Recovering overdue payments is not the most glamorous part of doing business. There’s no denying that it can be awkward, and changes the dynamic between client and provider. Nonetheless, it’s important work that needs to be optimized in the same way as any sales or customer service process.
Enterprises have several options when it comes to contacting customers, and many opt to send out letters and emails. This seems, at face value, to be a reasonably affordable way to remind customers about their payments.
But relying on written communication raises three immediate problems:
- Customers don’t engage
- Without dialog, you can’t address the root issue
- Letters and emails generate calls
Customers don’t engage
Rates for opening, reading, and responding to letters and emails are very low; customers themselves report that a telephone call is the method most likely to get a response. The number of answered calls is also measurable. Do you know if an email that has been opened was actually read and understood? Do you know whether your letters ever arrived?
You can’t address the root issue
When surveyed, 41% of customers claimed that they went into arrears simply because they forgot they owed money. Those customers just need a reminder, which can come in basically any reliable format. Of course, this doesn’t apply to the 59% – possibly more – who are either deliberately withholding payment, or are in financial difficulty. It’s only by creating a dialog with these customers that businesses can understand what has to happen before the outstanding balance will be met.
Letters and emails generate calls
In a situation where a customer is unwilling or unable to meet their payments, the worse case scenario is that they totally ignore your letters. In the best case scenario, they read a letter and immediately call your customer services to explain. This raises something of an obvious question: if the outcome is going to be a phone call anyway, might it not be simpler (and cheaper) to lead with a phone call in the first place?
[bctt tweet=”1 in 3 people would pay more promptly if they encountered good debt collection practices” username=”babelforce”]
With all of this in mind, it would seem that the case for handling debt recovery over the phone is iron clad. So why are some businesses unsure about making it work?
At babelforce, we’ve spoken to several contact center planners who were concerned about processing enough outbound calls efficiently. There is certainly a lot to optimize, including call scheduling, updating customer details, recycling contacts, triggering further actions, and more.
By optimizing – read ‘automating’ – these processes, any contact center can process a sustainable volume of interactions.
Automation Supports Customers
Businesses fail on debt recovery when they forget what they know about good service. A customer in arrears is still a customer, and handling a difficult situation well is an important part of retention strategy. Over half of consumers switch provider after experiencing poor debt recovery practices. So what makes a good service?
Agents in possession of the facts
Debt usually has a history, meaning agents need to know everything that has happened in previous interactions. Customers don’t want to repeat themselves, so the visibility of their information in real-time is key. Rather than manoeuvring through databases, agents should ideally receive data automatically as calls are connected, through a simple integration of dialler and CRM.
Deeply integrated systems
A common consumer complaint around debt collection occurs when a lack of communication leads to multiple parties, internal and external, attempting to collect on the same payment. Obviously that should never happen, yet when business systems are not deeply integrated, it’s a problem that occurs with alarming frequency.
So when an agent updates case details, the update needs to apply across every business system.
Agent control over scheduling
Resolution can often take more than one conversation, especially with business clients who might need to track down colleagues. That means scheduling follow-ups, and sticking closely to the schedule. Agents should be able to schedule calls with the assurance that those calls are automatically prioritized and placed on time. Taking this integration even further, incoming contacts should be intelligently routed to the agent who is managing that customer’s case, presenting a continuity of service and a human face to your brand.
Strong sign-off procedures
When a customer’s status is updated – every time it is updated – there are numerous changes that occur which should impact future contacts.
If the collection procedure is ongoing, when will the customer next be contacted? Has the customer expressed a preference for contact channel? What kinds of offers will they receive in future, and how will this be shared across sales and marketing systems?
The throughput rate of contacts is going to be intolerably slow if the answers to these questions have to be handled manually by staff in different systems.
The same applies for other simple measures to reduce cost and increase completion rates – confirming call outcomes via SMS for example, or sending emails after a certain number of unanswered calls.
At babelforce, automation is our raison d’etre. We can help your company to introduce sophisticated automations into any aspect of operations where they can be helpful (in our experience, that’s all of them.)
Our simple no-code tools allow almost anyone to create the kind of processes that guarantee efficient and scalable dialling campaigns. So get in touch today to find out what babelforce is going to do for you.