‘The cost of going digital in collections will be a small fraction of the payoff in efficiency, effectiveness, and an improved customer experience that the strategy creates.’ McKinsey
Customers are driving the demand for digital services. They are accustomed to highly personalised online engagements and in collections, the customer journey has to deliver. From digital-natives who have high expectations and high skill levels, to more traditional customers who venture into digital reluctantly, customers need to be pleasantly surprised when they choose to resolve arrears online. What should we be looking for in the digital customer experience?
It’s worth thinking about what the ultimate aim of the digital experience is. Of course for the creditor, it lowers the cost to collect and relieves the pressure on staffing, but from the customer’s point of view, it’s a convenient, less embarrassing and less time-consuming way to get an often dreaded task done quickly and easily.
Inclusiveness and usability are key. The journey needs to be clear and simple with as little distraction and clutter on screen as possible. In one sense, the technology should be invisible but provide everything the customer needs. It sounds obvious but it’s surprising how many unnavigable online customer services there are out there. In the end, it’s not the number of customers logging on that counts, but the number who successfully complete their journey.
Secondly, it’s important to be aware of language. Collections can be heavy on terminology that may not mean much to the customer so making sure the digital journey is jargon-free is critical to usability. Right from the opening screen, the procedure should be obvious and simple to follow with help pages provided to reassure customers when they need it.
Thinking more deeply, how can we reduce the number of steps or actions a customer has to take to complete the journey? What do we know about this customer that could help us to present the right pathway for them, the right message in the right tone and get the best result? This information usually exists within the organisation’s own historical data, it just needs to be optimised and applied in a dynamic fashion. Despite concerns, this doesn’t entail artificial intelligence making autonomous decisions that may affect people’s access to services or outcomes. It focuses on creating workable, always up-to-date segments, and optimising and automating treatment according to business-defined objectives. This way, the digital journey can be tailored to suit the individual customer and present them with the simplest and most appropriate way to resolve their arrears.
Once you have an accessible service that takes a significant chunk of contact centre workload into digital, what next? Evidence shows that lenders are underestimating the extent of digital capabilities and restricting their digital efforts to early-stage collections. A recent McKinsey report found that
‘The majority of customers whatever their financial position, expressed the preference for engaging with issuers through digital channels. When contacted digitally, they are more likely to make a payment or to pay in full, and this likelihood increases for customers with accounts that are more than 30 days past due.’
So, design for all and optimise for the individual, then apply your digital strategy across the whole collections lifecycle. It doesn’t mean overlooking more traditional customers who want a human to speak to, every individual counts, but digital will extend the value and effectiveness of fixed resources and serve all customers better.