Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Why does Amazon know more about our customers than the collections industry?

In the current age of big data, organizations are becoming ever-increasingly sophisticated in their ability to understand and react to their customers’ needs and requirements. B2C companies like Amazon know exactly what I want to buy as soon as I log in, while Google regularly displays adverts for products similar to those I have recently been researching. Even across our industries, suppliers gain a detailed picture of my circumstances whenever I apply for credit or a utility supply. Why is it then, that as we progress customers through the billing and collections lifecycle, our understanding of a customer’s circumstances actually declines?

We all know that a critical aspect of any collections activity is building an understanding of an individual’s circumstances. This enables the optimal strategy to be deployed on the account and also informs discussions with that individual, which is of growing importance given the increased focus on ensuring the fair treatment of customers; surely this can only be achieved if we truly understand each customer’s individual requirements?

We must not forget that our industry has one huge advantage over other organizations - we actually engage in direct dialogue with our customers throughout the process. We continually have the opportunity to build a really clear picture of the individual throughout the collections process, whether that be through capturing Income & Expenditure details, understanding the root cause of financial distress or just understanding a customer’s overall ability to pay. Unfortunately this data is currently not always captured effectively, let alone shared between collector and creditor, as accounts flow through the process.

Unsurprisingly, this disjointed sharing of information can also drive a disjointed customer experience; examples of which include:

• A customer being required to complete the same I&E process multiple times with multiple agencies as accounts are recycled through the process.

• A customer communicating and agreeing a resolution relating to their short-term financial challenge, only for the account to then be passed to a new agency with no visibility of this discussion.

Building on the capture and utilization of this data, rather than placing new information in a silo and requesting the same data multiple times from the customer, can only be a positive move forward.

As our industry continues to focus on improving the customer experience, understanding the circumstances and requirements of the customers we serve is critical. We already have access to a large amount of the data required to enable this from the interactions we have with our customers. By working closer together and using existing technology creditors and agencies can share new information with each other, which will ultimately enable agencies to have more informed discussions, and truly improve the resultant customer experience. Furthermore, this will also allow creditors to improve their overall collections strategy – a win for all concerned!


By Chris Smith, TDX Group

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