Yes, even Springleaf has problems.
To be totally honest, this personal loan provider, which has been around since 1920, is one of the best around.
For one, Springleaf is one of the highest-rated personal lenders on The Best Companys, based on our review and actual customer reviews. And those good reviews don't end with our site. Look on any consumer review site (unless it's a site like Pissed Consumer that only collects negative reviews) and you'll see that the overwhelming majority of reviews about Springleaf are very positive.
And then, even when negative reviews are present, you'll notice a strong pattern: Springleaf Financial is very good at monitoring and responding to negative customer reviews. On Consumer Affairs, for instance, every negative review about Springleaf is responded to with something like:
"Thank you for your comments and bringing this matter to our attention. We would like the opportunity to reach out with you and discuss this matter. Someone will be reaching out to you shortly."
This pattern continues with complaints filed against the company with the Better Business Bureau. Out of the 453 complaints that have been filed against Springleaf with the BBB and closed in the last three years, 99 of those have been resolved between Springleaf and the customer. Springleaf has responded to 352 of those complaints with no response from the customers who filed the complaints. And only two were labeled 'unpursuable'.
So obviously, Springleaf leads the pack when it comes to personal loan providers and responding to customer concerns, but even the best companies have room for improvement. Is there anything about their products or services that rubs their customers the wrong way?
The short answer is 'yes'. According to our evaluation of complaints against Springleaf Financial on our site and other consumer review sites, these five complaints are the most common:
The story usually goes something like this. Customer receives pre-approval or approval for a loan via email or phone. Then Springleaf asks for paperwork about income, employment, etc. Customer obliges. Then unexpectedly, the customer is told their application has been declined. Customer is, understandably, miffed.
Perhaps the most frustrating part of this too-common scenario is how mysterious or confusing Springleaf can be regarding the reasons-or how poorly they answer the question: "But if I was approved two days ago, why am I declined now?"
A review submitted on The Best Companys by one M. Gash relayed this familiar story, with a perplexing twist:
"When asked why [I was declined], it was for income. When asked to verify what income they based the decision on, it was discovered that my income was input incorrectly by the verification department. I asked to have it reprocessed with the correct income info. Two weeks and several phone calls later, a supervisor, Laura, said that some higher manager, whom she would not identify, calculated my 'budget' and determined that I did not qualify for any type of loan! This is the same income that was given when I initially applied and was told via email and phone I was approved! "
These problems raise some serious questions about Springleaf's methods of getting customers to apply. Are the so-called approval or pre-approval messages not based on any kind of calculation at all, but just to get customers into the door? At the very least, this practice is bound to hurt the company's otherwise stellar record with those customers who are "approved" only to be subsequently denied.
A cure for this issue would be for Springleaf to make their initial "approval" process an actual approval process, to let customers know up front if they really and truly qualify, break the bad news to those who don't, and continue with those who do. In general, customers value transparency and honesty over false hopes.
Not even close. In fact, while not quite at payday loan interest levels, Springleaf's interest rates are on the higher end, closer to those of the types of credit cards most financial gurus would warn you away from.
One Consumer Affairs complaint from Leonard of Dunnellon, Florida, for example, told of being charged 30% APR. In comparison, he found a car loan with Santander Bank for 15.5% (almost half) and a car loan with Ally Bank for a relatively tiny 10%.
If anything, this highlights the fact that Springleaf's loans are really geared toward a very specific market: those people who don't qualify for your typical bank loans but aren't in deep enough trouble to seek out payday loans. Those who don't fall into this category might do well to seek loans at traditional banks and lending institutions before going to Springleaf.
Many online customer complaints express frustration over being neglected or just plain forgotten partway through Springleaf's application and approval process.
"I filled out an application online," said one anonymous customer on PissedConsumer.com. "They called me back over a month later. The lady I spoke to apologized and took more information, then said she promised she would call me back the next day. It's been three weeks and I still haven't gotten that call back."
Sticker shock is a problem with most lenders, and Springleaf is no exception. Many customer complaints tell of being hurried through the application process, approval, and, finally, receiving the loan, and then being surprised when extra fees show up in their first bill.
Sometimes this happens because a Springleaf employee glosses over additional fees for insurance and other charges.
"He [the loan officer] added all kinds of insurance for unemployment and disability," said Brandon of Smyrna, Tennessee, a Springleaf customer, on Consumer Affairs. "He told me it was 'built into the loan'. By the time we finished, the actual amount I was approved for was $2500, but $500 of that went to all the insurance premiums that were 'built into the loan'."
For Brandon and other customers, this process feels underhanded and less than transparent and makes them less likely to return to Springleaf for another loan.
I've already mentioned how proactive Springleaf is with customer complaints. Within days of complaints being posted on sites like Consumer Affairs, Springleaf reps have posted courteous responses reaching to to make things better. This is a step in the right direction that all companies would do well to emulate.
Having said that, an online olive branch should not be mistaken for a healed relationship. Too often, an earnest-sounding invitation from Springleaf to "talk things over" can lead to a disingenuous effort to gloss over customer concerns in hopes of getting those negative reviews taken down.
On Consumer Affairs, one customer told of applying for a second loan with Springleaf, only to be yelled at by the branch manager. Springleaf responded promptly with this contrite-sounding reply:
"Thank you for your comment. Providing quality customer services is important to us. We would be happy to discuss these concerns with you. Someone from our team will be contacting you shortly to discuss. Thanks."
Although this response sounded like it was from a company ready to apologize for a customer service breakdown, such was not the case.
"I was contacted by a representative of Springleaf Customer Service who listened to my complaint about my horrible experience," the customer said in an update. "All she did was say, 'Sorry this happened,' and she didn't have anything to offer me for compensation. I was humiliated and embarrassed in front of the whole Springleaf staff by management and there is nothing they could do. Then why did they contact me? This was a complete waste of time."
There are plenty of personal lenders out there who make it clear that they really don't care what their disgruntled customers say about them on consumer review sites or social media. If Springleaf is really serious about establishing a higher level of customer service, they're going to need to learn to not only hear customer complaints, but to go out of their way to fix problems.
It's hard to point out what's wrong with a company like Springleaf when they clearly go above and beyond to be better than their average competitors. First, I reiterate here that Springleaf stands in the top three personal lenders that we've had the pleasure to review here on The Best Companys. But second, even the best companies have flaws that are part of the risk of doing business with them. This doesn't mean that you, as a consumer, will experience these problems every time you interact with Springleaf. But it does mean that you should be aware of what has happened to other customers and could happen to you.
To see a full list of the pros and cons of working with Springleaf Financial, read our full review of Springleaf and 236 reviews from real customers today!