Latest articles and updates from ARL
Friday, 16th Feburary 2018
By Nikki Dennis*
“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value” – Albert einstein
What would happen if instead of concentrating on the immediate goals of reducing bad debt and increasing cash flow, you strive to help others, to help your customers first and foremost? Strive to create value for your customers? If you can have quality interactions with your customers in all areas of your business every time, then the success will follow.
Customer centricity, quite simply, is the act of placing the customer at the centre of everything you do. It is certainly not a new thing, customer centricity before the onslaught of globalisation and widespread use of the internet, happened naturally, often as part of the community in which you lived. You know what we’re talking about here; the local grocers, butchers, fish and chip shop owners and bartenders that knew not just your name but your usual’ order and very probably everything from the name of your first born to how many sugars you take in your tea!
This sort of customer knowledge still exists today in smaller communities but for many of us globalisation, the internet explosion and digitalisation has meant that many companies never set eyes upon their customers, making any interactions they do have with them increasingly important. The effect the internet has had on business over the past 30 years is mind blowing; according to Cisco analysis (1)*, in 2012, 8.7 billion devices were connected to the Internet. In 2020, that number is expected to soar to 50 billion. More and more transaction are digital negating the need for face to face interactions and competition is rife, making it harder to build loyalty amongst customers.
And yet....with the rise of corporate social responsibility, customers are expecting and demanding much greater customer experiences than they ever have. As Sheryl Connelly, Ford’s in-house futurist notes from Ford’s 2017 Global Trends Report (2)*, the need to belong to a community
is strong all around the globe, and people expect businesses to play a role in that community and give back. In fact, 88% of women and 83% of men are more likely to support companies that prioritise purpose over profit according to the report. What’s more, in the absence of a less than favourable experience, they are more than willing to take to social media to share their negative experience before taking their business elsewhere.
With this insatiable need for great customer experiences, people are willing to pay more to achieve this and according to research conducted by Deloitte and Touche in 2015 (3)*, customer centric companies were found to be 60% more profitable compared to companies that were not focused on the customer. Compellingevidence, but most companies make the mistake of applying customer centricity to their frontline activities and forget about the back office, support and head office functions. To truly have the customer at the core of your business this model has to apply to each customer touch point and as such, collections can play a pivotal role in this approach.
So exactly how can customer centricity be applied in a collections environment? Remember first and foremost, that your frontline staff are the face of your business and invest in them. Many companies now refer to a ‘relationship hub’ rather than the traditional call centre where agents are multi-skilled and have insight into the holistic file of a customer including any products/ services they utilise and full payment history. This creates a full customer experience where a customer may call up to discuss a new product or service and at the same time as addressing this query, the agent is then able to remind the customer that actually they currently have an amount owing on their account about to fall overdue, would they like to settle that now? This sort of interaction makes it far easier for the customer to have one contact point to discuss all queries and portrays a real sense of customer knowledge.
So let’s look at each of these requirements in a little more detail.......
Protect your customer from spiralling debt and in turn protect your brand encouraging repeat business and referrals. How do you stop debt getting out of control for your customer?
In this modern environment, it is often easy to forget the value of talking to customers and truly understanding their requirements. So what makes a good listener?
87% of the world’s population use mobile devices and here within Australia there are more smartphones than people. If you don’t have digital communication options to engage your customer then you will get left behind. What are the new and emerging ways to engage your customer?
Automated self-service options
Assistance for Vulnerable Customers
It is essential that the correct support is provided to customers when required whether that is support that can be provided internally or externally.
Have clear guidelines detailing what you expect from your customer and ensure that the fair and reasonable consequences of not fulfilling these requirements are communicated. To a certain extent your customers will treat you how you allow them to, consistency in your approach is the key.
How do you ensure your outsourced partners can apply customer centric collections?Not too long ago you would have been hard pushed to find the words collection agency and customer centricity in the same sentence. Customer Centricity for us in the collections business is twofold as it applies not just to our clients but to their customers, the end users of our service. With so many major brands embracing customer centricity, it is increasingly important for collection agencies to adopt a customer centric approach themselves. Often viewed as an extension of the clients’ organisation, it is important that the values and approaches of collection agencies are closely aligned to them.
Interestingly, adopting a customer centric approach has consistently been shown to increase collections, creating a win/win or rather a win/ win/win for the client, their customer and the agency. A collection call doesn’t have to be viewed as a battle where either the debtor or collector are victorious but rather a customer centric interaction where you can assist the customer to clear their debt and improve their cash flow, whilst also increasing collections for the client. It is a shift in mindset and culture and most collection agencies now will refer to the ‘customer’ as opposed to the ‘debtor’ which can have negative connotations. This all ties in with agents keeping an open mind; you are not ‘collecting from a debtor’ but ‘assisting a customer’. This approach is a lot more positive, and as such, has a higher chance of a better outcome for all parties.
So, for an outsourcing partner that can mirror your customer centric approach, how do you assess how customer centric a collection agency is?
Ultimately, the modern day collections team, whether internal or external, needs to help customers better manage their money and clear their debt; better inform customers about their existing debt; assist customers to resolve outstanding account issues and strive to improve overall value for customers to ensure repeat business and long standing mutually beneficial relationships. Nail this, and it will increase cash flow for your business as well as clearing debt and freeing up cash flow for your customers, creating peace of mind and encouraging brand loyalty.
Bottom line, if you don’t look after your customers, someone else will!
*Nikki Dennis is Sales Director at Australian Receivables Limited (ARL) and can be contacted on 0437 652 562 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
ARL is a leading national collection agency, assisting many major companies across key industry sectors with their customer centric collections.