Most companies have Visions, Missions and Values that claim to put the customer at the heart of what they do. But when customers with outstanding payments are at their most vulnerable and really need us, are we there for them or do we subject them to a rigid and inflexible set of rules communicated to them by collections agents without consideration of the bigger picture?
Over the years, TTEC has developed a successful collection capability and proven track record of positive outcomes. Our experience spans all stages of collections and customer segments, from high volume consumers to large enterprise and government clients.
Based on our experience, here are 4 essential best practices and key tips for delivering a positive collection experience that doesn’t burn bridges.
1. The right mindset matters
Most companies approach collections by focusing on processes and scripting. This leads to robotic and detached interactions. At TTEC, our approach starts with recruiting, training, and coaching for mindset. Every agent needs to understand the client company’s culture, its place in the market, and what it is trying to achieve.
Tip: Instill in agents the mindset that they’re co-owners of the business when supporting customers. Ask them, ‘If you were the CEO of the company, what would you do in this situation?’
2. Give autonomy
The most successful call centre agents—whether they’re customer service or collection agents—stay within the process and regulatory guardrails but also have a level of autonomy that allows them to conduct an empathetic conversation naturally while still negotiating with the customer.
Tip: Remove metrics and QA constructs that prevent agents from feeling comfortable having a two-way conversation with the customer. For example, measure efficiency metrics like AHT for management purposes only—and ensure agents are aware it’s not tied to their performance rating.
3. Make skill development effortless
Once agents are equipped with the right mindset, collection experience and skill come into play. Ongoing training should make it easy for agents to develop critical skills in connecting with customers. They should be skillful in the following: active listening, mirroring, authentic empathy, questioning, negotiation, assertiveness (not aggression) and reassurance.
Tip: The secret sauce to better collection outcomes and a better customer experience is for agents to help customers take ownership of a repayment plan instead of feeling that they have been forced into it.
4. Keep it simple
How many elements are within your quality assurance scoring methodology? 10? 15? 20 or more? At TTEC we focus on 4 scored elements, which has enabled us to achieve fantastic collection outcomes along with strong customer satisfaction and few complaints.
Tip: Make sure the company’s quality assurance scoring methodology is aligned with its brand values and mission. Define the experience that customers should have with a collections agent and work from there.
A smarter approach
Gone are the days of heavy-handed collection tactics. It is just too hard to win new customers and realise the maximum lifetime value for your business only to end up losing customers and revenue over what is often a short-term customer cash flow problem. Empathy combined with the right training go a long way in producing better outcomes for everyone.