This holiday season will be like no other. Household disposable income is crucial to the holiday season but will remain low, and any chance of a fast economic recovery seems more unlikely with each passing day. BDO reports that 2 in 5 Canadians say personal finances are deteriorating. TransUnion's Financial Hardship Report recently published 63% of Canadians are concerned about their ability to pay their current bills and loans.
Knowing this, how can we approach collections during the holiday season in an understanding and empathic fashion?
On November 17th, Lexop hosted a holiday collection panel discussion where our CEO Amir Tajkarimi, and three industry leaders, including Dana Ades-Landy and Rola Azouri of National Bank of Canada, and George Alifragis of Altima Telecom, discussed the best approach to holiday collections.
Below, we outline the top 5 things we learned from the holiday collection webinar.
1. Make past-due customers your priority
Past-due customers are an integral part of any business, and this holiday season, they need to know companies care about their well-being and understand their financial issues. One way to show this is to take a proactive care approach, including reaching out to past-due customers in a patient and polite way to let them know you understand and care about their wellness.
Utilize personalized, digital messaging during the holiday season in an empathetic way, explaining you want to work with them to help settle their past-due accounts, not work against them. Make your contact with customers as personalized as possible, including addressing them by their first name, to tailor the messaging, as generic messaging can be counterproductive. Make everything personalized at every step of the process, even when you are sending due date reminders.
2. Use a multi-channel contact approach with a focus on automation
Using the right channel to contact customers is crucial to catching their attention. The first contact with a past-due customer is the most important as it sets the tone of your objectives and expectations. It's recommended that you use a multi-channel contact approach that focuses on customers' preferred communication methods and use historical data to gain insights to see which form of communication is best responded to by your customers. More complex accounts usually require phone calls, so it's vital to automate the bulk of simple past-due accounts to reach as many as possible in a short time frame. By using email and SMS to reach your customers, the limited number of agents can handle the accounts requiring special attention that require human intervention.
3. Provide flexible options to collect past-due accounts
Past-due customers don't intentionally try to be late on payments, so concessions need to be offered to help them through this holiday season to make the experience as friendly as possible. Flexible offerings can include deferring a required payment or moving a payment or two to next year. Because deferrals from the beginning of the pandemic have ended, that doesn't mean customers are no longer struggling; it's likely the opposite. When you reach out to them, let them know you're thinking of them during this difficult holiday season and that you're there for them by providing these options.
4. Take a 365-days-a-year approach, not just a holiday season approach
Customers always come first. The holiday season is an additional opportunity to reach out to them and reiterate why they are essential, and explain that your company wouldn't exist without them. Reaching out in an empathetic and understanding way shouldn’t just be applied to the holidays, but year-round. It's imperative to remind customers of their importance and value at all times, not just during certain times of the year, like the holidays.
5. The industry needs to adapt for the future
Thinking about the industry's future, especially in the current financial climate, should be on everyone’s mind who works in the industry. Delinquencies will likely increase next year, and the volume of past-due customers that need to be contacted will also increase drastically. As a result, those who come out ahead will be companies that can adapt and recognize the need for digitization and automation in the collection industry. With parts of the collection process being automated, companies can reinvest in parts of the business that get more value and focus attention on customer relationships. Adapting collection teams to have a more customer-oriented approach or changing department titles to names like customer care or help management can also ease stress and change the tone of past-due customers' experience.
Past-due customers are an essential part of any business. When they are having a tough time financially, a crucial thing to remember is that relationships with them must always remain positive, no matter the circumstances. We've all been there. Everyone goes through difficult times in life, but showing heart and empathy can help ease the stress and difficulties many people are facing today, especially during this holiday season.
Download the webinar here to watch the full discussion!