As the COVID-19 lockdown eases and the UK economy faces a period of uncertainty, a spike in customer engagement is likely. What are the options for managing volumes?
Demand for collections services are forecast to increase and customers are looking for flexible and sustainable options to manage their way back from payment breaks and furloughing. Many families are experiencing a reduction in income with job losses and business closures at rising to new highs.
Debt collection managers will already be thinking about how their existing set up will cope with the anticipated increase in demand. There are three broad choices:
- Recruit. Grow your department’s personnel now before you become overextended and customer support levels suffer. This is an expensive option and one that takes time and resources. In the worst-case scenario, it may be that the time for this option is already past. Good quality collections advisors may be hard to acquire and train in time. In the longer term, you may be left with additional capacity you no longer require, having invested training and resources for the expanded workforce.
- Outsource. Outsourcing makes sense if you want to avoid the costs of recruiting extra staff yourself. However, outsourcing means losing control of how your customers in arrears are managed, leaving your reputation in the hands of a third party. Although convenient, outsourcing can be expensive and may increase the cost to collect ratio. Depending on the nature of any economic downturn, it is possible that DCAs may find themselves stretched to capacity, making quality agency services harder to come by.
- Automate. If you prefer to keep control of your collections operation and your reputation, and want to manage fluctuating demand in-house, automation is a strong consideration. Today’s customers expect to be known and to encounter services that are targeted to their needs, so automation needs to be informed by reliable, real-time data that reflects the 24/7, always-on world we live in. A real-time operation has the benefit of reducing repetition and wasted effort which drains resources as well as frustrating and annoying customers.
Collection systems have evolved from the old legacy platforms that rely heavily on unpopular letters and phone calls, and are slow and costly to update. In their place are low maintenance cloud-native systems, developed in a culture of continuous improvement that make expensive upgrade cycles redundant and builds organisational resilience to disruption.
If the 2008 downturn taught us anything, it’s that resilience is key to survival. Digital transformation is now an urgent essential rather than a nice-to-have. With so much consumer choice in the marketplace, no organisation can afford to fall short of customer expectations or allow systems’ limitations to tarnish their hard-won reputation. They need control and the right tools to do the job.