Providing customer support is never easy, and when the purpose of the support is for bill collections, it becomes even more difficult. People are never at their best when they owe money or can’t pay a bill, and agents need to be extra skilled in communicating the right mix of urgency and empathy. One compelling way to improve the collections process, however, is to turn it omni-channel and provide customers with a variety of ways to pay or set up a payment plan.
According to research from Fiserv, Inc. and highlighted by Aspect’s (News - Alert) Chris O'Brien in a recent blog post, 43 percent of consumers say having multiple billing and payment options improves satisfaction with their biller. Improved satisfaction, in turn, leads to better collection rates.
“Most consumers would not immediately associate debt collection with positive customer experiences,” wrote O’Brien. “However, managing collections activities through an omni-channel approach that empowers consumers and provides multiple ways to pay can in fact leave consumers with a very favorable impression of your business. The ideal positive outcome for a collections contact center is 1) securing payment on a debt while 2) providing impressive, above-and-beyond service that results in high satisfaction ratings.”
Receiving a telephone call from a creditor is a familiar experience to most people, whether they simply forgot, need to wait until the next pay period or simply don’t have the money at the moment. Telephone calls have a way of putting customers on the spot, however, and can feel intrusive and aggressive. Many creditors have found that using softer outreach techniques to begin the process – perhaps via text or mobile app – gets better results.
“Enabling customers to choose to be notified through outbound messages regarding upcoming payments and past due accounts has the potential to greatly reduce delinquencies,” wrote O’Brien. “Providing an automated bi-directional communication channel, customers can submit payments immediately, increasing payment rates and improving contact center efficiency.”
The best results are found by companies that provide a consistent message across all channels, including outbound IVR, email and SMS. When customers are confused by the billing process – two different bills with two different due dates or amounts, for example – they are less likely to pay on time. An omni-channel engagement approach means that all contact center and billing channels are working together to collect the debt. Customers aren’t paying a bill and then receiving a dunning call a week later, which will make them wonder if your company knows what it is doing.
“Effective collections campaigns should provide customers with the information they need, when they need it, while remaining flexible enough to go beyond voice and allow customers to respond in the channel of their choice and switch between channels as a part of one seamless conversation,” wrote O’Brien.
A robust omni-channel platform optimized for billing and collections and created with customers’ needs in mind is the best way to get to that seamless conversation. Technology limitations lead directly to poor collections rates, and can actively harm relationships with valuable customers.