The collection industry is facing challenges and changes both now and in the future. Current challenges are a change in practices such as;
- Remote workers – managing agents remotely, keeping them engaged and motivated and providing infrastructure so they can undertake their roles successfully and completely
- A changing customer base – dealing with customers who are on reduced income (furlough) or who are facing potential redundancy or have already been made redundant
- Adaptation – utilising new methods to adapt to the “new normal”
In addition to the challenges above, financial experts are predicting a debt tsunami by the beginning of 2021, so Collection & Arrears functions face a future challenge of potentially rapidly ramping up to handle an influx of new accounts to manage.
‘Agility’ is an industry buzzword, but what does it really mean? I believe it means a company that is dynamic enough to embrace change, to seek opportunity in adversity and one which is poised to accept doing things differently to maintain success. If COVID-19 has taught us one thing, it is that we must embrace the digital revolution and seek out smarter, slicker ways of conducting daily business functions.
Digital engagement can streamline the collections process and can even soften it, as text contact is often viewed as more acceptable or preferable by the individual in debt. In addition, for over 17% of the population, a smartphone is the only method of communication including for access to the internet, and it is important to understand your customers’ needs and preferences and this can be the difference between them engaging with you or not.
Digital Engagement offers the following advantages;
- Software as a Service (SaaS) gives ease of adoption
- Real-time processing, tracking, updating and reporting
- Two-way conversational chat using SMS, email or Social Media
- The ability to allow the customer to self-serve
- Information capture using surveys such as Income and Expenditure for example
- No upfront capital investment for software, simple pay as you use or license model
- High levels of information security, protection and business continuity
- Speed of delivery, digital is instant
- Unobtrusive such as pre-set payment reminders
Digital technologies are assisting Collections & Arrears functions by enhancing the customer experience and engaging with them at every stage of the collection journey. The aim is to offer a good understanding of their individual circumstances and contact preferences while utilising an effective, low cost and measurable means of collection contact thus reducing costs by up to 70%. By adopting these methods across multiple areas of the business and utilising Artificial Intelligence (ChatBot) you can increase your operational efficiency significantly as the digital ‘intelligence’ removes many of the mundane tasks/enquiries to allow your agents to concentrate on effective collections.
While digital allows you to send letters, emails, appointment reminders, messages, etc we must remember the trend that social media is setting. Customers now want to contact you via Omni-channels and may want to use different mediums at different occasions.
In summary, COVID-19 has bought forward organisations digital & customer self-serve plans in order to maintain operational continuity and efficiencies. Collections & Arrears functions cannot afford to be left behind and must consider these cutting edge tools if they are to remain successful in the “new normal” environment.
“Out of clutter, find simplicity. From discord, find harmony. In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity” – Albert Einstein
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About the Author: After a long-term stay in the mobile communications industry Darren co-founded CCS with Paul Nield who met while working together at the Caudwell Group. CCS provide the Mail Master platform to a large DCA client base which is used for digitally engaging customers by sending secure letters, emails, SMS and self-serve portal journeys. In 2019 Mail Master won the Best Customer Engagement category at the Credit Connect Technology Awards and CCS have been listed as finalists in 3 categories at this year’s awards. In the middle part of 2020 CCS launched Omni-Reach, a multi-channel, two-way messaging platform with the assistance of a trainable chatbot. Omni-Reach provides messaging via your website, SMS, e-mail and all forms of social media and is already receiving high praise from the early adopter clients.