7 Key success factors for credit managers to effectively re-engage customers in 2021

It’s hard enough to handle unprecedented levels of debt without having to worry about the increased hardship and vulnerability many consumers and small businesses are experiencing due to the current pandemic. But Credit Managers are finding themselves in an increasingly challenging situation. Precariously balancing commercial outcomes and targets, whilst striving for a good customer experience, and with referrals to outsourced debt collection temporarily suspended for many, is by no means easy! And as government support subsides, moratoriums end and outsourced collections activities resume in the second quarter of 2021, a tidal wave of hardship is expected into the next financial year.

The good news though is help is at hand in the form of innovative outsourced collections partners and it may be time for Credit Managers to rethink the traditional debt collection approach entirely. Customer re-engagement campaigns are a newly considered approach but executed with the right conversational skill sets, technology, communication strategies and experienced management they can get impressive results both from a CX point of view and in monetary terms.

Damien Versluis, General Manager Operations at ARMA, has conducted several customer re-engagement campaigns that have exceeded client and customer expectations. He outlines below some factors for consideration that are critical to the success of such campaigns:

1. Highly Skilled Operators – A campaign such as this requires highly skilled operators that are trained in having intelligent and genuine collections conversations. They should be easily able to build trust and rapport with the customer and know how to apply empathy. Strong listening skills are essential along with knowing the right questions to ask respectfully to understand a customer’s financial situation. There will still need to be consequences for non-payment of debt where required but instead of outlining these to the customer as a fear tactic, a highly skilled operator would instead sell the benefits of payment eg. ‘By setting up this payment plan and keeping to it we can reduce the debt, protect the account from any further action, and relieve some of the stress for you.’

2. Strong focus on Hardship and Vulnerability – Staff employed to do these campaigns need to have a heightened awareness of hardship and vulnerability. Understanding red flags and triggers to better identify vulnerable customers and to ensure they get the right assistance and support. Some forward thinking outsourced providers will have specialist hardship divisions that can assist in ongoing management of hardship accounts.

3. Wide range of communication options – Any re-engagement campaigns should include a full range of communication options allowing the customer to choose their preferred way to engage regarding their account. Whether it be automated options such as interactive voice or text messaging, customer online portals and chat options, talking over the phone or conversing via email. The latest in collection technologies such as rich media messaging allows for letters to be embedded in texts and interactive 2-way text communication provides easier ways for customers to communicate.

4. Relevant and effective content and messaging – It is essential that letters, emails and texts are tailored to engage customers in the current environment. Drawing on behavioural economics, psychology insights, and reviewing layout and design, can have huge impacts on the success of engagement and collection strategies.

5. Onshore operation - Ideally these campaigns are handled onshore as foreign accents and a lack of fluid English can easily irritate and/or further disadvantage already-frustrated and vulnerable customers.

6. Relevant Experience – When looking to outsource accounts prior to disconnection some organisations may want to look at a first party campaign rather than a third party calling on behalf of them. But whether first or third party, brand reputation is absolute key for Essential service providers. That’s why it is important to partner with an outsourced provider that has proven capability in delivering similar successful campaigns which can be demonstrated through case studies and testimonials.

7. Relationship Focused – Last but certainly not least underpinning all successful outsourced re-engagement campaigns is the ability of the outsourced provider to develop strong relationships with clients. Each campaign will need tailoring to specific client requirements and a good relationship will ensure open communication, trust, flexibility, and the best outcomes for all.

All in all, the challenges of the past year mean that a renewed approach to outsourced collections is needed for credit providers. Sticking to outdated debt collection processes that rely heavily on consequences and escalation in this environment could cost more money in the long run and take a big toll on brand reputation and the well-being of your customers. Conversely, a customer re-engagement campaign puts a positive slant on effective collections. Designed to assist the customer and sell the benefits of engaging and paying off their debt, it will return the best results both in terms of the overall customer experience, and commercially. Is it time to consider your new approach to collections?

ARMA is a forward-thinking debt collection agency that provides customer focused collections. For further information on how ARMA may be able to assist with customer re-engagement campaigns for your organisation please contact Eddie Smith, Head of Sales & Marketing, on 0415 351 832 or eddie@armagroup.com.au.