We are approaching a time of the year when planning for 2018 takes centre stage. As such it is important to look back and asses the channels that have been used across contact centres and determine their effectiveness. At the same time, it is important to look ahead at the trends and customer behaviour which can help lead to better customer interactions and satisfaction.In a recent survey conducted in the EU, it was found that the majority of customer communications still occur by voice calls (88%), followed by SMS and email. There is however a great rise in social media interaction, with Facebook as the most popular social media communication channel followed closely by Twitter.
When asked about predictions for the next two years there are a number of changes on the horizon. Although voice calls are being reduced by 28% they continue to top the polls of contact centres still using the telephone. At the same time the rising stars are WhatsApp and video which have seen a massive increase, along with an 82% increase in the use of web chat. With this in mind contact centre professionals should concentrate on making it a top priority to improve customer satisfaction, agent training and technology transformation.
The survey showed that customer satisfaction was rated the most important metric in contact centres, which speaks strongly to a need to remain customer centric by make use of the new channels that have become available and are a customers preferred method of contact. It is encouraging to see that in the current digital age over 20% of respondents indicated that they intend to grow their contact centres in the next two years, aligning their strategy with the recognised technology transformation that is at the heart of growth and development.
These results suggest that while looking for a new solution to support operations, customer centres looking to lead the charge should select a system that is flexible enough to accommodate both traditional and new channels to create a truly multichannel contact centre environment.
What does this mean for improving collections in an environment that seems to be deteriorating more and more?
Here are 5 things to focus on for the future:
1. Data management and utilization
We all know that operations are deeply dependant on analytical insight and models to drive a strategic operational approach. But even if we have the best analytical resources, without granular level data storage we will never be able to efficiently utilise them.
For data to be valuable and applicable, data need to be stored at one single point of truth – “a data warehouse”, and all account management systems and operating systems need to keep the “grail” updated with all new data. Managing this data in order to remove the clutter from the gems should be top of mind, and securely in place before anything else.
By now we all know that analytics forms the cornerstone of operational efficiency and drives collection strategy. So, do we utilise analytics and analytically derived models / scorecards within all areas of the collections cascade?
Analytical models can be created to determine: Contactability, Probability of Payment, Individual debtor Instalment Value, Net Present Value Settlement Calculations, EDC Outsourcing Scorecards, Legal Process, Efficiency Probability and more. Therefore 2018 should be governed by analytically driven collections strategies.
3. Client Satisfaction approach
We have seen a changing landscape in collections from a consequence based approach towards an incentivised and educational approach to motivate positive payment behaviour as well as educate customers in order to help them take a credit wise approach.
By the time debtors enters the collections stage, client satisfaction reaches a state of risk by default. So how do we strive to retain client satisfaction?
- Dedicated agent training aimed at communication, education and dispute resolution
- Client communication preferences (Electronic communication, self-help communication, Artificial Agent communication)
- Client affordability understanding and resolution offerings (restructuring, bespoke repayment amount, bespoke settlement offers)
4. Staff Satisfaction and Improved Motivation
We all know that being a collection’s agent must be one of the toughest jobs out there. Interacting with people that do not want to talk to you, or are rude and abrasive, can be disheartening. Over and above this, call centre agents are constantly monitored and evaluated by supervisors. It is definitely not a job that is known for its work satisfaction.
So how does one make it more satisfying for the agents and reduce the high staff turnover?
- Expectation: be clear on what is require from the agents on a day to day or hourly basis
- Provide them with the tools to achieve the expected results and monitor themselves in a live environment
- Ensure that expectations are reasonable, achievable, and data driven
- Data tells a story, so don’t expect the same level of performance throughout the month. Keep in mind that expectations should be aligned with peak and off-peak periods
- Technology: the contact centre is a very dull environment, most of the times utilising technology can help to change this environment for staff
- Determine which type of systems would be best to work on each day
- Utilise the Colour Psychology Wheel to brighten up the workplace
- Bring multiple systems together into one single user interface and introduce gamification into every day duties
5. Utilisation of AI (Artificial Intelligence)
With the explosion of AI in the call centre environment we need to ask whether there will still be place for call centre agents in 5-10 years’ time? Millennials point to the direction of self-help services and AI call centre agents. But will this make human agents redundant?
Not at all, the fact that the call centre environment is drastically changing and incorporating technology will never replace the need for the personal interaction between two parties. These interactions will simply occur differently as the days of call centre agents performing mundane tasks like providing balances, or giving banking details, will come to an end.
With the inclusion of AI solutions into operations, call centre agents will perform specialist duties like resolving default account queries, negotiating for optimal repayment arrangements, and educating debtors to become credit wise.
About the Author, Perry de Jager
Perry has been involved in Collections and Recoveries for the past 12 years, spending time in different market segments ranging from law firms to investment companies. At Principa, Perry has worked on extended projects within both South Africa and the Middle East with some of the largest financial organisation, providing on-site consulting within the collections and recoveries space covering strategy, process, people and technology.