If the customer is King, then customer care is the pampering that keeps the king coming back to sit on his throne. Keeping people or even better the ‘person’ at the centre of all decision making and being a customer centric business will help collections teams execute strategies and hit targets.
In our six crucial competencies of a DCA series we dive a little deeper into why customer care is such an important asset to the debt collection process.
There are a number of obvious generic business benefits like driving customer engagement and loyalty, creating a unique selling point for a brand and being known as a great corporate citizen, but we can hone in a little closer to the benefits at the 'back-end' of your processes.
In this blog we’ve looked intimately at our industry and have uncovered and explained the three important benefits customer care is cleaning up as a unique selling point for the best Debt Collection Agencies (DCAs).
Let’s take a closer look at these in detail:
1. Understand the customer; they’re unique
It goes without saying, but people are unique. They have unique personalities, dislikes and likes and they come from a myriad of backgrounds that influence how they feel and think. Although we can group them into demographics through habits and identified trends, when interacting with customers it is best to make them feel we recognise their circumstances and will treat them accordingly.
By understanding the customer better, you will enjoy a much clearer line of communication. The personal touch will always put the customer at ease, encouraging an open and sensible approach to problem solving.
At the debt collection stage - having that sensible conversation in a language they understand is key.
The ultimate goal will be to find answers that the customer understands and leads to a service arrangement ‘that dances to the beat of their drums’. When customers feel like they have been listened to, understood, and played a part in developing a solution, our experience tells us they are more willing to follow through with an agreed plan of action (be it a payment arrangement, query, or future agreement).
2. Protect them from harm
It’s never been more important to be customer centric when working in the collections industry - the suggestion of vulnerability is highlighted by the current circumstance.
There are many reasons why people might find managing their debt problematic and they’ll need to be supported by specialised and trained agents experienced in dealing with their specific circumstances.
Qualified agents understand not all vulnerabilities are the same, they can range from financial mismanagement through to physical and mental health issues.
It’s important agents are skilled at actively listening to customers to treat them sensitively and fairly.
They’ll need to be trained to be able to identify keywords, tone and patterns (known in the industry as 'triggers') to process accounts appropriately.
Phrases such as 'I've moved back in with my family' can seem innocent on the surface but further questioning should take place to gain a further insight into the customer’s current circumstances. Why? If needed an agent needs to signpost to third party services offering free debt advice and mental and physical health support.
The customer’s vulnerability will not impact every aspect of their lives, so when treated professionally a structured payment plan complete with 'Breathing Space' can help them clear their overdue account and remove the anxiety and stress often associated with debt.
It’s also important when working with vulnerable customers to have strong working relationships with Debt Management Agencies (DMA) who will often be able to give you detailed background information on vulnerable customers so they can be matched with an appropriate process to achieve the best outcome for everyone.
3. The bottom line
Another extremely important benefit of great customer care is that it will help you get better financial returns.
As discussed above, clearer lines of communication and sensitivity towards vulnerable customers can help develop manageable payment plans that lead towards customers clearing their outstanding balances.
Customer centricity also has a better chance of rehabilitating debtors as well. It is estimated to be 5x more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to retain them and a 5% increase in customer satisfaction can lead to a huge increase in ROI through repeat purchases. So, focussing on your customer relations at every touchpoint, including collections, will help them stay and engage with the brand.
In the social media age, your brand and values are currency and it’s never been more important to showcase your customer-centric values because now, both good news and bad travels at the speed of a button push.
It is imperative to your bottom line that your brand is shown in the best light possible with your customers. It will often result in whether or not you receive repeat customers and in the influencer age we live in, result in new customers through referrals.
Final words from CRS
Customer care will always play a major role in our business, we train our agents in-house using a dedicated tiered training system specialising in customer care. When our agents achieve success and progress to a higher level, they are presented with pin badges and certificates celebrating their in-depth knowledge of each sector.
We proudly hold industry accreditation through the Credit Services Association's CAI scheme, and our agents were recognised as the best in the industry in 2018.
Our service is inclusive of a dedicated team for vulnerable customers to ensure that they receive the appropriate level of care. We have worked hard to build relationships with key Debt Management Agencies (DMA’s) & charities to make processes such as signposting and file exchange as swift as possible to negate any detriment.
Ultimately the attention to detail and increased level of expertise and experience inevitably leads to increased returns from a business perspective but, more importantly, a better customer experience.
Gone are the days of 'aggressive' collections.