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Customers Want New Ways to Engage in Debt Collection Conversations

Cormac O'Neill | CEO at Webio
The Best Man speech at a wedding is renowned for being witty and funny; rarely do you associate it with moments of sage advice. But that’s exactly what I got from my Best Man, a fantastic piece of advice that has stood me in good stead over the last 21 years and its this: the first step to solving most problems starts with communication.
 

Park marital communication for a moment. Some of the most difficult conversations we’ll ever have are those concerning money, more specifically, the lack of it. These conversations are often avoided as they’re uncomfortable, stressful and embarrassing.

At Webio we’re on a mission to change this and reimagine how these difficult conversations about money take place. Why are we doing this? It’s simple, we know that better communication between companies and their indebted customers - communication based on respect and mutual understanding - leads to better outcomes for everyone.

God knows, we’re going to need this more than ever now as living costs in the UK are rising at their fastest pace in 30 years. There is every indication that these conversations are likely to become more frequent – and more fraught.

If we’re going to get through this, the collections industry is going to have to find a way to respond to what’s coming down the road. In fact, some companies are already ahead of the game launching national TV campaigns advertising customer helplines for anyone with money worries.

It’s a recognition that as consumers face an increasingly difficult time, the collections industry is also bracing itself for what could prove to be its biggest challenge.

Difficult trading conditions require a new strategic approach

And as the financial crisis continues to bite, it is the credit and collections teams that will be on the front line engaging with a growing number of at-risk customers who are experiencing unprecedented financial difficulties.

That’s why companies will need to re-think their business strategies to address both sides of the same coin. On the one hand, they need to effectively manage their customer relationships during these challenging times. But they also need to ensure no reputational damage to themselves, while keeping their collection rates high and ahead of others in the market.

It’s a view spelled out in our new report — Customer Connections: The new conversation rules for credit, collections and payments — which has been written specifically for those operating a credit and collections team.

For anyone in the payments industry, the findings provide insights and views that could prove invaluable as people grapple with their finances.

The right communications channel is vital to financial success

The report found, for example, that customers want a variety of different ways to interact with payment and collections teams. Some are happy with phone or email. But increasingly, they want to be able to interact via newer channels — such as WhatsApp and Snapchat — not commonly known as business tools.

When quizzed as to why one in five preferred WhatsApp, people said it was because they don’t want to face the pressure or embarrassment of speaking to someone on the phone.

Similarly, more than a third of those questioned said they preferred to communicate via text message because they ‘felt in control of the conversation’.

In fact, the report identifies seven different channels people say they prefer to use when speaking about their bills or arrears.

The takeaway from this is that people want a blend of approaches that leans on traditional channels supported with conversational AI that ensures brands engage positively with customers across the debt cycle.

By designing personalised journeys — and interacting with customers in a way that is most likely to deliver positive outcomes — payments and collections teams can increase engagement rates, improve conversation outcomes and ultimately positively impact cashflow.

Conclusion

Ultimately, this report aims to give credit and collections teams a better understanding of how to boost engagement rates, make difficult conversations easier, and positively impact both cash flow and brand reputation.

As well as detailing how the shift toward new digital channels is impacting credit collections and payments, the report offers practical tips around empathy and understanding to drive positive outcomes.

If you work in the credit, collections and payments industry, at whatever level, I would urge you to download the report and see for yourself how you can make a difference in what is set to be a difficult time for all.

conversational AI report

 

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METRICS WE’VE ACHIEVED

52%
Uplift in Payment Arrangements
42%
Increase in Agent Productivity
57%
Decrease in Operational Costs
48%
Increase in Customer Engagement

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