In August, Scott Harris of SocialSurvey invited SA Ibrahim to their Menlo Park, CA, offices, to talk about their Create WOW Summit. Shortly after this interview, SocialSurvey held its annual event, bringing together mortgage industry leaders to present and network.
Harris talked with Ibrahim about how important it is for companies to maintain their reputation socially, and how SocialSurvey is quickly growing into to go-to in the mortgage industry for its strong social results.
Q&A with Scott Harris and SA Ibrahim
SA Ibrahim: Scott, it’s a real pleasure to be here this morning and to be here in your location. We’re looking forward to capturing some of your energy and some of the energy that SocialSurvey has going forward in terms of the rapid success you’ve achieved and shared with our audience.
Scott Harris: Yeah. We’re having fun. Thanks for being a part of it SA. You’re a big part of our success here.
SA Ibrahim: My pleasure. So let’s start off first by talking about your business. SocialSurvey has so many, such wide capabilities. Can you talk about how your solutions can work in multiple verticals, but most importantly, how did you find your sweet spot in the mortgage industry?
Scott Harris: So the mortgage industry’s been really good to me and it’s been good to our company. We spend a lot of time focusing on automated work flows for this industry and true to form the mortgage industry continues to be good to us because building the tool properly for mortgage has seen it’s way to being the perfect tool for so many verticals. We have not until today, we have not really focused on another vertical. We have solely focused on really putting our arms around mortgage. There are so many things to do for this customer and just building the right sales team and building the right success team and creating the promise and ideals around executing on that promise has taken the first couple years of our existence and it’s been a great success.
Scott Harris: I mean, we went from AFN which was our first serial number 001. Nobody wants to be serial number 001. Those guys have just signed their fourth contract so we went from one to many. We went to 130-plus and nearly 30,000 users and we are really just beginning the process of scaling. We’re about one percent of our potential. Again it’s really just wrapping our arms around this industry and saying how do we serve this industry best? How do we keep those promises and what should those look like? Practicing a lot of active listening and understanding how our products should evolve. When we got into this, we had a survey platform that shared reviews on Facebook. We’re a way different product. We’re a way bigger offering now just by listening to the product and the customer.
Scott Harris: My sweet spot in mortgage, I started out in real estate. I sold lots of homes. I was one of the top agents in the United States for volume. I had the Fannie May contact for foreclosures in Ohio. Lots of foreclosures where I come from. I had the Fannie May and the HUD contract. I dealt with [CalRio 00:03:27] and [Aqua 00:03:28] and a lot of those companies. I had so many transactions and so many buyers that I had to build solutions just to handle the business. We started building just solutions for ourselves and eventually, competitors were like, I gotta have that. We started building marketing tools to promote the listings and competitors were like, I gotta have that. So over the years I’m ashamed to say I was a shiny object guy, but I paid a lot of tuition. So we built a marketing center. We built recruiting center. We built the first automated mortgage lending tool. We called it My Turbo Loan back in 2006.
Scott Harris: We built PipelineManagers and IsNowListed and RealPro and I could go on longer than I should with that, but we got into the mortgage industry through a natural evolution of building tools to meet our needs. Then really getting that development bug and mortgage companies just over time, the ebbs and flows of it, we started peddling those products to other companies and mortgage companies where we really took hold and built some really awesome relationships.
SA Ibrahim: So Scott, you were ahead of the pack in terms of focusing on online reputation as a key to success. It’s particularly important in this age of social media. How do you explain that?
Scott Harris: So when I go around the country and speak at conferences, I always as one question to start. I say, “How do you get your business?” 100% of the time the answer is referrals. We’ve been hearing that I get my business from referrals forever and if you really think about it, online reviews are the natural evolution of that same idea. People do a great job for their customer and then maybe if they find out that one of their friends needs a loan, they’re gonna say, “Hey, you should use so and so. They really gave me a great experience.” That’s a user story. We are in the day, the age of user stories. There are so many and this is one of those transactions where it’s life changing. These stories are fun and real and I heard on the other day that was a wife of a military guy and the military guy was in Iraq. She did the loan, but she never had to do the loan before. She never had to do any of this work before.
