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Your Debtor Is Still Your Customer - Focus On Customer Experience

June 22, 2017 at 5:15 PM

Woman's hand holding a smartphone with a personalised message bubble telling her she is past due on payment

I recently attended the First Party Summit – a Collections summit in the USA - which was an exciting conference focusing on the unique challenges of Collections, Outsourcing, and Customer Care. Over the 3-day period I learned quite a lot from the presentations and round table discussions covering topics from innovative communication strategies to the role of human and artificial intelligence in collections.

Throughout the conference, I noticed the following two points were consistent through all aspects of the discussions: Personalisation and the Customer Experience are on the rise in debt collection. In this blog post, I’ll explain why.

Personalisation goes a long way in Debt Collection

We personalise to win and retain business. Why don’t we do the same to collect? Personalisation can help minimise the negative impact of debt collection and increase the probability of payment and future business. Personalisation can be as small as using the customer’s first name in their notification SMS or email messages – rather than a standard message – or using their preferred channel (SMS, call, email) to personalising payment terms and treatment based on their profile. No matter how small the degree of personalisation one takes, the impact can be incrementally positive.

Click to download the full Debtor Profile and Treatment Framework infographic

Remember the Customer Experience

With collections, there’s always a fine line that we must walk to ensure we try and maintain a positive relationship with customers with the intention of securing more business from them in future despite the negative event of debt collection. By simply giving more thought to customer experience in the collection stage of the customer lifecycle, we can improve the probability of repayment and of future business.

One presentation by CIBC and Gatestone & Co. had the following excellent tips for caller engagement that was found to improve outcomes:

customer-experience-debt-collection.png

Are you friend or foe to your customers?

It’s important to show empathy and position yourself as there to help rather than to judge and punish for falling into arrears. The keynote presentation by Adam Toperek of CTS Service Solutions provided excellent examples of how a change in how you speak to your debtors can completely change their perception of you from foe to friend:

  • “I’m very sorry you’re facing hardship, (name).”
  • “I understand that this has been a difficult time, (name).”
  • “I might be able to help you save some money today…”
  • “I believe I can help make this situation easier for you…”
  • “I’d like to understand your situation. Can you tell me more about it?”

Read more about listening skills to apply when negotiating for debt collection in my blog post "Hostage Negotiation Tips and Techniques for Debt Collection"  

Your Debtors are still your Customers

My key take-away from the conference is that you should never stop treating your debtor as a customer because of lapse in payment. Your debtor is still your customer. The fact that they are behind in payment is hopefully a short-term situation, and your goal in collections should be to not only recover the debt, but equally as important to maintain a positive customer relationship that can lead to future revenue from that customer. You need to ensure your collections solutions and agents understand that. 

Click here to view the presentations from the conference by topic. 

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Perry de Jager
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.

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