It’s no secret that digital technology continues to play an increasingly prominent role in modern society.

For many, smart devices now take the place of credit cards and travel tickets, with some even ditching their regular weekly shop, replaced by a simple online transaction and delivery service, which can be completed in minutes and at a time that suits them.

While convenience is typically the driving factor for the adoption of new technologies, a cultural shift is also influencing the pathway of how people access services. Service providers are now expected to be contactable at a moment’s notice via a range of platforms – traditional phone lines must be supported by frequently monitored social media channels, live chat and email correspondence teams.

For those individuals struggling with money problems, admitting your situation and reaching out for help is often the hardest part. Couple this with the prospect of a daunting phone call to a ‘stranger’ and this can be enough for some people to abandon their efforts altogether.

Debt undoubtedly remains a taboo that people still feel ashamed to talk about, with 68% of people preferring to engage with PayPlan digitally rather than over the phone.

To meet this digital demand, we launched PlanFinder in May 2017, which is an ‘assisted self-serve’ I&E tool which allows people to complete a full financial assessment online, and at a time that suits them.

Credit Bureau Data is used to pre-populate some elements of the I&E and advisers are always on hand via live chat to support people through the process, with completion typically achieved in 18 minutes.

It has proven markedly more popular for our core demographic of clients, 45 percent of which are 25-35 years of age, most likely to work full time and are digitally savvy. Customer engagement levels have improved by 30 percent, as has speed to outcome.

After using PlanFinder to complete their financial statement and receive regulated debt advice people can complete their journey digitally using our app, PayPlanPlus. The app offers electronic signatures, scanning of documents, direct messaging with a case officer, the setting up of direct debits, plus ongoing management including annual reviews.

These digital services have also transformed the customer journey from creditors to PayPlan. In a shift away from traditional signposting and ‘hot keying’, creditors can now use a digital referral forms to instruct PayPlan to call or email their customers back. By enabling the customer to engage through their preferred channel and at a time that suits them, has seen some creditors achieve a tenfold increase in take up of free debt advice.

Undoubtedly digital debt advice has delivered many benefits but it has not been without its challenges. Technology only gets you so far – building a ‘digital rapport’, learning ‘digital behaviours’ and multi-skilling colleagues to deal with ‘channel hop’ are all critical elements that require just as much focus as any tech development. We have a long way to go and a lot to still learn but these are very exciting times for the industry as we all evolve together to meet the ever increasing and complex demands of those struggling with debts.

Peter Munro, Partnerships Director, Payplan