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In debt or not in debt?

From the Knowledge Centre

Harnessing the power of outstanding customer service is crucial, regardless of a customer's situation. Echo's Lloyd Birkhead discusses this further in our latest blog...

The increase in UK household debt levels is a widely know fact, and as this continues debt is increasingly becoming an inevitable part of the customer journey. It's likely that a greater and greater number of people will now find themselves in payment arrears at some point in their lifetime.

For UK companies, recovering customer arrears is clearly vital to cash flow and business performance. However, with companies having to work harder than ever to earn and keep loyal customers, the approach taken to recover monies owed must be a key consideration.

For long term business success, a strong brand reputation and a loyal, satisfied customer base are vital - companies simply cannot afford to throw away valuable customers through poor customer service. In terms of debt collection therefore, treating customers fairly and placing them at the heart of collections strategies has never been more important.

Choice of Debt Collection Agency
It's right then that companies should, and are, making more calculated decisions when it comes to who they appoint to chase their debt. Great recovery results are no longer the only deciding factor, it's becoming increasingly important to select a provider who also has the skills and experience to impact positively on customer satisfaction - building and protecting customer loyalty and the client's brand reputation.

However, it isn't necessarily that easy to find an agency who can deliver both. Whilst there are many debt collection agencies operating in the UK, there are not many who are truly experienced and skilled in customer service. It's therefore becoming more common for companies to choose a provider with customer service specialisms who can also deliver end to end debt collection services.

Adding Value
Customer service specialists differ from many standard debt collection agencies in that they focus on the importance of positive customer experiences throughout the collections process, protecting the future profitability of a client's business. Treating each customer as an individual case, customer service specialists are skilled and experienced in customer engagement strategies, using empathy and understanding in order to select the right solution, for the right customer, at the right time.

The Importance of Early Intervention
One of the most important stages in debt recovery is early arrears. Having an effective early arrears strategy in place can be one of the most effective ways to engage with a customer who has failed to pay. Whilst many companies still use their own in-house collections teams at this stage, outsourcing at this point can lead to real success.

Appropriate intervention at this stage is proven to be the most effective tactic in reducing bad debt. Communicating effectively with the customer, recognising their needs and understanding their unique situation are all crucial aspects in getting the customer back on track before debt becomes a longer lasting issue.

Collecting in the Field
A customer service specialism and the human touch can also be hugely beneficial later in the debt cycle. Here, field based collections can be an effective engagement strategy. There are of course many misconceptions about field based collections, with some believing that intimidation tactics are used to force customers into paying. Of course, in this day and age, this simply is no longer the case.

Customer-centric debt collection agencies will use the opportunity to speak to the customer face to face , engaging them to gain a deeper understanding of their circumstances and financial situation. Handled correctly, field collections can help build trust and good rapport between the customer and the organisation and reconnect the business with customers it may have been previously unsuccessful in contacting.

Differentiating your Business
In an increasingly competitive business landscape, differentiation will continue to play a huge part in winning and keeping business. And, whilst debt recovery is critically important to business performance, customer service continues to be a key differentiator, with customer satisfaction proven to drive future buying behaviour.

Those businesses who apply customer-centric strategies to the debt recovery process will therefore continue to come out on top. Enlisting the help of a customer service specialist with end to end debt collection capability can help ensure brand reputation is protected and customers are given the support and understanding they need. Get debt collection wrong and costs can be significant - loss of business and a damaged reputation are just some of the consequences facing businesses who don't step up their approach to debt collection.

Lloyd.


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About the author

Lloyd Birkhead

Lloyd is group managing director of Echo's wholly owned subsidiary - The Grosvenor Services Group.

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