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Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service Finds Efficiency with Salesforce

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service Finds Efficiency with Salesforce

By: Luis Sevilla

The Objective

Since 1939, over half a million refugees have found new homes and communities because of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) dedication to helping vulnerable people across the globe. They provide many services to help refugees settle into their new lives. Those services include resettlement programs, refugee youth career development, foster care services, family reunification, and other programs that empower refugees.

As part of the resettlement process, a refugee’s travel is arranged under a loan program by the International Organization for Migration. Refugees make a promise to pay back the interest-free loan in a pre-determined time frame. LIRS works with the International Organization for Migration to manage the loans, and refugees make payments and changes to their loans through LIRS. 

LIRS was managing the loans through an inefficient loan system that took a lot of time to manage. They chose to adopt Salesforce to make their processes more efficient and reliable.

The Problem

LIRS’s loan servicing unit was on its third loan management system within the last five years. They were using a system that was unreliable and inflexible. There was no easy way to record payments, pull accurate reports, or automate tasks. The lack of trust in the system meant that things like invoices had to be double-checked by a person for accuracy, and if something was wrong, it had to be manually changed.

The deferment process was extremely inefficient and manual as well. Whenever a refugee needed a deferment, the old system required 20 steps to make it happen. That meant when there was a large number of deferments to process, staff members had to divide the task among themselves to get it done on time. It took up valuable time that could have been used to check in and work directly with refugees.

The Solution

LIRS needed a new flexible and reliable system for the loan servicing unit. They chose Salesforce because of the ability to customize it to their needs, automate a lot of their processes, connect it to their payment portal, and easily pull reports for the International Organization for Migration and the credit bureaus.

LIRS partnered with Idealist Consulting to help with the move. Idealist's consultants were able to work with LIRS staff to discover how LIRS would use the system through user stories to customize Salesforce to their needs.

Originally, Rana Almishlib, Loans Operations Specialist, was hesitant about the change due to poor experiences with prior systems. But she said that the consultants provided a lot of knowledge about how to properly use Salesforce, held multiple tests with real data, and were fun to work with. By the end of the project, Almishlib's original worries were no longer there. She and her team were confident in their new system.

The Result

LIRS now has an effective system that they feel confident using, can easily pull reports from, and saves their team valuable time. What used to be time-consuming tasks can be completed quickly. Common loan management duties used to take 30 minutes to complete, but now a staff member can perform the same tasks in less than ten minutes. Processing deferments no longer takes a team of people, thanks to Salesforce's automation capabilities. 

Salesforce also helped LIRS to easily manage the large influx of deferments that the COVID-19 outbreak caused. Terry Holthause, Director for Loans Operations and Management, said Salesforce made it easy for them to handle a large number of loan changes brought on by the pandemic. 

Now that fewer hours have to be allocated to perform administrative tasks, LIRS has extra time to check in with refugees and help with resettlement.

In their words:

“[Salesforce] brings simplicity and confidence,” said Almishlib.

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