiked and many businesses began to close under state and national lockdown orders, SocietyOne, Australia’s leading marketplace lender, saw an increase in both general enquiries and hardship requests. From the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company saw an 8400% spike in hardship requests and enquiries.

With more and more customers lodging general enquiries and hardship requests, SocietyOne’s customer service team was pushed to the limit. 

“We had one dedicated person working on hardship requests for many years. The process was very manual and long-winded. 

Within a week we saw a trickle of new requests grow into a flood with no end in sight, growing from one to two requests per day to a peak of 170 per day for a period of four weeks,” says SocietyOne COO Jonathan Chan.

A customer-first solution

In order to be able to respond to the increasing volume of enquiries and hardship requests in a reasonable amount of time, SocietyOne assembled a team to come up with a solution to process these requests quickly and thoroughly, while maintaining a quality customer experience.

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“Many of our customers were going through a very tough time, from losing jobs to losing their businesses and even falling sick at the same time. 

We knew that our customer needs had to be met with speed without compromising the quality of the service we delivered,” says Chan.

In response to this challenge SocietyOne developed a new, highly automated hardship triage and assessment process. Developed in just five days, the process ensures that when customers submit a request, the right information is captured to enable the request to be assessed quickly. 

This simplified process reduces unnecessary back-and-forth with the customer and allows the assessors to respond more quickly with the best solution for each customer.  

Tailoring data collection to customer needs

Recognising that customers have varied needs and communication preferences, the system has three different data collection channels, allowing hardship requests to be made in a way most comfortable for the customer. 

The first option allows customers to call SocietyOne’s customer service team directly. Hardship requests can be handled over the phone, making it easy for all required information to be collected.

The second option sees requests being made by email. In response to customer email requests, a triage form is sent out to help assess the needs of each respondent. Using the responses captured by the triage form, each request is then sent on to an assessment queue.

The final option, a new COVID-19 hardship landing page, links directly to a triage form. After the form is submitted, the request is placed in an assessment queue.

Once a hardship request is made and entered an assessment queue, it is then fed into a triage bot and subsequently filtered into different teams, with the level of assistance required helping to determine where the request will be sent. 

In some cases, a hardship request is approved quickly using the information provided by the customer when contacting SocietyOne via email or the COVID-19 hardship landing page. Other cases require the collection of further information before an approved hardship agreement could be settled.

Making it through to the other side

“At any time and in any circumstance, applying for financial hardship assistance can be stressful, but doing so in the midst of a pandemic certainly took things to the next level for customers. 

Facing financial challenges and the prospect of unemployment, stress and anxiety levels were high for many of them,” says Chan.

SocietyOne’s new triage process, however, reduces the number of pain points encountered when applying for hardship, making the process simpler and quicker for all. With one less thing to worry about, it provides customers with additional time to focus on their wellbeing and other financial commitments.

With the new system in action, SocietyOne has been able to assess more than 2,000 customer hardship requests in a four-week period. Utilising the triage bot technology and the new streamlined process, the company’s average processing time for requests fell from five days to less than one.

“While we were able to innovate in response to the challenges we faced, we also found that adopting a customer-first approach was incredibly beneficial not only for our customers but also for our business in general,” says Chan.

Though the satisfaction of its customers was enough of a reward during this difficult time, SocietyOne was also recognised on the 2020 Australian Financial Review Most Innovative Companies list for their COVID-19 hardship response. 

Awarded second place in the Banking, Super and Financial Services category, the new system proved to not only be a game changer for the company, but also in the industry too.


SocietyOne is an award-winning marketplace lender, providing Australians with a better deal on a personal loan. SocietyOne’s 100% online application process rewards customers that have a good credit history by giving them a great low rate. Whether consolidating debts, renovating your home or planning a holiday, SocietyOne’s customers love the quick and easy application and low rates. Plus there's no ongoing monthly or early exit fees!

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