It’s the question almost every business asks. What’s the most effective way to reach customers in a competitive, technology-driven environment? People today are on the go, accessing information at all times through web, email, text, phone, and other pathways. That means reaching customers is all about understanding how they communicate and access information in an ever-changing digital landscape. Technology and competition are driving increased expectations among consumers for convenient cross-channel integration. This omnichannel approach takes a multi-channel strategy, integrates the diverse channels, and manages them together to provide a single, seamless customer experience. So the question becomes, how do we approach this?
When it comes to implementing omnichannel in the receivables process, businesses face challenges from a unique blend of factors, including compliance and process hurdles as well as customer relationship management (CRM), payment, and data management issues. Reaching debtors through their preferred channels can help businesses not only recover funds, but also improve brand reputation and customer relationships.
More channels, more risk
Discovering the best way to contact a customer should make the process easier, right? Not necessarily. It can still be a struggle to realize benefits in a highly-regulated collections environment. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and other regulatory bodies maintain tight control over when and how businesses can engage with customers, especially in the early stages of collections. For instance, no matter what communication channels they have available, businesses must adhere to strict rules around first contact, usually involving a letter or outbound calling process.
Not only that, an omnichannel strategy multiplies the fronts along which companies expose themselves to potential compliance violations. And just when you thought the picture couldn’t get more complicated! All the legal strictures that live agents must follow regarding language and clarity of information also apply to online chat, text messaging, and other modes of communication. Compliance always matters, whether it’s an agent phone call, online chat, or text interaction. There are robust protections in place for consumers, regardless of how you’re connecting with them. And even if you’re not violating any regulations, unwelcome or inept communication can sour a customer’s attitude.
Even if you’re not violating any regulations, unwelcome or inept communication can sour a customer’s attitude.
Of course, none of these organizational challenges alter consumers’ demand for seamless communication. As one CRM report summarized, “The primary omnichannel goal is to let customers experience the brand rather than the channel. The channel is the means to the goal, not the goal itself.” To that end, your collections operation must understand both your customers’ preferences and the rules of engagement as dual anchors in a strategic approach for seamless, cross-channel engagement to boost ROI and contact success.
A worthwhile investment
But at the end of the day, despite all the challenges, it’s still worth it, because even though the collections operation needs to take care in setting up omnichannel capabilities, it’s time and money well spent. When designed and implemented appropriately, omnichannel tools can improve success rates and customer relationships by reaching people where and how they prefer to be reached.
“Keep in mind our focus is not so much on whether consumers want to pay their bills, but how likely they are to pay,” said one industry veteran. “The more we can get away from the inconvenient phone calls and instead share the data and options when and how they prefer to engage, the more we speed acceptance toward a resolution.” Sharing information proactively across multiple channels, this expert says, can improve the payment experience and lead to more “early out” and “pre-charge-off” resolutions in the early stages of delinquency.
It makes sense. Debtors respond favorably when they’re able to choose the time and format for interaction because doing so gives them a sense of control that can ease what can be an uncomfortable process. In addition, multiple channels create multiple pathways to reach the broadest demographics. PwC research, for example, shows millennials gravitate toward mobile platforms and strongly favor convenience.
Your collections operation must understand both your customers’ preferences and the rules of engagement as dual anchors in a strategic approach for seamless, cross-channel engagement.
Against this backdrop, it’s easy to see how omnichannel strategy can reduce friction and boost positive resolutions in the collections process. Omnichannel engagement can be a compelling tool for heading off collection calls and interrupting the downward path from late payments to delinquency and default.
— Gary Dorman, Director of Operations (@wrg_gdorman)