Collectors are doing more collecting
One thing that has become clear over the past few years is that debt collectors are doing more collecting. With a rise in inflation, fall in household incomes and a decrease in employment, people borrowing money is at an all-time high. The Guardian recently published that the average UK household will owe close to £10,000 in debts by the end of 2016. [i] Increased activity is therefore needed more than ever, throughout all stages of the collections cycle.
Driving debt, credit and collections with the data
One crucial element of the collections cycle is data, other sectors such as Media, Healthcare and Energy have unlocked the opportunities of “big data” and are now excelling in terms of their processes, efficiency, and effectiveness. Whilst some of the financial sector, for example, Insurance, is keeping up with technological trends, the systems and infrastructure that support the collections industry are lagging. Being unable to handle data, information and analytics efficiently are not only frustrating collections professionals but also hindering businesses and their output.
“Information is the oil of the 21st century, and analytics is the combustion engine.” – Peter Sondergaard, Senior Vice President, Gartner Research.
Data couldn’t be a more vital piece of the debt management puzzle. Information is gathered at every stage of the collections process from making the initial customer contact at the point of sale, to in-house collection teams, and then on to external collection partners. By harnessing the right data, improving its quality, keeping a record in the most efficient way and sharing it effectively across the entire process, you can revolutionise your business almost instantly and begin to make some huge breakthroughs with regards to your collection processes, success rates and upstream processes.
4 ways data can help the credit, debt and collections industry
- Greater Accuracy – The more accurate you can be about a person, the places they’ve lived, their possessions, their circumstances, etc. the more intelligence you have upfront to engage in a meaningful conversation. Information (that is correct) can help you understand any limitations when devising payment plans, and enable you to construct the most effective and successful route forward. Many businesses dealing with debt management are struggling to gather and utilise accurate data. Sometimes, even when information is provided, it may not be used. This could be because it hasn’t been verified or deemed accurate. Alternatively, agents may simply lack trust and confidence over the source of information, resulting in poorer communication channels, unproductive conversations and lower success rates.
“The goal is to turn data into information, and information into insight.” – Carly Fiorina, former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard Company or HP.
- Intelligent Transfer – Transferring data well not only minimises mistakes, it also saves the business time and connects the customer journey. Information about a customer’s case should be end-to-end, from the initial contact, to call records and external recovery. So, when a new agent takes on a case, they have a full picture of the customer’s journey and circumstance. Without all this intelligence, you’re essentially back to square one – no previous case history information means agents need to start the whole customer journey again.
- Increased Efficiency – If you have accurate data, that’s recorded easily in a debt management system, and the information is carried forward seamlessly, you’ll automatically create some significant efficiency gains. Let’s look at the health industry. If you move from one doctor’s surgery to another, you’d expect all your existing health information and details to be seamlessly passed forward to the new surgery behind the scenes. You wouldn’t expect to go through all of your medical history again. Imagine recalling every visit, injection, tablet. Think of the time you’d both be wasting, instead of understanding problems and resolving issues.
- Better Customer Experience – Often an oversight. Years of referring to people as “debtors” has made our customers seem like things. Understanding an individual’s problems and tailoring plans for them and their lifestyle is the difference between success and failure. Big data can enable you to make more strategic engagement with each customer, for instance, a recent survey highlighted that the service companies personalising subject lines in emails produced a 41.8% increase in open rates. [ii] Data insights like this can help you to create a more personal experience for your customers and therefore help you yield the best results. Having the right information about that person upfront allows you to tailor your initial contact and suggested solution, rather than solely relying on an individual agent to make their own decisions about the most appropriate action. People shouldn’t need to continuously state their name, address, what happened last time they were contacted. They should be able to say things once and be heard. We’ve all experienced the frustration ourselves when suppliers don’t log information, so you find yourself repeating the same details. Time is people’s most valued thing of all – so you do not want to waste it!
The collection cycle is a continuum, yet we treat every step as a separate phase
From making the first contact with the customer to involving a Debt Collection Agency (DCA) or Debt Purchaser to recover the money, the whole collection cycle is a continuum. Data and analytical information should be intrinsically linked and threaded throughout the end-to-end journey of each customer. Every touch point with that person, detail about what their situation is and outcome of the contact made should be recorded and updated on that person’s case. This ensures the next point of contact can move the case on rather than repeat what’s already been established.
This also begs the question of efficiency. Is there really a need for so many separate operations and processes to take place? Especially if they are just repeating the same processes each time. Are we at the dawn of a new era whereby all of this can be streamlined and handled by one supplier? A single system that will follow a customer’s journey from the start to finish and report in real-time about the latest information gathered. Is there a future for DCAs? Or can they be absorbed by larger businesses entirely?
And, if big data analytics is telling us people are less likely to open letters, why do we always start with this? If data indicates that people are more likely to open an email at 10 am on a Tuesday using their mobile, why aren’t we making contact then and tailoring our messages appropriately? [iii]
Data is growing faster than ever before and by the year 2020, about 1.7 megabytes of new information will be created every second for every human being on the planet.
Getting things out in the open
There is technology that can enable us to do this. Big data analytics is here, so what’s holding us up? Is it a lack of knowledge? Or is it an old habit of secrecy and the unwillingness to share data?
To fully embrace big data and reap the benefits, the industry needs to foster a new level of transparency. Over the years, customer case information hasn’t been fully passed over from one agent to another, leaving new agents to start at the beginning of the customer journey again. This is frustrating for the customer and also an ineffective use of time. For big data to work, maximum information is needed to create an effective and personal engagement with the customer.
At the moment, less than 0.5% of all data is ever analysed and used, just imagine the potential here.
Data sharing should be at the top of the agenda in 2017 for all debt management practices.
The government has already begun to implement better data sharing initiatives to great success. Under the best practice debt collection protocol recently published for local and central Government, it’s noted that local and national debt collection policies should contain the following commitment:
- Actively manage external debt collectors to ensure they are maintaining high standards, and that good practice and client data is shared appropriately between firms and government organisations. [iv]
The industry challenge:
To promote the sharing of data within entire collections processes and for every supplier involved.