I wanted to share an email I had forwarded to me by one of our team in our Ontario Branch. This was an email from a consumer, about reaching out to them with a text message and providing email as a form of communication to discuss a debt:
“I have just received a few messages from you assumably regarding a collection issue. I apologize for the delay, but I have just moved and have virtually no cell phone service whatsoever and am receiving my messages several days late. I do however have internet. I am unavailable from 7am to 7pm or 8pm most days, so email will be the best form of correspondence. Seeing as none of the eight other collection companies that I am currently dealing with have taken your progressive approach, I will treat your issue as priority. Which delinquent account of mine has been given to your collection agency and for how much?
... I have dealt with numerous collection agencies and never has one sent me a text message, let alone one including a contact email address! Receivables Management needs to focus on this proactive approach as opposed to the "leave-them-a-hundred-messages-and-wait-for-a-call-back" routine if it hopes to increase its success rate when dealing with consumers. Thanks for your time and consideration.”
Predictive dialers and call blasting is not the way to collect on accounts in this day and age. If our role is to communicate with customers, we need to be available by multiple channels. Specifically, email and texting.
Fix The System!
Most collection vendors do not have platforms to email or text consumers, and that’s a shame. Email and SMS texting has been around for years, and now with SMS-enabled phone servers or service gateways and integrated email servers, programming contact management systems to offer these channels for communications is not a daunting task. It should be as easy as picking up the phone and calling someone.
Plan Your Communications
This doesn’t mean blasting customers repeatedly every day by every channel – outside of the fact that texting or emailing count as a communication attempt under provincial collection laws, I’ve said before that just because you can run a predictive dialer to call a consumer over and over, doesn’t necessarily mean you should. There should be a model for communicating with a consumer by multiple channels, and if telephone calls fail to generate contact, texting or email should be considered, and then the response analytics need to be measured. A ‘pedal to the floor’ mentality does not generate success. Look at the consumer’s response above – he had not received his messages in several days – if we had called or emailed him 20 times in that period, how would he have responded?
Educate the Creditors
To complicate agencies having outdated software platforms, I personally know of several creditors that will not allow collection vendors to communicate with emails or texting, as it is ‘unsecure’ and is a threat to privacy of data. I am not saying they are wrong, but in any case where a collector is reaching out to a consumer, there needs to be permeability – the ability to exchange data with consumers. Rather than establishing an iron curtain, creditors need to work with vendors to establish guidelines for minimizing risk rather than discarding a modern form of communication. By limiting collection staff by preventing email access or similar handicaps to reaching consumers just prevents them from effectively communicating (and collecting!). Security incidents can be caused by telephone just as easily as email.
I believe in transparency, and feedback from consumers like this is important, because creditors should be in the business of listening to their customer base, even those that have moved down on the aged receivables chart. If consumers are calling out for better forms of communication in the credit industry, why aren’t more creditors and agencies listening?
If you have an opinion or comment, I’m always interested to hear from you, and my direct number at Kingston Data and Credit is 226-946-1730.
Blair DeMarco-WettlauferKingston Data and Credit