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VIDEO: SLB meeting demands, despite challenges

BY NADINE WILSON Observer staff reporter wilsonn@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, March 11, 2014    

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Despite challenges with funding, high delinquency and a shortage of staff, executive director of the Students' Loan Bureau (SLB) Monica Brown believes the organisation has, for the most part, been able to meet the demands placed on its resources.

"We have seen some improvements. In fact, this year has been the best year from a funding perspective since I have been at the SLB. Normally at this time, we are still struggling to determine how we are going to fund the remaining disbursements. I am not saying we are totally there, but in terms of where we are now, we are fairly comfortable," she said.

Brown took over as executive director of the bureau in 2010. She told reporters and editors during the Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange yesterday that she was particularly pleased with the reduction in complaints levelled against the bureau over the past few years.

"Not that we are satisfied, because we won't be satisfied until those complaints are eliminated and until our customer service is at a world class standard, but it is difficult in an environment where your resources are stretched thin," she said.

Public relations officer at the bureau, Analisa Allen, said that every effort is made to communicate with applicants and to address their issues. She feels this is part of the reason for the reduction in complaints.

"Over the years, let's say in 2007, possibly for a week we would have had 20 complaints and right now we are looking at less than 10 complaints per week or per month, so significantly, the customer service has improved. The SLB is a work in progress and we continue to do things and put measures in place to ensure that we can deliver on what we claim to be delivering, which is good customer service," she said.

Brown pointed out that their system network has also been a critical area which they are making efforts to improve.

"We are well on our way to getting a better system to manage the loan portfolio and that in itself will help with the whole issue of data integrity," she said.

The executive director had high praises for her staff, who she said, continue to work hard despite the constraints.

"In 2006, when we were getting 6,000 applications, we had 70-odd staff, now we are getting several times that, over 15,000 applications, and we are still working with 70-odd staff," she explained.

Allen said applicants can help the bureau to process loans faster by not waiting until the last minute to submit the necessary documents to secure loans.

"In reality, the early bird catches the worm, so the persons at the back end of the process always end up with the complaints of poor customer service and that type of thing," she said.

SLB TEAM 5:

Tony Lewars, chairman of the Students' Loan Bureau (SLB) Council, is supported by SLB Executive Director Monica Brown (left) as he makes a point during yesterday's Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange. With them is SLB Public Relations Officer Analisa Allen. (PHOTO: NAPHTALI JUNIOR)

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