Turning risk underwriting into a big data problem is no small endeavor. ZestFinance needed to build a customer service center that could scale big to match. From start to prototype in 2 days, and from prototype to production in less than a month, ZestFinance solved their problem with Twilio.
ZestFinance pioneered big data underwriting. While traditional underwriters typically consider 10 to 20 variables, ZestFinance’s platform takes into account thousands of signals. By improving underwriting technology and loan servicing, ZestFinance has reduced the cost of short-term credit by 50 percent. A hosted call center powered by Twilio allows the customer service agents of ZestFinance’s lending partners to efficiently communicate with borrowers from across the United States.
ZestFinance was founded on a simple premise: applying big data to underwriting decisions provides more accurate risk assessments and thus lowers the cost of credit to the consumer. Led by Douglas Merrill, Google’s former CIO, ZestFinance first applied its methods to the short-term credit space, helping lending partners to not only better understand credit risk in their own businesses, but also to more accurately determine their borrowers’ creditworthiness. The result: ZestFinance was able to decrease the cost of short-term credit to underbanked consumers by 50 percent.
ZestFinance created a big data-based underwriting and loan-servicing platform that enables lenders to provide credit to consumers underserved by traditional lenders. Initially, this platform ran in parallel to an external PBX that connected call center agents with applicants and borrowers; however, the system required agents to log in to a separate web portal in a different browser, creating friction and reducing productivity. It also wasn’t reliable for call centers in certain rural areas.
In its search for a better communications system, ZestFinance explored nearly every VoIP and PBX offering in the cloud before choosing Twilio’s communications API platform. The deciding factor was the flexibility and simplicity of Twilio’s APIs.
A pair of engineers spent two days developing a proof of concept. In less than a month, a Twilio-powered telephony system was rolled out to a subset of agents. Within the first four months of going live across all agents, the system had processed more than one million minutes of calls.
“Today, even the most rural call center run by our lending partners has a reliable phone system integrated into ZestFinance’s servicing platform,” said Kasia Chmielinski, vp of product management. Depending on their existing technologies and location, call centers use VoIP technologies such as Twilio Client or from Twilio, which leverages existing SIP routing hardware. In cases where they need to send traffic over the public switched telephone network, ZestFinance uses Twilio’s Voice API.
ZestFinance also integrated Twilio SMS solutions in order to provide additional methods of communication between call center agents and borrowers. A combination of efficiency gain and adding methods of communication has led to a 100 percent increase in call contact rate across the system.
Another major advantage of the new call center is cost savings. ZestFinance has seen call costs drop by two-thirds, a savings that can be passed on to the consumer. “Our focus is always on the customer,” said Chmielinski. “By leveraging the Twilio platform to build better tools, we are enhancing the agent experience, which inevitably trickles down to the customer.”