Accounts receivable experts are still navigating the best ways to implement digital communication tools and optimize digital strategies. Agency owners want to use email, text, web chats, payment portals and other current technology.
But many people don’t know which channels are the best for them and their consumers.
As webinar panelists, Jill Kennady, Resurgent Capital Services, Jordan McWilliams, Contract Callers, Inc., and Cody Owens, Equabli, Inc., recently shared their thoughts on planning, execution and the advantages and disadvantages of digital communication for AR.
The Future of Digital Communication Tools
During the discussion, the panelists were asked whether non-digital collection agencies will still be competitive in the future. “I’d say it’s already here. I’d say we’re already to that point,” said McWilliams.
Owens agreed – the popularity of digital solutions means your company should be adapting today. After all, the best way to gather more payments is to make it as easy as possible to interact with your office. Are there forms of digital communication that are compatible for achieving both compliance and customer satisfaction?
Project Manager - Analysis, Data Management and Strategy Creation, Contract Callers Inc.
Best Digital Communication Channels for Debt Collection
Every communication channel is different. For debt collection, some may work better for agencies just getting started with digital tools. Some are more useful for younger generations. Other tools can help capture payments where you may otherwise be losing revenue.
Here are some of the main channels the panelists suggest and why:
Because Regulation F has given specific guidance and it offers greater flexibility, email is currently the most common digital channel for AR. One reason it is so popular with agencies is because it’s popular with consumers.
You are more likely to have people opt into email than text and it allows you to share more detailed messages with consumers.
“I think our portal traffic definitely reflects that too. You have higher click through rates in email. You can explain who you are,” says Kennady.
Email in debt collection can be used for:
- Handshake letters
- Validation notices
- Payment reminders
Text messaging is another common channel for debt collectors to interact with consumers. You can use SMS to send signature requests, payment reminders or documents for customers to review while they’re speaking to an agent.
Although it is an accepted channel, keep in mind that recent phone carrier guidelines changed how companies can use SMS texting services.
Web Chat or Chatbots
Consumers who don’t like to talk on the phone may be thankful for the option to chat instead. This channel can also simplify the user experience by letting staff offer web chat payments during the conversation.
“Things that enhance experiences, like a dynamic chatbot on the self-service portal are also very helpful,” says Owens. You can teach chatbots to offer payment options, which provides the same positive, friction-free user experience without taking an agent’s time and effort.
Other Points of Contact
Many customers want to get to know your business before you even speak to them. Consider all the channels you can use to share your message and brand with consumers.
Website and Self-Service Portals - Your website is one of the most important points of contact between you and your consumers. It is oftentimes the first place they go to learn about or verify your agency is a legitimate business. A good debt collection website:
- Clearly explains what your company does
- Builds credibility, so consumers aren’t afraid of being scammed
- Uses clear navigation, to direct the right audience to the right pages
- Offers self-service options like payments and preference management
Social Media - active social media channels help build trust with consumers and also offers another way for consumers to get to know your company.
Online Reviews - You don’t want poor reviews to be the first thing someone sees when they search for you online. Review campaigns and search engine optimization strategies can help you control your brand image.
Tailoring Messages Across Channels
Each communication is different in the audience it pulls in and the ways it can be used. You need to be aware of the nuances each channel brings and understand how to use each effectively.
While there are times you will send similar messages through different channels, you will have to make adjustments. Paper letters that reach a large audience must be more general, for instance, than an email or text. When creating and refining messages, consider:
- Communication cadence
- The actions you want a consumer to take
- What past consumer behaviors indicate about them
- Where in the customer journey they may be
No matter how you tailor your message, you need to be sure you coordinate what you’re saying across channels. Don’t give a certain offer in one place while giving conflicting information elsewhere.
Tracking and Measurement
One advantage of digital communication tools is that they often have built-in reporting to show you how your consumers interact with your content. Companies should monitor consumer behavior and make adjustments to messaging, cadence or other factors as needed.
If you’re new to digital communication software or are about to implement new channels, be sure this step is built in as part of the process. Failing to track and measure your data will leave you with no information later on if something goes wrong or a process doesn’t work as intended.
Gaining and Managing Contact Information
You need to create policies and procedures for each new channel you add, including how to comply when using each type. Perhaps one of the most important procedures you will create is how to gather and manage contact information for each communication type. A few ways to get started:
- Work with creditor clients - Hopefully, you can start your list by working alongside creditor clients. Ask them if they have (and are willing to share) email addresses.
- Scrub email lists before use - Scrub any email addresses you have before using them.
- Contact updates during talk offs - Make sure updating contact information is a step in the talk-off process.
Measuring Return On Investment (ROI)
Knowing you have to use digital communication channels can make it tempting to skip data collection steps like measuring ROI. After all, data analytics take lots of time and effort, and if you already know a product is here to stay, why pay attention to how well it works?
Owens encourages agencies to take advantage the reporting software tools have to offer. He says that ROI and other metrics still have plenty of insight to offer, even after you’ve proven your tools work.
Biggest Mistakes Implementing Digital
You should expect to fine tune how your digital systems work through rounds of trial and error but you shouldn’t have to repeat the same mistakes others have made implementing their digital strategies. Here are some of the most common errors to avoid:
- Setting and forgetting - You have to look at data to identify problem areas and which parts of the process are succeeding. You also need to monitor compliance regulations and update policies and procedures, so your compliance management plan is always up to date.
- Being too rigid - Don’t become too attached to your processes. Digital communication tools require experimentation and data monitoring. When you notice a tactic doesn't work, be flexible in your approach and willing to make the necessary changes.
- Picking the wrong tools - There are countless software tools available to upgrade your strategies. It’s up to your organization to choose the ones that fit best for you.
Flow Technology for Email and Text
Digital communication tools are the best way to connect with consumers and offer them the channels they prefer. PDCflow’s Flow Technology:
- Is a system for sending documents and requesting esignatures, payments and photo uploads.
- Works through email, text messaging or web chat.
- Speeds up account resolution by letting agents send documents or a payment request while on the line with a consumer. This lets them walk consumers through payment, ensuring account resolution.
- Complies with PCI and HIPAA regulations.
- Keeps messages secure and accessible to only the person they’re intended to reach.
Call centers for highly regulated industries like AR have many compliance laws and regulations to consider when collecting payments and sending documents. To learn more about laws and regulations governing email and text and how to use these channels in your collection efforts, download the Email and Text in Debt Collection How-To.