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InDebted / Resources / Why the Future of Debt Collection is Digital and Customer-led

Updated 12 Feb 2021

Why the Future of Debt Collection is Digital and Customer-led

The relationship organisations have with their customers these days is very much a digital one – which is why a digital approach should also apply to debt recovery.

Benefits Of Digital Debt Collection For Clients

While a digital-first approach is designed to provide more help to consumers with overdue accounts, clients also reap the rewards. When considering a debt collection agency, there are three important metrics to judge it on: commercial, customer experience and compliance.

A man smiling and looking at his electronic devices

Helping customers stay loyal

Happy customers are more likely to stay with their existing organisation. Digital debt collection provides clients’ customers with a more satisfactory experience because of the frictionless contact and the ability to self-serve. 

A digital end-to-end approach, such as InDebted’s, allows consumers to resolve their account online, chat with a customer service team 24/7, choose to pay in instalments, or lodge a dispute. This ease of use has a positive effect on the brand and reputation of the company who is owed the debt. Because of the positive experience, once the consumer is back on track financially, they are more likely to stay as a customer of that organisation and continue to buy their products or services as opposed to going elsewhere. 

Higher recovery rates boost commercial outcomes

From a commercial point of view, using a digital debt collection agency results in higher recovery rates for a business. Statistics from McKinsey & Co show contacting customers through preferred digital channels improves effectiveness, especially in the 30-plus days past-due segment. 

“There's a tendency for clients to think digital is the cheaper option, and one that you use to save some money before going back to the traditional style of debt collection,” Foreman says. “But we've proven our approach works on all types of accounts and at all stages of the process. Fundamentally, debt collection is not about trying to save costs, it's about implementing efficiencies that allow you to recover more.”

Mitigating compliance risks 

Meeting compliance requirements is one of the major benefits to clients of digital debt collection. Financial institutions are more cautious these days about how they deal with their customers’ debt. Most of the risks that are introduced in debt collection are process or people risks, for example, not sending a notice that a person was legally required to send, or a call centre operator saying something on the phone they weren't meant to. Technology is far superior in terms of dealing with these issues as systems can be built to prevent them occurring.

Larger organisations tend to have legacy systems where meeting the levels of compliance required is difficult. This is when outsourcing to a digital debt collection agency makes sense as their systems have built-in protections against process risk.

“What makes digital debt collection unique is the way it leverages data to build sophisticated behavioural models that help it understand, to a high level of certainty, the preferences of each individual consumer.”

Digital debt collection also overcomes the people-risk in maintaining compliance. By being digital end-to-end, consumers have more opportunities to self-serve, reducing the need to have real-life conversations. Fewer conversations minimises the risk of call centre staff providing incorrect information. 

Another way digital debt collection mitigates compliance risk is through offering a more robust and automated compliance infrastructure. “The right technology and the right way of incentivising people is what really minimises risk,” Foreman says. “Compliance is the benchmark our clients look for, and then customer experience. The commercial element is the final component. Digital debt collection ticks all three of those boxes.” 

How Digital Debt Collection Delivers An Exceptional Customer Experience While Fulfilling Compliance Requirements

A couple looking at a phone smiling

All organisations would like to provide exceptional customer service, but how do you define it in the context of debt collection? To InDebted’s Tim Collins it involves, “giving your customers all the information they need to self-serve through the channel of their choice, 24/7, every day of the year.”

But with debt recovery comes compliance obligations, especially around what regulators require of organisations. “This is the point where a lot of collection agencies stop,” Collins says. “This is where they say they’re only going to do the bare regulatory minimum that's required.”

Taking the extra step towards a customer-focused approach

But according to Collins, this attitude means opportunities are being missed, because if businesses go a step further, they can become more customer-focused with the resulting benefits. 

“When a business is focused on what's good for their customer, they don't get the same level of complaints from them or from the regulators about their business practices,” he says. “It also leads to fewer issues. We've become a very litigious society and the practice of calling consumers all the time is now frowned upon by regulators with many issuing guidelines around what is acceptable.”

“The practice of calling consumers all the time is not what a consumer wants. They want to be able to educate and self-serve, whenever they want, in a channel that is not someone calling them on the phone.”

Collins says compliance issues also tend to arise for organisations when their debt collection agency relies on call centre staff reading the same prepared script to consumers. This is because human nature dictates that mistakes will be made, possibly with legal consequences.

“InDebted’s approach is to try to put as much as possible into the platform,” he says. “For example, the messages that we send are checked to make sure that they're going out at the right time and the content has been approved. This approach allows us to build compliance controls right into our platform and this helps avoid compliance errors.”

Another contributing factor towards customer satisfaction is that with digital debt collection, information can be seamlessly transferred across multiple channels. “One of the most common complaints businesses receive from their customers is that they have to repeatedly verify their essential information each time they are passed to a different person,” Collins says. “But with digital debt collection, that constant verification isn’t required. Combine this with being able to make a payment using the channel they want, whenever they want, and businesses are able to offer exceptional customer service with no compliance breaches.”

The role of regulatory bodies

Regulatory bodies aim to prevent harassment, threats and deception when it comes to debt collection but the basic principle they espouse is to treat people fairly. 

“Few regulatory bodies define exactly what that means, and none tell you what you can do,” InDebted’s Tim Collins says. “In the US, a debt collection agency cannot keep ringing a consumer who doesn’t answer as that is deemed harassment. But the regulator doesn’t tell you whether you can call on Monday, and if they don’t hear from the consumer, whether they can then call the next day. They don't go into that level of detail.”

Few regulators around the world have contemplated what digital compliance looks like or should look like, Collins says. But the companies that are going to be successful in the digital debt collection space are those that “think like a consumer and act like a consumer”. 

“This is because consumer empowerment is the number one change that's happening,” he says. “Consumers increasingly prefer to deal with those companies that have an easy-to-use payment portal where they can conduct all their business.” 

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