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|Smart Collections and the Impact of Coronavirus

Smart Collections and the Impact of Coronavirus

For many businesses, it’s time to begin their recovery from the impact of COVID-19 - and that may mean to start recovering monies owed. However, to ensure success, these companies should take a new data-based approach to collections

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first party collections
by Sitel staff June 16, 2020 - 3 MIN READ

As the coronavirus pandemic hit, many organizations across the country were faced with a double whammy of having to restrict or even suspend operations, while simultaneously agreeing to hold off on collections and seeking to recoup monies owed.

Even with government support in various forms, COVID-19 has had an unprecedented impact on businesses of all sizes. Either due to state legislation or as a gesture of goodwill, restricted collections activity in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic suspending payments and waiving late fees. However, with many states now lifting restrictions across the U.S., now is the time for those involved in first party collections to review their collections programs to ensure they are minimizing the debt ratio while also delivering a positive customer experience.

New insights needed

Over the past three months, things have changed so much that even organizations with proven collection processes built around existing customer insights should take the opportunity to reconsider their approach – and be even smarter with their process. Anything we think we know or understand about consumers based on pre-COIVD-19 data may no longer be true.

The virus is redefining customer behavior. For instance, our own data, compiled as part of our 2020 COVID-19 CX Index study shows how rapidly customer journeys and channel preferences have changed, just during the lockdown period – 72% of respondents now prefer connecting and conversing with brands via digital channels, compared with 65% who expressed the same preference when polled in March.

What’s more, even though consumers recognize and understand that businesses are attempting to operate in the most extraordinary of circumstances, 14% of those polled would still publicly shame a brand after a single negative engagement and 43% said one bad customer experience would be all it takes for them to stop patronizing a brand and look to one of its competitors instead.

And of course, economic forces are also at play. An April NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found that at least one member within 50% of U.S. households had already either lost their job or had their hours cut due to coronavirus, reducing their ability to service loans or maintain payments on products or services.

Prudential Financial data shows that going into the virus, 54% of Americans were not financially prepared for being furloughed for more than two weeks.

U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics show that one in four working Americans don’t have paid sick leave.

Changing characteristics

This means along with behavior, the characteristics of your existing customer types and personas are also in flux – risk profiles that need to be reassessed and understood.

All of this puts companies in a tricky situation. If the impact of coronavirus is more than simply a momentary economic blip, businesses may have to take extraordinary steps to protect their existing customer bases. However, at the same time, businesses literally can’t afford to write off debts or let missed payments continue to slide.

Sitel Smart Collections

So how do organizations continue collecting outstanding debts without damaging their brands or alienating their customers or, worse still, adding to the pressure many are already feeling thanks to coronavirus?

The answer is Sitel Smart Collections, and smart collections start by collecting data.

Applying speech analytics to calls and interactions with customers can provide a wealth of insights that will help companies understand which approaches are most appropriate for particular customers as well as shedding light on customer journeys and channel preferences.

These initial insights will be invaluable in segmenting customers based on behaviors, understanding where and how to focus your resources and the potential use of self-service tools.

Full compliance

However, the use of speech analytics is also a critical component of our smart collections solution once customer interactions begin.

Because we monitor, process and examine 100% of calls in real time, you can be certain of compliance. Non-compliant language or the failure of an agent to mention legal disclaimers can be flagged and corrected in-call – mitigating against the potential risk of legal action from a customer.

Quality control

As well as compliance, analytics ensures quality. The same capabilities mean we can spot any potential agent training needs and identify any areas where a script or vocabulary may require enhancement. While in terms of customer satisfaction, this ability to follow conversations as they unfold and trigger alerts around particular phrases or vocal cues makes it easier to direct agents to the next best action (NBA).

Continual improvement

As the collections process continues, data is constantly analyzed to measure customer sentiment, both positive and negative to refine the agent approach and ensure the greatest possibility of success. This analysis also results in greater operational efficiencies such as reducing average call times and provides even greater future risk mitigation as patterns emerge helping an organization to spot potential at-risk customers and take preventative steps.

To successfully collect outstanding debts, without negatively impacting brand image, requires a special blend of resources, technology and continuous training meaning that for many organizations they require a set of capabilities beyond their core business.

Furthermore, in the current economic climate and in a time where people are still adjusting to life after lockdown, companies that want to reach mutually beneficial agreements with consumers regarding collections also need an expert understanding of customer experience.

This is why when it comes to smart collections, the smart decision is to partner with an organization that can demonstrate it has the right skills, technology and capabilities.

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