In my last two posts, I talked about strategies for collecting from the NOW customer without sacrificing the customer experience. One key strategy here is using proactive engagement through digital channels, both to improve the customer experience and to save you operational costs. So what expectations should you have for a proactive engagement system?
- Connect the Conversation: At the base level, you want support for multiple channels on a single platform – voice messaging, email, SMS, and smartphone push notifications. But it has to be coordinated across these channels with a logical progression from one to another in a way that considers what communication has already been attempted, what the response was and then uses this information to provide context. If your system calls, texts and emails your customer all at the same time, there’s a good chance they’ll be confused and probably annoyed!
- Consistency is Key: Another important feature of proactive engagement through interactive voice or SMS text messages is that they say what you want them to say 100% of the time. This eliminates the inevitable variation – and potentially, any bad experiences – that can be created depending on which collector is on the phone. When you consider how many customers claim to have been harassed or threatened by collectors, having control of what’s said to the customer can make a huge difference.
- Make it Easy to Pay: Once the customer is ready to pay, you want to make it easy to do so. The first step is to streamline your pay-by-phone application. That may mean getting rid of long, complicated touch-tone menus, which can put too many steps between a customer and making a payment. A conversational IVR that uses speech recognition and natural language understanding will allow customers to respond to a simple prompt of “what would you like to do?” with “I want to make a payment. ”And, it doesn’t end with optimizing voice applications. We know that for some segments of your customer base, you’re better off “putting it in writing” in a text or email message. When using these for collections, in addition to providing the pay-by-phone dial in number, you can also include a URL that links to your online payment portal.
- Promises for the Future: Other than the odd customer who truly just forgot, past due customers are more typically juggling their bills and trying to get them all paid…eventually. That’s why if they can’t pay today, you want to get a promise to pay – and automation can help. For example, if a customer replies to a message with “I can’t pay you until next Thursday,” an automated text response enabled by natural language understanding would reply, “Thank you, we will update our systems with your plan to pay next Thursday” and enter a promise to pay into the collections system. By why stop there? You should also consider allowing customers to authorize future-dated payments. From a collections perspective, securing a payment today to be processed on an agreed-upon date in the future is much better than accepting a promise to pay.
- Don’t Forget the Compliance Rules: Finally, proactive engagement strategies can use automation to simplify the task of keeping compliant with various federal and state laws about customer communication. Because automated campaigns are rules-based, they don’t start too early or end too late. They can be configured to limit both the number of attempts within a day as well as over a longer period of time, and the most sophisticated systems can also leverage explicit and implicit customer preferences on things like channel, language and timing. A well-designed system will also include the analytics and reporting capabilities necessary to document compliance.
As I said in my post a few weeks ago, collections is a customer service. While the technology of collections certainly has changed over the past 35 years, customers are still a company’s most valuable asset and should be treated as such. It just doesn’t have to be hard to do it. If you missed my first two blogs on how to reach the NOW customer for collections, please be sure to check them out:
Part 1: Is Collections a Customer Service?
Part 2: Creating a Positive Collections Experience for the NOW Customer