We have just reached 10,000 feet and the flight crew has let us know that it is now safe to use electronic devices. I, along with approximately 50% of the other people within view of my seat, pull out our laptops and smart phones and start clicking away on emails, work – although I am sure some are just playing games or watching a movie. As I viewed all this high tech airborne activity, it reinforced how quickly technology has changed the way we work, play, and go about our daily business.
Email and web-based communication tools have really changed the landscape for several industries – just ask the US Post Office! I believe the collection industry is ready to better incorporate these technologies to help lower operating costs and communicate with debtors through their preferred communication channels. In short: it’s time to start communicating with debtors by email.
As with any change in business processes, it is not one to be taken lightly. There are several considerations you should make when contemplating the use of email to communicate with consumers. Even if you are not ready to start using email now, you should develop a strategy for implementation.
First and foremost is to work with your clients on gathering email addresses. If it is not part of the information that they are collecting when establishing accounts and granting credit, it should be. Additionally, make sure you can store email addresses in your database.
Email addresses have stabilized in that people are keeping the same address for a much longer period of time. A vast majority of people are using free email services (Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc.) and are not tying their email account to their current internet service provider. If you at least start building your email database now, you’ll be several steps ahead when you choose to implement.
It is also recommended that you consult with your attorney to help develop an “opt-in” process for gathering consent from responsible parties to communicate via email – such as recording the call session, web site based registration, etc. As with any debtor communication, it would also be advisable to have your attorney review the wording of the intended email communications to ensure that they are compliant with both federal and state laws governing third party collections.
In addition to the obvious cost savings, a properly deployed email solution offers several unique benefits including, but not limited to:
- Ability to track email delivery
- Ability to track valid and invalid email addresses
- Ability to integrate existing web payment tools or create new web payment tools for payments using credit card, debit card or ACH
- Ability to revert to traditional print and mail should the email not be deliverable or should the debtor fail to act on the email
- Reporting tools to keep you informed of the status of sent emails
While email is not a “one size fits all” solution for your collection correspondence, substantial savings can be gained by moving some of your communication such as PIF, SIF, payment plan reminders, etc. As postage costs continue to rise and consumers are becoming more comfortable with email and electronic payments it makes sense to investigate these technologies and how they can benefit your operations.
Mike McDonnell, Vice President of Sales – Eastern Region for DANTOM Systems, Inc., has more than 15 years of business process outsourcing expertise, managing strategic relationships and applications in the Financial Services and Collections Industry. McDonnell’s experience covers both third-party collection and first-party billing applications including traditional letters and statements as well as secure Internet-based presentment and payment applications. He has been an ACA Affiliate member since 1995 and currently serves on the ACA Board of Directors. McDonnell can be reached by email.
Known for its innovation and flawless execution, DANTOM Systems, Inc. is the leading receivables communication provider. DANTOM experts take the time to understand customers’ unique business requirements and tailor a solution to meet their receivables communication needs, including electronic bill presentment, payment portal, online archive, eNotice collection letters as well as dynamic full color digital ouput. The company partners with more than 900 organizations to create high-impact receivables documents while lowering costs – positively impacting their bottom line.