Does a Digital-First Debt Collection Strategy Mean Digital-Only?
In 2020, we presented a talk about digital transformation within debt collection at the Money Advice Liasion Group’s South West. As well as the obvious benefits to customers: time-saving, reduced embarrassment and anytime/anywhere availability, we raised some of the perceived pitfalls of ‘going digital’ and the risk of isolating and under-serving non-digital customers.
The current cost of living crisis is bringing these concerns to the fore again against a backdrop of customer hardship, recruitment difficulties and rising engagement.
*Lloyds Bank EDS, 2021
All or nothing?
‘Going digital’ is sometimes perceived as an ‘all or nothing’ venture but research shows that digital preferences are much more nuanced than we think and that there are factors within an organisation’s control that can both maximise digital engagement and ensure better service standards for non-digital customers.
Taking a look at the digital experience of Millennials as an example can be illuminating and provides valuable insight for all customer service providers.
Millennials famously dislike speaking on the phone. This is partly because it’s time-consuming (think call waiting times and confusing menus) but also because they want to avoid being ‘ambushed’ and like to be in control of the pace of interaction.
So, it follows that Millennials are prime candidates to migrate to digitally progressive providers.
But if you take a look at customer service performance measures, you will often find that the most digitally advanced companies are also good at answering customer calls quickly. It’s a win-win for them.
They attract digital enthusiasts, but they also serve all customers more quickly, and these two factors are connected.
Usability front and centre
So, what are these companies doing right that enables them to serve both digital and non-digital customers so effectively?
The answer is they make it easy.
It’s often assumed that modern interfaces are detrimental to customers with low digital skills or confidence levels, but this isn’t borne out by engagement results.
The needless barriers that many websites or portals place in the way of customer engagement – confusing, crowded and disorganised interfaces, for example – are off-putting, not only to those with low digital skills but also to digitally-savvy individuals who value their time too much to wade through a poorly designed journey.
With an inadequate digital offering, organisations will struggle to bring reluctant customers on board, experience higher than expected dropout rates and may conclude that digital isn’t working for them or their customers. When those disengaged (or rather under-served) customers turn to the phone lines, there are too many like-minded people also trying to get through. Lose-lose.
Talk isn’t cheap
One actionable aspect of the digital exclusion dilemma is to ensure your digital offering is fit for purpose, and that means fit for all customers, not just the digital natives.
The end result will be cost-effective digital engagement for those who want it and, as a direct result, more resources available to improve first-time resolution for non-digital customers or to expand specialist support.
The knock-on effect of digital transformation can, perhaps surprisingly, be to improve services for that relatively small but important group of customers who currently do not have the means, inclination or skills to engage.
This makes digital transformation a good investment, both financially – automating a wide range of routine but time-consuming tasks – and as a direct consequence, freeing up capacity and resources for those who still like to hear a human voice. Win-win.