How does omnichannel communication improve collections

We hear you, ‘omnichannel’ has become one of the most overused buzzwords in collections. You’ve probably heard time and time again about every DCA’s omnichannel, digital debt collection offering, but what exactly does it mean to be truly omnichannel? and more importantly, what does it take to do it exceptionally well?

Keep reading to learn what sets omnichannel debt collection apart, and why it should be a non-negotiable offering for your overdue customers.

What is omnichannel communication? 

Omnichannel means being available to support consumers through a variety of channels - whether that’s webchat, phone, email, SMS, or self-serve functionality. But it doesn’t stop there - what makes omnichannel different from simply offering two or more communications channels to engage with customers lies in the consistency of the experience. 

This means looking at the end-to-end customer journey, and how each channel forms a vital stepping stone on the pathway to debt freedom. Often, omnichannel falls into the trap of operating as a silo within a collections function - with separate teams for voice and digital, each following their own strategy, with little appreciation for the disjointed experience this provides. 

It’s all well if your agents are expertly trained on negotiating  collections calls, but if a customer has to start the whole conversation again when they choose to email you, you might be missing a trick. 

When executed well, a successful omnichannel strategy has the power to strengthen the relationship with customers, building trust and empathy. With 88% of customers stating that their experience with a company is as important as their product or service, the investment in crafting that experience should be significant.

Why does omnichannel communication drive stronger engagement? 

The answer is simple. No two customers are the same. Especially when it comes to finances - everyone’s situation is unique, and people have different preferences in how they want to engage - particularly with a debt collector. This makes omnichannel particularly effective to recover overdue accounts - the intuitive experience supports customers to choose how they want to engage, rather than forcing them down a transactional or repetitive hole.

Whether you break it down by generation, debt type, or the number of days past due - the benefits of omnichannel are clear. A recent McKinsey & Company study into digital debt collection channels found that across both high and low balances, credit card customers have different engagement preferences when it comes to resolving their debt. While there’s a clear preference for digital channels such as email or text, some people still opt for traditional methods such as letter or phone.

Preferred communication channels by credit card customers, adapted from McKinsey & Company

To maximise customer engagement , you need to be truly responsive to the channels people choose. It’s about providing choice for customers to engage with their debt in a way that works best for them. 

How to implement an omnichannel communication strategy in collections

The rise in omnichannel offerings has been seen across industries - particularly as reported in 2022, omnichannel is now the norm for 3 in 4 US consumers. The collections industry should be no exception.

It starts with taking a holistic view of all the channels used for collections communications. These could be digital and non-digital - for example, email, SMS, livechat, phone and mail. From here, it’s about maximising each channel to ensure that customers are getting a consistent, positive experience. Look at:

  • What are the conversion rates of each channel?
  • What are the response times of each channel? What are the delays to resolution? Are there steps that could be automated, or is additional resourcing required?
  • Are customer conversations integrated across each channel? Can your agents see the full picture of the last email conversation, through to the live phone call?

Diving into each channel and treating them as an integrated funnel, rather than an individual way to generate contact, will enable you to drive better customer experiences and more efficient payments. 

Looking at the data will also enable you to get a deeper understanding of your customers, along with richer insights into both their engagement and behaviours. These can provide meaningful context to what your customers need and enable you to create a collections strategy that truly meets them where they’re at. 

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