Scott Harris: The loan officer literally, the story that she told, the loan officer basically carried her across the goal line and she couldn’t have done it without that loan officer. Now that is a great referral to get, but what’s better? Digitizing that customers voice and sharing it so ever military wife, every military couple can see it when and where they need to see it. If you get that voice and amplify it on Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn and Google and Yelp or Zillow, lots of other people … Here’s another really cool impact. That person who’s telling that story, most of their Facebook friends are probably also in the military. Right?
Scott Harris: I want that experience for myself. You’re still gonna get those referrals, but for us it’s just common sense now, the way these platforms are evolving is that same referral is an online asset that creates more business. We did a survey of our active users and they reported a 13.7% growth in business from collecting and sharing the voice of their customer.
SA Ibrahim: So you basically sensitize people to the fact that online reputation matters. How’d you help them improve their online reputations and how does that help them be more successful?
Scott Harris: A lot of ways. Our product is not just collecting happy reviews and sharing them. Our product goes way deeper. It’s true voice. We only deal with companies who will sign up the entire company and we only deal with companies that will survey 100% of their customers. You have to, at the core of your company, our partners all believe that the true voice of the customer is critical because it’s how you make improvement as a company. It’s how you, yes, you can escalate or you can amplify the voice of your happiest customers. That’s true. That’s marketing, but you can also use it as a middle management tool. Who are your top performers in the way they treat their customers? For years we’ve been rewarding the top performers for volume, but now we can reward by collecting the voice of all of your closed loans and collecting that voice by agent. We call that player integration. Now we give every agent a score. We’re able to rank every agent and every branch against each other so think about the way that SocialSurvey has put data in motion to drive outcomes and you can drive it down to the behaviors that drive those outcomes. Ego. Number one driver. We all love it when people say good things about us. We have customers that say they’d rather see a good review come through than get a paycheck. So ego is such a driver collecting the voice and sharing the voice so that I feel good about myself when people say good things.
Scott Harris: Competitiveness. I want to win. So when I see my face and how oh I’ve got 60% response rate and I’ve got 4.9 stars and I’m in second place. How do I get in first place? So that’s a behavior. Driving people to want to treat their customers better. Then you have accountability. When someones upset and you’re collecting the true voice of the customer and our tool is able to escalate it to their manager and their managers manager and so literally knowing that this is happening and knowing the response rates that we’re getting, it’s changing the conversation with the customer. So ego, accountability, competitiveness and then compensation. Obviously a real driver is that 13.7% in growth. Our levels of engagement are like none other in the industry. We engage and send 100% of the surveys out and we get roughly 80% of the loan officers to connect to their own social media.
Scott Harris: Our average completion rate for surveys because of these drivers, because of the engagement is 54%.
SA Ibrahim: That’s fantastic.
Scott Harris: Yeah.
SA Ibrahim: How have you improved the online ratings of some of the customers? I know you’ve got some great examples.
Scott Harris: So SocialSurvey is a tool. These companies are doing a great job. Their doing great work. All SocialSurvey is doing is collecting and amplifying. You see New American Funding who has collected 30 thousand online reviews in a year and a half from 60% of their customers. Those online reviews for New American Funding have been shared over a quarter millions times online.
SA Ibrahim: Wow.
Scott Harris: That kind of activity … Good activity begets good activity, right? If you lookup just about any of their locations on Google across hundreds of locations, you’re gonna see 4.8, 4.9 or 5 stars on Google across all their locations.
SA Ibrahim: So Scott, all of us deal with a lot of challenges in life and don’t let the challenges defeat us and if we [inaudible 00:12:18] opportunity. How have those challenges helped you build SocialSurvey to a better level and how have some of your life challenges helped you prepare for what you’re doing at SocialSurvey?
Scott Harris: There’s a couple ways to answer that I think. My business partner, Scott Devito used to call all the things that we did, all the mistakes that we made, all the … He said, “That’s tuition.” Then sometimes I’d have to learn it twice and he’d say, “Look. it’s not tuition if you’re not learning from it.” I’ve paid a lot of tuition. So that’s one thing. The other thing is in my house on any given day when you come in you’ll see nine people. I have a grand baby that lives with me. We have five children and then I and my son-in-law and you have to sort of embrace the chaos. You have to sort of love the chaos in order to do that. You have to adopt the adage ‘this to shall pass’. We have high energy and we’re very active and I think also as you pay tuition and as you embrace the chaos, you also have to put the best people around you. I think that the tuition that I’ve learned over and over again is that you can have the best product, but if you don’t put the best team behind it you’ve got nothing. The team and the ability for the team to just take it and run and make decisions and make good decisions and have your trust and to rise above whatever expectations you have, that’s the whole business.
