In debt collection, the root to higher payments and more success closing accounts is helping consumers solve their problems. If you don’t know the struggles they face, however, you can’t achieve this goal.
Understanding the digital customer journey consumers take during their payment experience can help your agency understand where you’re succeeding and – more importantly – where potential payments are falling through the cracks.
What Is a Digital Customer Journey?
WHY MAP YOUR CUSTOMER PAYMENT JOURNEY?
Most business is now being done online, whether due to COVID-19 or simply the changing ways consumers prefer to pay bills. With this new reality, it’s time to narrow your focus on the digital journey consumers take to learn about your agency and eventually pay their bills.
By creating your own digital customer journey map, your agency can begin to understand the motivations, struggles and roadblocks consumers face as they navigate through your company’s digital framework.
THE CUSTOMER JOURNEY IN DEBT COLLECTION
Debt collection is different from other businesses in many ways. Your relationship with consumers is just one example. If you collect debt on behalf of a creditor client, you inherit their customer base, rather than fostering “ideal” customers of your own. This means these consumers have already undergone an entire journey before they come to you.
Consumers who often fail to pay bills may have heard of your agency or interacted with you in the past. However, the record unemployment numbers caused by the coronavirus pandemic suggest agents will soon be interacting with people who may be brand new to debt collection.
Is your payment experience friendly to first-time consumers?
LEGITIMIZING YOUR AGENCY AND PAYMENT EXPERIENCE
Combining inexperience with the ever-increasing sophistication of scams, consumers aren’t as likely to believe the traditional collection letters they receive. This means the first true interaction new consumers will have with your agency is when they digitally verify your identity through an internet search.
Consumers need to trust your company if you want them to pay. Will your digital presence provide the peace of mind they’re looking for?
If so, once they trust you, where do they go next? These questions can all be answered with a digital customer journey mapping exercise.
How To Create A Digital Customer Journey Map
For debt collections, you may already have an idea of the path your consumers take toward payment (at least in a traditional collection journey). This process needs to be updated, though, as you implement new digital strategy elements like emailing validation notices and texting consumers.
To create or update your digital customer journey map, consider following the steps below. Remember, the more time and effort you put into mapping, the more valuable your findings will be.
Common Digital Mapping Steps
There isn’t a single way to create a journey map. Usually, the steps you take in this process depend on the time you have to invest and the specific information you’re trying to obtain.
No matter what model you follow, you’ll find several common steps that will help you narrow down problem areas in your business and improve the customer experience.
DEFINE CUSTOMER PERSONAS
Before you analyze their digital payment journey, you must first understand your consumers. Building personas (models of a typical customer) can give you insight into the thoughts, feelings and motives that drive people to action or cause them to abandon payments.
Defining personas relies on critical thinking and empathy to create a well-rounded profile of the consumers you expect to encounter.
You should create a few different models, one for each type you expect to interact with the most. The way you dissect each persona type may depend on the type of debt you collect, but here are a few factors to consider in creating them:
- Financial circumstances - As collectors know, this is a huge factor that will impact whether a consumer will pay a bill. A customer’s path through the collection process will differ greatly depending on whether they have money to pay right away or if they are experiencing hardships.
- Age Groups - Generational collection tactics impact talkoffs. The same is true of how each generation will move through the digital customer journey. Younger consumers may feel more comfortable leading themselves through digital channels when older consumers may require more direction from an agent.
- Past Collection Experience - Is your consumer new to owing a debt or have they been through this process in the past? Those new to debt collection may have more questions from an agent or you may find they are more ashamed of their circumstance and prefer to self-pay to avoid an embarrassing conversation.
- Impact of Coronavirus - The fact is, many new consumers are likely to have been impacted by the pandemic either medically or financially. These consumers may require special consideration throughout their digital journey.
Much of this profile-building will come from past experience with consumers, learning from other experts in the field or practicing considerable empathy to build consumer connections and better understand them.
UNDERSTAND CONSUMER GOALS
Once you begin building your personas, their goals will likely start to become more clear. Try to identify as many of the goals as you can that will lead consumers to interact with you through digital means.
IDENTIFY CUSTOMER TOUCHPOINTS
A touchpoint is anywhere a consumer interacts with your agency along their journey. With the current reliance on digital communication at an all-time high, honing a consumer’s digital path is most likely to boost your revenue.
If you are new to mapping, a digital focus is the best bet for improvement. List every digital touchpoint a consumer may see and begin to evaluate its effectiveness.
- Website - this is the most important and largest touchpoint your agency can maintain. It’s often the first place a consumer will go to learn about you, and can be built to contain every resource a consumer may need.
- Self-serve payment options - online payment portals or offering one-click payment options via email or SMS are a necessity for self-serve. Evaluate your self-serve payment channel offerings for their strengths and weaknesses.
- Software products - list all of the functions of your payment processing software consumers will come into contact with. Do they reduce friction during agent interactions? Do they offer compliance and security features that may ease consumer concerns about fraud or data breaches?
IDENTIFY PAIN POINTS AND ROADBLOCKS
Once you’ve taken a detailed look at all the touchpoints a consumer may encounter, you begin to have a better idea of the good and bad elements of the user experience they provide.
To gain the full picture of the pain points and roadblocks your consumers encounter, you should now perform mock journeys of your own, posing as each of your personas.
- Website is difficult to find and doesn't rank well on branded keywords.
- Bad reviews rank higher than your corporate website.
- Poor website navigation.
- Can't easily find where to make a payment.
- Cannot find contact information.
- Website is too B2B focused.
- Too much friction in the payment process.
Seeing the path each consumer is likely to take, keeping their perspective in mind, will highlight issues you may never have noticed before. Here are a few common roadblocks consumers face during their payment experience
- Can’t easily find your website - bad reviews of your company ranking higher than your corporate site
- Poor website navigation - can’t find payment information or resource pages
- Too much B2B or client-focused website copy - confusion or doubt they have found the right company or website
- Complicated payment process - feelings of frustration may lead to abandoned payments or more complaints and negative reviews
Take detailed notes of what you notice when identifying process issues. Prioritize the problems you see by importance, and how deeply they impact the journey and consumers’ ability to pay.
Analyze the solutions you intend to implement before taking action. Make sure you’re fixing problems for your consumers, not just covering them up.
Keep in mind, digital customer journey mapping is a fluid process. Circumstances may change the types of personas you see and the motivations they have. Changing technologies will add touchpoints to the journey, or may make others obsolete. As you fix some roadblocks, others are likely to appear.
Make time periodically to study and improve the journey you offer consumers, and you’ll continue to see higher payment amounts and more resolved accounts, with less agent intervention.
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