This article is part of the iA Think Differently series. Written by members of the iA Innovation Council, the series showcases thought leadership in analytics, communications, payments, and compliance technology for the accounts receivable management industry.
Generally, it is almost impossible to think differently because it requires admitting we may not know something, being open to listening to others, or the need to think of new ways of doing something. As Don Miguel Ruiz once said, “We only see what we want to see; we only hear what we want to hear. Our belief system is just like a mirror that only shows us what we believe.” Thanks to the pandemic, our mirrors have been severely cracked and for some smashed, but this is a good thing. This is what we needed to think differently about our industry and hopefully, save our organizations.
The Kodak lesson
When we have been doing something for most of our lives, like calling consumers to collect a debt, why would we think there is any other way? Kodak had the same kind of thinking when it came to photography even though they invented the digital camera. How could a company that had $16 billion in revenues and was worth over $31 billion dollars in 1996 file for bankruptcy in 2012. It really came down to consumer choice. When consumers had more than one choice, Kodak failed to give them what they wanted and was forced into bankruptcy because of it. We should learn from Kodak and listen to our customers. We are not giving consumers a choice when it comes to communicating with us. This is putting us exactly in the same place as Kodak, declining revenues, during a significant technological change.
Today, consumers have a choice on how they communicate with people and companies. The number of choices is far more than the ones Kodak was faced with: a film camera or a digital one. Consumer communication choices include mail, email, text messaging, Twitter, Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp, websites, phone, and my favorite, Snapchat. The reason people no longer answer their phones is that they don’t have to in order to communicate with others. Yet, we still try and make them do so by only calling consumers and not giving them other options. It is the equivalent of only allowing someone to send you printed pictures made from film.
Kodak did not have a pandemic to wake them. They were not forced to think differently to try and survive. They had decades of slow decline thanks to patents that let them live on. We do not have that luxury. We have shown in these last few weeks that we can change and we can do it quickly. If we can move hundreds of thousands of agents from offices to work from home, we can figure out how to communicate with consumers by listening to what they want. We need to stop thinking in the way we have always thought and waiting for others to tell us what we can do. Instead, it is time to ask our customers what they want and find a way to give it to them.
It is so simple but we have been afraid of lawsuits, regulatory scrutiny, or just the change associated with something new. For Kodak it was the fear of change and of losing out on all the profits they made from making and processing film. The fear of going out of business because of the impact of COVID-19 helped push us past our fears of having agents work from home. We need to use that creative mindset that is helping us solve pandemic problems to figure out how we can give consumers communication choices. This is a fundamental shift, a new way of thinking, from telling consumers how we want them to communicate with us, to allowing consumers a choice on how we communicate with each other. We have to accept that we are no longer in the position of telling consumers, we are in the position of listening.
We cannot stand still like a picture in time. It is time for a new image of our industry that is no longer solely driven by us. The choice is clear, collaborate with our customers, or fade away.
The iA Innovation Council is a collaborative working group of product, tech, strategy, and operations thought leaders at the forefront of analytics, communications, payments, and compliance technology. Group members meet in person several times each year to engage in substantive dialogue and whiteboard sessions with the creative thinkers behind the latest innovations for the industry, the regulators who audit and establish guardrails for new technology, and educators, entrepreneurs and innovators from outside the industry who inspire different thinking.
2020 members include:
Absolute Resolutions Corp.
AllianceOne Receivables Management
Capital Collection Management
Crown Asset Management
Enhanced Recovery Company
Healthcare Revenue Recovery Group
NCB Management Services
Phillips & Cohen
Professional Finance Company
Radius Global Solutions
Spring Oaks Capital
State Collection Service
The CMI Group