If you’ve been reading our recent blog posts, then you probably already know about the many benefits that come with implementing an omnichannel collections strategy. But what you might not know is that designing and implementing an omnichannel program requires a road map to safeguard brand reputation and minimize compliance risk.
Many organizations struggle with the technology, information security, and transaction functionality challenges that multiply with every new channel. Common barriers to omnichannel implementation include organizational and operational silos, poor alignment of channels and payment options, insufficient customer “listening” skills, and product-centric corporate cultures that make it hard to stay compliant and attentive to the rights and needs of consumers.
So, what’s the magic solution? There’s no single way to overcome these hurdles and build an effective, cross-channel collections strategy. Any given organization’s solution is likely to be part of the proprietary “secret sauce” that keeps it ahead of its competition. But there’s an answer, and it’ll likely involve a combination of technology, processes, and personnel. Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind.
Any given organization’s solution is likely to be part of the proprietary “secret sauce” that keeps it ahead of its competition.
Be sure that from an operational standpoint, your technology platform supports the communication channels you’re trying to offer. It’s true whether you’re doing a complete rip-and-replace overhaul, using plug-in modules, or integrating systems on the back end. Ultimately, your platform should be capable of providing up-to-date information about your customers to any channel at any time.
Thinking of expanding your channels? Why add more if your platforms can’t support them? For instance, customers expect the same real-time conversation from a chat window as they get from a phone call. In this scenario, latency or technical glitches with online chat feel much the same as if a live agent keeps putting you on hold or is nonresponsive. Either way, your chances for a positive resolution are more likely to evaporate with each delay.
Ultimately, your platform should be capable of providing up-to-date information about your customers to any channel at any time.
Systems integration and data sharing remain top challenges when meeting your technical mandate, especially in operations like collections that can deal with both B2B and B2C transactions. The promise of omnichannel is that it seeks to unify and harmonize siloed or disparate applications and systems.
Even if you have appropriate technologies, you’ll still suffer if you don’t have solid processes in place. Reporting and governance are crucial — not only for individual accounts, but also for your portfolios. Your analytics should be able to reap performance management insights to answer questions like “What areas of the operation are performing well?”, “What factors are impacting right party contacts?”, and “Where am I seeing potential compliance issues arise?”
For questions like these, businesses like yours can turn to the best practices for omnichannel governance, which include a master data management (MDM) plan or similar approach to standardize and coordinate multiple customer views. This helps eliminate data duplication and error, and it provides consistency of information regardless of application, channel, or location. Your processes should support easy payment, regardless of whether it happens via electronic invoicing, ACH payment, secure card payments, check, or any other method.
With compliance in mind, design your processes with built-in opportunities and pathways for consumers to consent to additional forms of communication. Also, make sure your mandate to communicate clearly is reflected through interactive and responsive design, appropriate font size and white space, and other user experience factors. Finally, try to implement self-service options wherever possible, since this lowers the risk quotient for regulatory missteps from human interactions gone sour.
With compliance in mind, design your processes with built-in opportunities and pathways for consumers to consent to additional forms of communication.
If there is one thing collections practitioners have learned in recent years, it’s that prioritizing empathy, active listening, and collaborative problem-solving makes good business sense, and it’s transforming the customer/agent relationship. It’s no surprise that corporate cultures that embrace these values enjoy better resolution rates, not to mention better morale among the collections workforce. When you begin engaging with customers across channels, the challenge is applying those values and reinforcing them regardless of platform.
This can be easier said than done. For all the risk that might come with a live agent interaction, for instance, you still have the benefit of constant interpersonal feedback — tone of voice, inflection, accent — to align and strengthen that personal connection. Unfortunately, little of this transfers to written communications, web chat, or text messaging.
As you can probably guess, agent training and professional development should include boosting agents’ levels of respect and customer care, not just in voice interaction, but across all channels that your customers may opt into after that initial call or letter. The authors of your latest text, chat, email, or web content must consider reading level, choose their words carefully, and clearly articulate their thoughts in written form. This is crucial for both compliance and the ability to replicate the personal connection that’s so much easier to strike up when two people actually talk.
The path to success
Companies looking to infuse the collections operation with omnichannel capabilities obviously have much to consider. The benefits of an omnichannel communications strategy make it worthwhile to spend the time to align business capabilities with consumer expectations and the rules of engagement across multiple channels. A blended and well-strategized approach is key to protecting your brand and interacting successfully with customers.
— Gary Dorman, Director of Operations (@wrg_gdorman)