Debt collections departments considering a “digital first” approach

Why collections departments should be considering a “digital first” approach

19th September 2018 by Astra Baker

As a society we have recently been described as “always on” and according to the 2018 Deloitte Consumer Review Digital Predictions Report, “The smartphone is likely to become increasingly fundamental to how we operate on a day-to-day basis as it offers solutions for both our work and social lives”.

As a result, the opportunity to engage with consumers digitally when they have fallen behind on payments has an increasingly significant benefit. It provides customers with the space, time and information to make an informed offer of repayment, helps them avoid the significant embarrassment factor associated with discussing the issue and potentially leads to earlier debt resolution.

The inexorable move to digital across all generations

Ofcom reported in its 2018 Communications Market Report that people claimed to spend a total of one day a week online (24 hours), more than twice as much as in 2011, and this is across a range of generations. Research by TouchPoints in 2017 found that among UK under-35s, more than 80% agreed that the Internet was an essential part of their lives, but the steepest increase was among over-65s, with 36% considering the internet to be essential, up from 22% five years previously.

A changing world

At the same time, the regulatory frameworks under which collections take place have changed. Driven by The FCA, OFWAT, OFGEM and OFCOM, the emphasis has moved away from confrontational debt management to a more customer-focused, collaborative approach. In particular, any consumer vulnerability must be taken into account when resolving customer debt episodes.

Implementing a digital solution – the key to collections success

Adapting quickly to this new digital world is critical for any lender, credit grantor or utility organisation. Implementing a well-designed digital solution, built by collections specialists and harnessing new technology such as machine learning can deliver impressive results:

  • Increased customer retention and loyalty due to a more collaborative approach to debt resolution.
  • Reduction in days outstanding through faster debt resolution.
  • An enhanced reputation for the business through earlier identification of vulnerable customers and providing immediate access to skilled collections agents.
  • Reduced cost to collect as a result of “self service” digital engagement.

In summary

A digital first approach gives collections teams the opportunity to resolve debt episodes and collect outstanding arrears in the most cost effective way.

5 key questions to consider when shortlisting solution providers:

  1. Transparency – can the vendor show you exactly what is “under the hood” of their solution?
  2. How easy is it to implement it as part of your existing infrastructure?
  3. Does the vendor truly understand the intricacies of collections and the frustrations your team experience?
  4. Can they provide real world business examples to highlight understanding and best practice use of Machine Learning and user experience design?
  5. Can they demonstrate continued investment in pure research and development in new and emerging technologies and their use in collections?