Customer-Centric Debt Collections: How Regulation F is Changing How We Connect With Customers

In the face of changing regulations in the debt collection industry, specifically Regulation F, many organizations are rethinking their approach to compliance and operations. To discuss this challenge and the sea of change it is sure to bring, I met with Mike Gibb of AccountRecovery.net, Jim Beck of MRS BPO, and Tim Collins of Indebted. We discussed Regulation F, how to adapt (and thrive) in today’s communications landscape, and how contact centers focused on debt collection can improve efficiency while increasing value and revenue through key investments in technology. Let’s explore some key takeaways from this powerful discussion. 

An industry poised for change  

We live in a highly digital world. The generation that grew up with computers and experienced  the rise of the internet and the proliferation of mobile technology first-hand is now approaching their 40s. Text-based communications mediums have grown and prospered — email and text messaging are the preferred means of communication for many digital natives. Making contact with a consumer with an outbound call is less likely now than ever before. 

What does this mean for an industry that has traditionally worked via snail mail and telephone? Debt collection agencies must be prepared to embrace regulatory change and leverage preferred communication channels in order to better serve today’s consumers. This change is long overdue and stands to benefit both sides — customers benefit from increased options that meet their needs and preferences and organizations have the opportunity to add value while increasing revenue and collection rates.  

Shift focus from compliance to operations 

Across every industry, we are seeing a major shift in focus to be more customer-centric. But how does that apply to debt collection? Most collection agencies have spent the majority of their efforts on maintaining compliance with regulations and laws regarding when and how they connect with consumers while maintaining appropriate audit records.  

A common target KPI is the number of calls made, yet these numbers tell us little about the actual success rates, much less how to grow and improve. In order to be successful while navigating all the changes afoot, organizations need to shift their focus from compliance towards operations. These operational changes must cover improving the customer experience by offering better tools for self-service, unified cross-channel communications, as well as robust controls for opting in or out of specific channels.  

Gain efficiencies 

With this shift in focus towards operational excellence, not only can businesses improve the customer experience and increase engagement, they are also setting themselves up to increase efficiency across the board. That said, to fully make the leap, businesses must invest in tech that supports updated operational workflows. As Tim Collins of shared, “There’s an opportunity here where you can grow revenue, but do it more effectively using the technology, using self serve, and thereby empowering the customer.”  

This tech can come in several forms, from the platform a business uses to manage and run their contact center, to updating their website to include a customer portal, and utilizing CRM-style tools to manage customer data and communications. This also means leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) for self-service. Whether that looks like AI-powered chatbots  as an alternative to speaking with an agent and/or AI-fueled data analysis to help improve information flow to agents, AI can improve customer experience and operational efficiency by upwards of 25%.  

Increase value and revenue 

With the right approach, not only can you realize great gains in efficiency, you can simultaneously increase value to your customers and increase revenue. To achieve this, you will need to fully commit –– not only to smart tech investments that include AI, but to rethinking your communications approach and all of your service options. 

Today’s consumers want control over their communications and more self-serve options. One major industry change is the switch towards inbound over outbound communications. This can come in several forms: 

  • An online self-service portal where customers can pay their account, handle disputes, assess options, chat with an AI-bot, and/or schedule time with a live agent. A great example of this is MRS BPO’s portal 
  • Robust communication controls that allow customers to opt in or out of specific communication channels, select their preferred methods, and set availability timeframes 
  • A completely unified cross-channel approach where customer information is accessible no matter where or how communication takes place. This should extend beyond phone calls to email, chat, direct messaging, and social media. 

By doing this, you give consumers options and control, which makes it far more likely to make an initial connection and maintain communication long-term. Jim Beck of MRS BPO summed this up well, “We need to think about how we can reach customers in a way where it’s easy for them to respond and they’re not embarrassed by the situation.” It may take multiple touch points to actually collect payment but by giving them flexibility and control, you are more likely to succeed. Your revenue goes up as you successfully collect on more debts, customers experience more value and better outcomes, and this is all thanks to an efficient, customer-centric process. 

Data is key for operations and compliance 

While we may see a shift in primary focus to operations and customer experience, compliance is never far behind. More communication channels means a much stronger need to leverage technology that brings them all together on the backend — with proper tools, all communications can and should be tracked in the customer record.  

The next extension of this unification is using AI-powered tools to monitor customer data, identify patterns and predictive models, and build proactive workflows. Through AI, you can better understand when and how your customers communicate, and what tools they are using on your portal. You can also use AI data analysis to provide better information and feedback to your contact center agents in real-time. 

Bringing this all together to build the contact center of the future 

It is possible to increase value by improving customer experiences and outcomes, while simultaneously improving operational efficiency and increasing revenue. Mike Gibb of AccountRecovery.net put it perfectly, “Your agents, technology and reporting practices can be a competitive advantage.” To do so requires smart technology investments that leverage AI to help reduce friction for consumers, leveraging a true multi-channel communications approach, and using advanced data analytics to stay out in front of the competition. 

To learn more about how SuccessKPI can help you use AI to power the contact center of the future, visit us here