SA Ibrahim: And that’s your personality. Every successful entrepreneur injects some of their personality into shaping the success of their team, picking that team and shaping the success of the company. How has your personality uniquely shaped SocialSurvey and the team around you?
Scott Harris: To be determined. We are a work in progress, but I would say that the one that … So we like to create wow. We say it in everything we do, but I would say that another saying that, I have another business partner repeats and you’ve heard it a thousand times that 90% of life is showing up. I feel like that’s the trait that if somebody’s upset and I hear something going on I’m like, “Stop. Pick up the phone. Let’s call him right now.” It’s all about doing the right thing and showing up for your customer and showing up for your employees and showing up for each other.
Scott Harris: I’d say if there’s anything about my personality is keep it positive, keep it fun and show up, but to be determined. We still got a lot of work to do.
SA Ibrahim: So speaking of wow, you’ve got the WOW Summit coming up and how are you going to ensure that everybody who attends that summit walks away with a wow?
Scott Harris: Right, so let me sum up the summit in one word. Transformational. The reason it’s transformational is not just for the attendees. The reason that it’s transformational is also for us, for our staff. A lot happens. We, like I said before, we practice something we call extreme listening. We’re very active in the way that we listen. The summit happens every September now. It’s going to happen. It is key to our success. We don’t just believe it, we know it. No question about it. Here’s kind of why. Think about our summit like our end of the year.
Scott Harris: Not fiscally, but think about it like our end of our development year or end of our sales year. Think about it in a way that, and back to the point that I made earlier, there’s nothing like a deadline. This is our deadline. So if you know that all of your customers are coming together in September, what does that do to you as a team? It changes everything. It’s accountability for us. We make all kinds of promises. We gotta keep all those promises. We make all kinds of development promises. You can’t show up to the summit with all your customers and say, “Not so fast.” You have to keep those promises.
Scott Harris: The first thing I would say that the summit does is it’s our end of the year accountability exercise where we get nose to nose with our customers and by that point have kept our promises. Our activity with reaching out to customers right now is unprecedented. We’re in front of our customers all the time right now because we’re trying to make sure that they’re getting top level execution. Our activity for the way that we think about development and the way we try to finish projects and the way we try to kickstart the next years projects is in high gear. It’s so easy as the years go on and the busyness of the year goes on to skip over things and to not continue to innovate and not continue to push forward, but you can’t do that when you have a deadline like this.
Scott Harris: So one, it’s huge end of the year accountability exercise for us. Two, active listening. We put our customers in the room and say this is what we built, what else do you need. Our customers debate and they have conversations and they tell us what features they want and then before they walk out of the room, they [inaudible 00:18:27] those features, developing our priority, our development road map.
SA Ibrahim: Who better than the customer could do that. I’m looking forward to the summit and wish you success in advance. The final question is progress is often one step at a time and ideally each subsequent step is bigger than the previous step. Describe how that has helped you get to this point in SocialSurvey and what does that mean for Scott personally in life as a next step?
Scott Harris: Good question so the way I think about what’s next is we have so much work to do. Just the same as we went from one customer to many in mortgage, the mortgage industry has taught us a model how to treat a customer, how to put your arms around an industry, how to build sales in that industry, how to keep a promise. We’ve really learned something that is portable. Our product will also work in other verticals. So now thanks to this great industry that’s been so good to us and we will continue to be good to it, it makes so much sense to take this product to real estate. Our mortgage folks have been begging us to take it to the realtors for a long time. To take it to the insurance industry and then some other verticals.
Scott Harris: So slowly we come making sure that we are taking our same ideas, the love of customer and the keeping the promise, keeping those same ideas into those next verticals as we begin to push those boulders uphill. I think we have a lot of work to do. It’s about two things. Growing the platform into other verticals and continuing to innovate to stay way ahead of the competition.
SA Ibrahim: Scott, thank you so much for your time and it was great to catch you and as you describe this, this was work in progress so we look forward in a year or two to coming back and repeating with this with you and seeing where you are at that time. I’m sure you’ll be a lot further than even you think you’ll be.
Scott Harris: Yeah. My vision is pretty big so that’ll be awesome. Thank you SA.
SA Ibrahim: Great. Thanks.