When the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau created the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act in 1977, there were no cell phones, no internet, and certainly no web chat. The rules laid out at the time focused primarily on when collection agencies could contact a consumer on a landline. (Remember those?)
To say a lot has changed over the last four decades would be an understatement. Now the CFPB is finally getting around to updating the law. On November 30th, new rules will go into effect that will allow debt collectors to message consumers via text and social media.
While many companies are already utilizing collections chatbots on their websites, these new allowances for SMS messaging and debt collection could be a game-changer. The question is, will all of this increased activity in web chat and texting for digital debt collection lead to the demise of the call centre as we know it?
The simple answer is yes...and no. Let’s discuss.
The days of the 800-number are, well, numbered.
Today, everybody has a cell phone. They’re just not using it to talk. Instead, they’re texting, instant messaging and social media’ing. This is how the new generation prefers to communicate with friends, family, and also with the companies they do business with.
According to Outgrow, 56% of people would rather engage in web chat or text messaging than speak to a customer service representative on the phone. They prefer instant gratification and a printable transcript to waiting on hold and being recorded.
On the outbound side, collections specialists know all-too-well that people rarely answer their phones. But a well-timed chat message popping up has a 209% higher response rate. Plus, 60% of customers read it within five minutes.
This is great news for contact centres, collection companies and teams using conversational messaging for customer engagement, especially if they’re using both messaging and web chat capabilities. While fewer agents will be needed thanks to automation, those agents will be able to handle higher-level escalations in a more focused and less stressful manner.
While the new FDCPA laws have restrictions on what time and how often you can message a debtor, that debtor can respond via web chat or text whenever they want, 24/7. And when it comes to debt collection, most people find it less embarrassing and uncomfortable to converse via messaging, whether that is a chatbot or an agent than over the phone. Adding automation and chatbots lead to a reduction in overall agent expense, an increase in collections received, and a better customer experience
Juniper Research reported that chat technology will save businesses $8 billion dollars by 2022 and more than2.5 billion customer service hoursby the end of 2023. In addition to cost savings, companies using web chat and messaging technology for conversational customer engagement also experience higher levels of customer satisfaction, as AI-powered chatbots are more knowledgeable and have no capacity to be rude or react emotionally. And factor in the ability for customers to switch from web chat to messaging to keep the conversation going.
That makes web chat and messaging a win-win!
Despite the upcoming changes to the Fair Debt Collection Protection Act that will inevitably lead to more and more chatbots, there will always be a need for real, live customer service agents.
Older generations still want to “talk to a human.” Many don’t understand or even trust technology. And there are some conversations that will still require a higher level of person-to-person interaction.
Contact centres of the future will be smaller with fewer people. But they will also be better equipped to handle customers thanks to the use of chatbots.
So, yes, the contact centre will ultimately survive. It certainly won’t look the same or have as many employees. But those that remain will be armed with better tools, more time, and can rely on a lot of help from chatbots in starting and managing those difficult customer conversations.
Want to achieve better customer conversation outcomes? Consider using AI to automate and blend chatbot and contact centre technology. We can show you how. Contact us today!