The Digital Paradox: Can Digital Self-service in Collections Benefit Non-digital Customers? | Flexys


The Digital Paradox: Can Digital Self-service in Collections Benefit Non-digital Customers?

Is it feasible to deliver the effective digital debt collection services that customers demand and meet the needs of non-digital customers?

Without careful consideration, the digital tide is in danger of sweeping over those customers for whom a telephone conversation or branch visit is necessary. Yet these services are becoming increasingly less cost-effective as branch users dwindle and communication preferences change. It presents all collections managers with a dilemma: how to control costs and deliver value for money and, at the same time, ring-fence capacity for those excluded from digital channels?

Statistics reveal the divisions

81% of adults said the quality of online experience determines who they bank with. (YouGov)

The majority of the over 65s bank digitally but 27% still like to bank at a physical location. (Age UK)

73% of people in late delinquency take action (make a payment) when contacted through digital channels. (McKinsey)

2.7 million people have internet access but lack the ability to use it to its full advantage. 21% say it’s too complicated. (Good Things Foundation)

So, if organisations don’t offer high-quality digital services, they risk alienating a large portion of potential customers. If they cut traditional services, they risk disenfranchising a section of society that already experiences detriment.
How can organisations proceed, and what principles can help them navigate the digital landscape?

Physical-first to digital-first

One misconception is that a digital-first approach to debt management means pulling the rug from under customers who prefer traditional communication. In practice, it means offering digital experiences that are so user-friendly, thorough and flexible that the majority of customers prefer to use them. Human resources are in reserve for those who need an alternative. Physical-first to digital-first.

The digital paradox is that debt management operations with a strong digital infrastructure are also able to answer calls quickly when compared to their competitors. What are these companies doing right that enables them to serve both digital and non-digital customers so effectively?
They make engagement easy, convenient, relevant and minimally invasive.

The goal for digital engagement is that the technology itself is ‘invisible’. It doesn’t form a barrier between the customer and the desired outcome. Badly designed digital journeys actively disadvantage customers with low digital skills and compare poorly with other common online experiences. These detrimental features might include providing online PDF forms that are not optimised for smartphones, overly complicated sign on procedures or confusing screen designs that lead people to give up and drop out.

Arguably the most demotivating digital experiences are ones that lack personalisation and flexibility. They are also the least compliant.

Ring-fencing time and space for those who need it

However enthusiastic the majority feel about the digital world, there remains a small but important group of customers who lack the skills, means or inclination to undertake tasks like money management online. Perhaps counterintuitively, their inclusion can be helped rather than hindered by extending digital services.

Embracing automation and customer self-service can significantly reduce costs and free up capacity. How those savings and resources are distributed is entirely in the hands of each organisation. They could be diverted to support customer service hubs or to boost specialist teams that support vulnerable customers.

In the simplest terms, if the call waiting queue reduces as people make use of online services, then the remaining customers get answered more quickly and there’s more time to devote to resolving their situation.


Every time-consuming process that is automated or digitised donates agent resources to customers who need extra support, including those excluded from online services.

The answer is not to prematurely do away with traditional services but to provide excellent digital experiences that satisfy customers’ highest expectations of ease, speed, personalised service and positive outcomes. Dedicate human resources to essential, specialist care.
No customer left behind.