Last week, I talked about the need to put customer service at the forefront of a collections strategy. But how do you do that and still reduce delinquency? With any strategy for customer engagement, it’s important to take stock of the person you’re trying to reach. Here are some of the defining characteristics of the modern customer that you should consider when attempting to collect a past due bill: Just about every one of them has a mobile phone – and they always have it with them. Forty percent live in mobile-only households and another 10% are “mobile-mostly,” meaning that even if they have a home phone, they prefer their mobile for voice communications.
In this mobile reality, they’re always connected and highly demanding. Instant access to information and communication channels means they are empowered to make better-informed choices about who to do business with – and complain if they are not satisfied. Today’s customer is impatient and wants immediate results – and they are not shy about sharing their opinions on which companies fail to deliver a good experience.
That’s why we call this the age of the NOW customer. So, how do you get the NOW customer to pay you without sacrificing the experience? Here’s three things you’ll want to do:
1. Get on their “to-do” list
That bill they’ve forgotten about or couldn’t quite pay last month is not going to start off as a priority for their day – they’ve already got plenty of those. You’ve got to get their attention.
Because the NOW customer is so mobile, we think proactive engagement in digital channels like voice and text messaging, email and push notifications is the best way to do this. From the customer’s perspective, these automated communications are quicker and less intrusive than a conversation with an agent and from your perspective, much less expensive.
They’re also expected. Our research found that more than seven out of 10 Americans think they could have avoided an issue if the companies they do business with had proactively contacted them.
One implication of this is that if you are waiting to reach out to a past due customer until after a late charge is assessed, you are probably waiting too long.
2. Make it easy to pay you
Once you’ve gotten their attention, you need to make it as easy as possible for them to pay you. Like all of their other chores, they want it done with minimal fuss, quickly and easily.
Research published in the Harvard Business Review shows that customers place a high value on the ease and speed of transacting. Making it easier to pay you might make a difference the next time a cash strapped customer is sorting through which bills to pay and which ones to put aside.
One way to do this is by leveraging previous payment preferences to enable shorter, easier electronic payment experiences. Offering to re-use the payment method they paid with last time is a best practice. If you also allow minimum payment amounts, as in the case of credit card or variable payment terms as is common for insurance, making the customer’s last transaction type the first payment option this time can keep things simple.
3. Leave no doubt it’s paid
Finally, while today’s customers increasingly prefer to serve themselves, they’re not always sure they have done it right. In our recent “Connected Conversations” survey, we found that 85% of Americans who have used an automated system for self-service contacted the business after the transaction to make sure it was completed properly. This may be because nearly half of the survey respondents said they had experienced an issue because they didn’t receive a confirmation of an automated transaction.
This strongly suggests that sending a digital confirmation message following a self-service payment (even if you provide a transaction reference number at the time the payment is made) is a best practice for improving the customer experience and avoiding the cost of their follow up calls.