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Customer engagement - keeping the income coming in during these difficult times

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The year started for our business very well and then suddenly in March, like everyone else, our business and personal life turned upside down with overnight change. The impact on companies has been dramatic and for enforcement, damaging.

There are some activities that will keep the income coming in, even if the end client has stopped doorstep recoveries. It would be foolish to stop all customer engagement based on a knee jerk decision. I want to discuss why, with small changes, income is kept ticking over.

Most news websites have reduced from producing a range of stories down to just one subject, Coronavirus - COVID 19 and the impact of.

Coronavirus and money: What if I can’t pay my bills?
Source BBC website April 3rd, 2020.

Coronavirus will transform UK work and travel, says AA
Source BBC website April 3rd , 2020.

Back to basics

Going back to basics and sometimes using out of favour contact methods, whilst adjusting others is having an immediate impact on results as we have measured in just the last two weeks.

The telephone is often viewed as an ordinary way to contact existing customers, but it is far from ordinary. While e-mail and mail communication may be efficient, the telephone is still an ideal way to contact customers. Phone calls create stronger relationships, foster clear communication, and allow you to get the answers you need in real-time, and currently most people are at home.

People remember a voice and they remember the way that person helped them. They may want to speak to that person again next time they have an issue, and they may be so pleased with the personal touch they were given, they’ll provide positive feedback to your business.

In the last few weeks contact centres have cleared out, where staff are being rapidly reconnected into the business process using quick implementations of cloud-based dialler solutions. Enforcement agents could replicate this to make outbound calls at a set pace with all the business monitoring, compliance tools of a first-tier contact centre. Manual calls are highly inefficient and lack the compliance tools, but as a quick fix, they work to get things going until a dialler can be used.

Telephone calls are most effective for a few different types of conversations. Short surveys to judge circumstances, and they are also an effective way to talk through stumbling blocks with the customer’s outstanding debt case that would otherwise create a long and time-consuming exchange of e-mails.

Telephone calls allow you to have a two-way dialog with your customers. While mailings are an effective way to get information to your customers, a two-way dialog helps you ensure that the information you give them is heard and understood. Second only to face-to-face communication, telephone conversations allow you to connect directly with your customers as people.

Enhanced SMS

In this way, the common and widely used basic SMS Text Messaging is proving to be less effective and needs adjustment. That reminder content should change its objective to keep customer engagement going. Enhanced SMS surveys are excellent at keeping the engagement going and far more effective than just a push message.

Businesses have numerous other options for communicating now, such as email, and social media. Telephone communication may be slower than its new-media counterparts, but it still has benefits in an increasingly impersonal world. The telephone call, which connects a caller with a human voice, creates a connection that other media may lack and is still an important business component.

AI chatbots

Second to a telephone conversation, there has never been a more important time to implement Live Chat and Chatbots into enforcement processes. This is not a tick box claim on a tender, Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, conversational middleware, virtual collections, if you are not all over this you need to be and very soon.

We are at a place when contact centre diallers emerged, behaviour and payment projection scoring came along as well as decision science. Organisations who were to slow to embrace these developments suffered, became less competitive and revenue, in terms of collections and fees, dropped.

A.I. will enable a scripted and learning Bot to connect with your customers and complete many interactions that are carried out by Collectors to-day, not all of them, but a substantial amount. Don’t make the mistake however, as seeing this as primarily and efficiency gain. You should increase capacity by around 30%, allowing you to reach out and serve customers you haven’t been able to in the past and that translates to payments and payment plans. A properly scripted and learning Bot will also detect vulnerability and pass to a live agent as appropriate.

The biggest mistake we see is organisations expecting delinquent customers to start an engagement with a virtual relationship. Customers rarely wake up to visit a website so they can chat! That phone call engagement and circumstance survey must lead with proactive customer engagement, that includes Bots to keep the conversation going.

Ensure multi-channel capability

The customers preferred vehicles range from WhatsApp, Messenger, SMS, Apple Business Chat, RCS, so you need to facilitate communication across many applications.

So, in practice, what are the steps to deployment? In high level summary:

  • Know your customer over the phone or survey to understand their circumstance
  • Use proactive communications with Bot capabilities to keep the conversation going
  • Reach and be reached across all digital modes
  • Have staff simulate customers. The “machine” must learn, so do you
  • Machine learning – Data to drive insights and effective conversations

You may not agree with all of this, but I am sure we all agree that to do nothing is more damaging in the current circumstance.

It stands to reason that understanding this process will help you to become more aware of what is happening as you communicate, and the things you can do to ensure that your message gets received "loud and clear."

Written by:

Daniel Pearce