Debt collection is undergoing fundamental changes. In the last six months alone, there has been a ream of calls for a new, “ethical” approach to debt collection, led by the Treasury Select Committee, local authorities and organisations including Citizens Advice and the Money Advice Service.

Utilising innovative communication technologies has become integral to not only improving the rate of collection but also ensuring more robust action is restricted to a minimum to make sure customers are treated sensitively and empathetically. The approach, it is hoped, will improve the treatment of those who owe debts and ensure individual circumstances are considered throughout the communications process.

Leading-edge communications technology

In a bid to keep up with sweeping regulatory changes surrounding debt collection – including The Ministry of Justice’s Pre-Action Protocol for Debt Claims which came into force on 1 October 2018 – companies are turning to the latest advancements in technology to overcome the challenges of outbound communications, while at the same time delivering better debtor engagement, a customer-centric approach, and a more economical and efficient approach to communications.

By deploying cutting edge technology for outbound communications, debt collection businesses can also regain control of costs associated with processing, printing and delivering debtor correspondence; in some cases by as much as 60 percent. Staff productivity levels can also be increased, as employees are no longer burdened with printing, sorting and dispatching mail. By using such systems across multiple sites and departments it is possible to deliver truly multi-channel mailing strategies, combining a multitude of channels, including not just print but also emails and SMS, that drive cost efficiencies.

In the heavily regulated world of debt collection, where highly confidential debtor data is disseminated on a regular basis, debt collection companies require a safe and secure platform on which to do so. Simple, secure, desktop mailing platforms for outgoing mail are providing a solution, enabling staff to generate documents as usual, before the printing, sorting and despatch processes are automated through an encrypted channel, in compliance with ISO 27001, to reduce printing and postal costs and eliminate the risk of human error.

The highly secure platform is ideal for processing and circulating confidential documents, making it popular with debt collection agencies eager to avoid any losses of sensitive information. Discrete barcodes can be added to documents to allow each item to be tracked, whether the document is sent via post or email, which ensures debt collection companies stay on top of what mail has been distributed, to whom and when.

In addition, data can be extracted from documents to report on the frequency of communications to certain debtors or email addresses, facilitating a smarter, more streamlined approach to communications. This, in turn, allows debt collection agencies to deliver targeted communications that can maximise benefits and drive cost savings.

An individualised approach

The data that can be gathered and analysed through innovative technologies can play a fundamental role in tailoring communication strategies to each individual debtor. Debt collection companies can shape messages and tone of voice to meet the individual circumstance of debtors. For instance, some debtors may be in their financial situation due to the loss of a spouse or a long-term illness, necessitating a more sensitive approach.

Streamlined online print systems enable a supervisor or supervisors to search, preview, cancel or release communications created by staff. In turn, allowing them to check for branding, content, tone of voice and other compliance requirements before circulating. Pre-defined documents can also be uploaded for staff to use, further maintaining company standards and achieving brand consistency across all correspondence.

By utilising such communications technologies debt collection companies are able to enhance the communications experience and build trust by engaging with debtors at every stage of the debt recovery journey – from initial reminder notifications or Notices of Sums in Arrears (NOSIA) to setting up payment plans and collection – through clear, timely and continuous communications. The aim is to deliver seamless communication between debtors and collectors, that demonstrates a level of understanding and greater co-operation between both parties.

For debt collection professionals tasked with investing in new state-of-the-art technologies, such crucial insights into each debtor and being able to understand their communication preferences – in what form, when and how they expect to digest information – can be extremely valuable as it can have an impact on both direct costs and increasing the effectiveness and speed of collections.

Debt collectors can use innovative technologies to deal with all outgoing mail, be that correspondence distributed through digital, printed channels or even SMS push notification systems that remind debtors of payment dates. This enables staff to streamline debtor liaison and daily operations within the company, from managing debtor payment plans to sharing invoices and statements, and follow-up. The result is not only a marked improvement in collection rates and customer satisfaction but also improvements in the wider debtor experience due to speeding up response times and follow-up.

Simple to install and set up on internal networks, such systems can also enable debt collection agencies to reduce the time staff has to deal with the fulfilment of letters, freeing employees to focus on core business activities such as customer liaison and critical day-to-day administration tasks.

An opportunity for change

Whilst creating seamless communication channels between collectors and debtors was once a challenge, new technology is playing a key role in facility widespread change and providing an opportunity for the debt collection community to deliver the best possible customer interaction in a difficult and stressful industry.

Debt collection companies of all sizes, therefore, should consider the value of outgoing mail communications. By ensuring a strong platform is in place for outbound mail the customer experience is enhanced, while companies can also take back control of their operating budgets and ensure compliance with legislation.

Partnering with an experienced customer communications expert, such as Paragon Customer Communications, can help debt collection companies to formulate the most effective end-to-end solution for handling their businesses’ outbound communications – all within a cost-effective framework.

Jeremy Hutchins, Paragon Customer Communications, Development Director