The collections process – evolution before revolution

Investment in digital technologies is one way to improve the collections process, says David Webber.

The collections process – evolution before revolution. Story by David Webber for ieDigital.

Being involved in a collections process can be a difficult and often distressing process. Even something as innocuous as the ringing of a phone can come to make a person’s blood run cold, as they anticipate yet another difficult conversation on missed payments.

For businesses, debt collection creates its own difficulties. Ensuring that bills are paid on time and in full requires a long-term relationship with customers, one in which businesses must work hard to ensure they remain as accessible as possible. Making the process simple and straightforward is crucial. This starts with making certain that customers are engaged in a way that’s convenient and adaptable. Investment in digital technologies is one such way to approach this challenge.

Debt collection solutions and human interaction

Traditionally, businesses have relied on the ‘call and collect’ method: contacting customers via the phone. It’s an approach which, until recent years, has worked well. However, times have changed and behaviours have changed with them. Phone calls are no longer the primary method of communication. Instead, people now use everything from online messaging apps to email and social media as the de facto method of everyday communication. Digital messaging also means customers can deal with an awkward situation in private, without the embarrassment of being forced to take a debt collection phone call at work or with friends. At the same time, the increasing cost of call centres means it’s no longer efficient to employ large numbers of people to complete outbound calling. Businesses that are on the lookout for ways to decrease costs could well find value in digitising – and possibly automating – some of their communication channels.   

Engaging customers on this journey is vital to success. This is a sure way to not only get the debt paid, but for those businesses that seek return customers, it’s an effective way of supporting users through a traditionally difficult process. One essential way of engaging customers is allowing them to choose their preferred communications channel. Giving customers that choice – whether it be via online portal, a phone call, or even a letter – will help create a feeling of support. When it comes to debt collection solutions, human interaction is vitally important, and ensuring that digital and non-digital channels are integrated to assist customers and offer them a personalised digital customer journey through the course of the relationship.

For many organisations, this means using a mix of web chat, SMS contact, chatbots and email, as well as providing clear contact details for customers to call if they choose.

The key to digital innovation in collections

Targeted content is also key to increasing customer engagement. Relevant and personalised information, with bespoke payment options, are logical steps to take to assist customers through the collections process. No one likes receiving an email or phone call that has obviously been copied and pasted, contains only basic information, and fails to provide answers to specific questions. Tailoring communication and addressing customer concerns at the outset will go a long way in encouraging customers to engage with the process. Additionally, providing an easy-to-use online dashboard that clearly outlines all payments made against a debt, and with live updates, will enable customers to remain on the front foot throughout the process.

The key to digital innovation in collections is to evolve, not revolutionise. Although the ‘call and collect’ method may no longer be the most effective, it’s still relevant, and for some customers is a preferred channel of communication. Strategically integrating traditional methods and digital innovation, along with providing personalised content, will mean all customers are engaged, ensuring that the best results are achieved for the collectors and those making the payments.


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