From Collector: At Your Service

5/16/2017 5:47:00 PM

Consumers have changed how they interact with companies—but has your company changed how it interacts with consumers?

NewsCollector Magazine

Easy. Convenient. Low-stress. Personalized. If these words aren’t accurate descriptions of your customer service approach today, they should be.

The debt collection experience is no longer just about two people talking on the phone, going back and forth about an outstanding account, Collector magazine editor Anne Rosso May reports in the May issue.

Today the collection industry is gradually embracing the self-service model, allowing consumers to find answers to their questions, check the status of their account, negotiate terms and make payments all without talking to a live person.

“Consumers want self-service,” said Paul DeSaulniers, senior director of risk scoring, trended data and collections for Experian.

The research firm Gartner predicts that by 2020, consumers will manage 85 percent of their relationship with a company without interacting with a human. What should you be doing today to achieve the self-service dream?

Here are some areas to focus on in revamping your customer service model: be a resource, customize your communications, provide easy payment options and spread the word.

Consumers have questions about the debt collection process—lots of questions. How can I dispute this debt? Can’t I just pay the original creditor? How can I tell if this collection notice is a scam?

Unless you are providing easy answers to their questions, consumers are going to look for this information somewhere else—and they may not be vetting the source, Rosso May reports.

If they don’t like what they read, they could opt not to contact you at all.

“A lot of people don’t want to talk to the debt collector, even though we can be the most helpful to them in their situation, providing them information and giving them their options,” said Timothy Collins, Esq., general counsel for Convergent Outsourcing.

That’s why Convergent revamped its website a few years ago to address common consumer questions, providing a comprehensive FAQ with detailed information about the company, the debt collection process and payment options.

“We see quite a few consumers who come to our website strictly for information and there’s no other conversion,” Collins said. “They get the information they need and go someplace else.”

Collins said he doesn’t mind that noncustomers use Convergent’s website as a source of information on debt collection. In fact, he said he’d love to see this type of information on all ACA International members’ websites.

Where should you start?

Identify 10 or so of the most common questions you hear from consumers, write up answers, have your legal counsel approve them and put them up on the consumer section of your website—which, Collins notes, should constitute at least 80 percent of your site.

Or even better: create a whole new website just for consumers, filled with useful information and links to other resources.

It’s also important to customize your communications to consumers, Rosso May reports.

Not only do consumers want to feel in control of the debt collection process, but they also want to manage how you reach out to them. This means embracing methods of communication that match consumer preferences and help provide a frictionless experience.

Are you providing easy payment options as well?

Having a payment portal on your website is no longer an option—it’s a necessity. More than half of all bills are paid online today, according to a recent ACI Worldwide survey.

Read more on the benefits of enhancing the digital experience for consumers in the May issue of Collector. Next week: what to do when a consumer tells you to stop calling.

The complete digital editions of Collector magazine are available through ACA International’s website. ACA International will publish weekly excerpts from Collector articles, when available; check your inbox for the excerpts in ACA Daily on Mondays and Wednesdays.

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