Collections can be daunting. And, increasingly, a company’s brand image in the collection process is a critical measure of success. With social media and other emerging information outlets, it is important to do the right thing the right way.
It makes for good business, too. People may view an interaction with a collection company on behalf of a given brand as a positive or negative experience with the brand itself. So, how can a brand protect its reputation and ensure a positive customer experience all while increasing their collection recoveries?
It all starts before the first call is made or the first letter is mailed. There are four pillars of success in brand reputation management: training, compliance, quality assurance, and customer experience. These investments must be made to ensure the long-term value of a customer and brand.
To the consumer on the other end of the phone, the collection representative is the face (and voice) of the creditor. Therefore, significant time and energy must be invested in training each and every representative. Each must become a master of excellent customer service, as well as industry compliance. Getting it “mostly” right can’t guarantee the outcome that is required (positive customer experience and increased recoveries); therefore, ensuring exceptional training is foundational to the goal. Make sure to take a planned approach when communicating with consumers. Maintaining this relationship, born from extensive training, is a key component to helping move a customer from default status to repayment status.
For brands looking to recover debts, a compliance-focused experience is a must-have. Without this, not only could you harm the relationship you have worked to build with consumers, but you could ultimately bear the negative reputation, and all of the fallout that goes with it. These contacts are increasingly regulated and driven by protocols to ensure collection programs comply with all applicable laws and regulations. Remember – it isn’t only about what your collector does, but how they do it. Periodically, ask agents to reaffirm their commitment to respect, professionalism, and ethics in the process of collecting debt. A collector focused on compliance and positive business outcomes has your best interests in mind.
Companies are concerned with brand reputation, which translates into compliance and call quality in terms of collections. With great coaching comes great success. Through rigorous and consistent Quality Assurance (QA) programs, a partner is able to identify both areas where additional training is needed, as well as areas where agents are excelling. Both are important in the effort to continually enhance and improve performance and results. Managers should regularly monitor both live and recorded calls to ensure representatives are providing a great customer experience while simultaneously recovering debts for the client and maintaining 100% compliance with corporate, state, and federal guidelines.
Regular audits should also be undertaken. Audits provide evidence and support of an agency’s compliance, performance, and financial condition. Internal, external, and independent audits can all have a positive, integral role to play in this process.
Training, compliance, and quality assurance all lead up to the customer experience—how representatives communicate and how they determine the best course of action for all parties. The customer experience can be measured along with other business outcomes. A customer-centric approach to collections can impact an organization in a number of ways, including a heightened level of customer satisfaction and a subsequent reduction in the level of complaints and resulting bad debts. There can be many benefits from employing a customer centric collections approach, including:
Improved customer satisfaction and loyalty
Clear cost benefits (fewer client contacts)
Improved collection rates
Reduced company exposure and risk
Early identification of accounts “at risk” and the likelihood of payment
Today’s accounts receivable management is evolving at a rapid pace. A dual focus on increasing recoveries while maintaining or even enhancing brand reputation is more prevalent than ever. Brands must look to partner with an organization that perceives value not only in moving debtors into repayment plans, but also in preserving the positive relationship between the consumer and the brand. This will yield long-term value to everyone involved.
Dina Sha’altiel is NCO’s VP, Voice of the Consumer. She oversees the NCO Consumer Help Unit, which handles 40,000 incoming calls per month. Her goal is to help consumers have a positive experience with NCO. Dina has been part of NCO for 25 years, and has worked in the ARM industry for 29 years.
NCO’s blog, ARM Insights, is focused on sharing best practices in the ARM Industry. We will continue to develop these areas of focus in ongoing blogs.