​The New (Friendlier) Face of Consumer Collections is Web Chat

Posted February 02, 2015 by Jeff Hobbs in Web Chat, Consumer Collections

In the world of consumer collections, finding the most effective ways to reach customers will always be part of the strategy puzzle. Ours is an industry that has historically (and successfully) used predictive analysis combined with direct mail and phone call campaigns.

But consumer behavior and expectations have shifted. And these shifts necessitate a new look at consumer collections.

Your Consumers are Online and Need Help

It's no secret that consumers know they can accomplish just about anything online. Statista.com reports there are more than 1.2 million apps in the Apple App Store alone. The staggering pace of app development and online experience enhancement isn't just a trendy phase that's about to fade away. It's rooted in the facts: consumers (young, old, and in the middle) sometimes prefer to get things done online instead of going to a retail store or calling a toll-free number.

A 2015 study by the customer engagement technology research firm Software Advice shows 56 percent of participants aged 18 to 35 would rather chat online than talk to someone on the phone. Of survey participants aged 35 and older, 27 percent agree.

According to the study, the reasons why chat is growing in popularity are many and include the expected reasons like consumers looking for lower wait times, convenience, and the ability to multi-task.

Lowering Customer Effort and Protecting the Brand

The study also cites something that is an ongoing challenge of consumer collections: lowering the barrier of first contact. Depending on your business model, it's possible an early-delinquent collections effort is the first time your customer ever has a 1-on-1 conversation with someone representing your brand. And it can be uncomfortable for your customer.

When an early delinquent customer comes to your website to get things figured out, they started on your website for a reason. For many customers, a live web chat conversation is much less intimidating compared to a phone call. They feel more in control of the conversation and potentially less embarrassed or uncomfortable.

Treat Different Customers Differently

When a customer is signed in to your website, data is your best friend. When you combine real time online activity, historical trends, and customer account details, you will know the right time to send a chat invitation to each type of customer. After all, the utopia of web chat is to be there exactly when a customer needs help, and to know which customers will self-serve on their own, without your intervention.

Plus, do other opportunities exist during web chat sessions? One thing's for sure. It's a great time to find out what is causing payment delinquency.

Is this Actually Friendlier?

Could consumer collections leverage web chat support to make consumer collections more … friendly? There's a big part of the answer that's rooted in customer perception. Is a segment of your customers more comfortable with online conversations? Even to the point they feel more cared for and valued when they're on your website vs. on the phone?Web chat support will give them the chance to resolve their account balances without a lot of confrontation. Logic dictates that your brand will win. Recognizing the value of customer preferences and behaviors will net positive results.

Oh, and About the Phone

Of course, none of this is to suggest that inbound or outbound phone is a bad channel or should be abandoned. Referencing back to the Software Advice study (and many others like it), while web chat preferences are on the rise, phone calls still are hanging in there as a preferred channel for some age groups and contact reasons

Learn more about how consumer collections web chat works and what it can do for your company.

See the information from this article on Slideshare.

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Jeff Hobbs

About the Author

Jeff Hobbs

Jeff is Executive Director, Business Development/Digital Solution Architecture. In this role, he explores emerging processes, technologies, strategies, and data integration methods to help companies get the most from their web chat and digital engagement programs. He has decades of experience with BPO operations and customer experience.

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