Dealing with an increasing number of vulnerable customers has become more prevalent in the collections industry over the past few years.
At coeo we‘ve developed bespoke software to help us identify and support these customers appropriately.
We understand that there’s a myriad of moving parts needed to make sure the customer is supported correctly, and as often happens, problem debt walks hand in hand with other issues, meaning it’s an ever-evolving challenge.
As a DCA, we look to invest resources into the development of tools and processes to increase our service offering for this group and communication is key to its success. We believe understanding the important points of contact and correct channels for interaction is crucial for successful engagement and outcomes for vulnerable customers.
In this episode of our ‘The Biggest Questions’ podcast series, we asked a panel of experts whether there was a platform that customers prefer to open up about personal issues? We recorded the discussion and have presented it as a podcast for your listening pleasure and below we’ve also added the transcript so you can explore it in detail. (Content is taken from our event ‘Collections in the Digital Age’ earlier this year).
But before we get into the transcripts let’s introduce our first-class line up of panellists:
- Gary Grey (GG) Head of Collections at Spark Energy
- Caroline Burston (CB) Operations Director at coeo
- Caroline has worked in the Debt Collection industry since 1993 and gained extensive experience at several collection agencies and solicitors’ practices. Caroline is a well-known industry figure and brings extensive compliance experience and knowledge to coeo and is also a member of the prestigious Credit 500.
- Tony Gunderson (TG) 30 years + experience in financial services
- Lisa Beeching (LB) Head of Supplier Management and Quality Assurance at 1st Central
- Lisa is currently Head of Supplier Management and Quality assurance at 1st Central Insurance and Technology managing key supplier relationships across 45 suppliers spanning all operational areas from sales through to claims.
- James Squires (JS) Business Development Director at coeo
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JS: “Is there a platform that customers actually prefer to open up about personal issues that you experience? And when I’m talking personal issues I’m talking about maybe: mental health issues, financial issues… Do you notice that at all?”
CB: “We do and the preferred method of communication that we’re seeing at the moment is a big swing towards email.”
“We flag more customers as vulnerable via our email platform than we do on the voice. So, the customers are really happy to sort of sit and you’ll get really long war and peace emails about what the circumstances are, even how they got to this point because they’re doing it without that interaction of a human.”
“We’re able to make our decisions from there about what we need to do with that customer, and it’s much more free-flow conversation via the email than it is over the voice because even though they’re talking to you over the telephone they’ve still got that embarrassment, they’ve still got to open up, they may not have even told their families that this is how they’re feeling. But they will tell us via email very much so that these are the current circumstances.”
JS: “That’s really interesting. Gary do you notice the same thing?”
GG: “Yeah, we will also get a similar issue with most of the mediums that don’t involve a voice to voice human interaction so we will also get it over chat as well, we will also see it sometimes on letters.”
“So, it does tend to be they don’t really want to speak to somebody about it they just want to say what they’ve got to say, leave it with you, and then it’ll help you decide on what you’re going to do next.”
JS: “Very interesting. Tony, same question?”
TG: “I think certainly in our customer service and collections work where I think we pickup vulnerability more-so is in terms of the attitude of the customer, what they’re saying, how anxious they are. Maybe the number of contacts they make is probably the key for us in terms of how we pick up on that area. SMS tends to be our main way of communicating with customers and seems to be their preferred option in terms of getting back to us.”
“It was interesting what you were saying before in terms of their ability when you’re getting large volumes of information and how do you get into that as quickly as you can to get to the nub of what the question is or what the information requirement is.
“I think that’s certainly one of the learnings that can be taken away from today for myself is to understand how we can probably do that more effectively, by maybe not just using the subject line but by delving a little deeper into the information that you’re getting.”
“I certainly don’t think we’ve seen a big shift away from SMS just at the moment and that may be still driven by ourselves because that’s what we believe is the main way how we tend to get the best responses from customers, but I think it’s ever-evolving because I think with the way and the ability for chats to happen online in a different way is probably moving things as well. So, if you’ve got the ability with your chatbots to have a conversation I think that’s probably helping customers quite a bit, certainly from my experience SMS is still the key for us.”
JS: “It’ll be interesting maybe Paul will touch on this later on actually in terms of the customer feedback to maybe help to see if we can add some more meat to the bones here.”
Thanks for joining us and be sure to tune in to Episode 8 next week for our final episode in the ‘Big Questions’ series, and this time it’s the questions we received from the audience.
To listen to more of ‘The Big Questions’ series to visit The coeo Podcast SoundCloud page