Improving debt collection & customer service through omnichannel


Martie De Beer | Executive | Contact Centre | Telviva | mail me |

South Africa narrowly escaped a technical recession, according to the latest figures released by Stats SA in early March.

Recession or no recession, growth is just not high enough to improve economic conditions and coupled with record interest rates and increasing prices at the fuel pump and grocery store, South Africans are under pressure. In these conditions, debt collection is crucial and the emergence of omnichannel platforms represents a pivotal technological advancement, revolutionising debt collection practices and significantly enhancing customer service.

Authentication processes

By providing clear, discreet, and accessible communication channels, these platforms acknowledge the sensitivity of financial discussions, offering a dignified way to manage these situations. It’s an approach that prioritises the customer’s experience and dignity, ensuring that each interaction is not only effective but also empathetic and affirming.

Businesses that have both contact centre and non-contact centre environments and need to collect arrears payments from customers share similar challenges.

The first is arduous authentication processes – these require time and in the world of a time-pressed customer who owes a business money, these processes need to be shortened dramatically in order to resolve customer problems effectively and efficiently. Second is contactability – not all customers are in a position to answer a phone call, while SMS messages have proven to be unreliable due to the influx of marketing messages.

There are many other examples, but if you are able to connect with the correct person on the channel of their choice, your contactability rate increases which increases your ability to collect arrears payments.

Technology will play a crucial role here, as it is already drastically improving contact centre callbacks. Businesses that have automated digital platforms that ensure a 2 pm call is made at exactly 2 pm are not losing an opportunity to engage with customers at a time of their choosing.

Similarly, many businesses have opted for menu options via a channel of their choice, be that on a business platform or another channel such as WhatsApp. If a customer receives a phone call or is drawn to another important task at work, there is often a timeout where the engagement closes and is over – which results in no resolution. Smarter deployment of technology can solve this challenge by linking the conversations across communication channels.

Consider this scenario: a customer knows she or he owes a business money. A call comes in while the customer is sitting in an open-plan office. This customer chooses not to answer this call and speak about personal matters. If the organisation has implemented the right technology, it can follow up with an SMS or WhatsApp, with a link to settle the debt easily through a host of convenient payment rails. Little tweaks such as these go a long way towards engaging with a customer who owes money in a manner, on a platform and at a time when they are more likely to settle the debt.

The omnichannel solution

The scenario also works in reverse. While consumers may be under pressure, they have shifted their expectations of how to engage with a business. This has led to a scenario where organisations or contact centres find themselves in a high-velocity environment that becomes cluttered with queries and tickets. Perhaps it is best to explain this through another scenario: A customer wants an issue resolved and calls the call centre number. If the call is not answered, he or she may chat via WhatsApp, send a message on the website and draft an email. While this query may eventually be solved, there are still a host of open tickets cluttering the system. On the other hand, with a smart, omnichannel solution, an agent can see at the outset everything the customer has done and is able to hold a meaningful and informed engagement to resolve the issue timeously and close the remaining open ends.

While technology’s potential is exciting, it is a mistake to presume that more technology necessarily needs to be adopted. It is crucial to ensure that technology and the customer journey work together to ensure that each engagement with a customer is meaningful and that automation does not cause frustration.

It is critical to understand where to automate and build efficiencies and where to allow customers to have human intervention when required. The only way to achieve this state is through a managed service approach where a provider walks the journey with a business to ensure they have the right technology and the right channels to engage with their customers effectively.

A relationship such as this involves a careful mapping of the business’s customer journey touchpoints, providing a detailed analysis of the customer’s interactions with the company. Only once this journey is understood can a business – alongside its partner – identify areas to streamline, automate and ultimately provide a better and more personalised service.

Finding a provider that shifts the way a business engages towards an omnichannel environment is crucial because this provides a cohesive experience that aligns with a customer’s expectations regardless of the channel they choose to use. The role of generative AI and intelligent automation further enhances the capabilities of businesses. By automating routine inquiries and guiding customers through complex processes, AI allows human agents to focus on more nuanced and high-value interactions.

In conclusion

The use of open standards and APIs facilitates the integration of additional cloud technologies, such as analytics and smart assistants. This allows businesses to leverage data to tailor their communication strategies, ensuring that each customer interaction is informed, personalised and effective.

Businesses – both with and without contact centres – that want to improve their debt collection, sales from leads, customer service, and much more should seek out managed service providers known for long-term quality and reliability, a proven record of transparency, and acting in the best interests of their customers.



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