Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Pro Tips To Successfully Handle Sales Objections

Posted on: November 28th, 2019 by Péter Málhai No Comments

No matter how good your product or service is, customers will more often than not have objections that will make them hesitate before making a purchase.

Many sales people think of sales objections as a bad thing, but if you know how to successfully handle them, and more importantly which one of the objections you need to handle, they’ll help you better understand your customers’ needs and ultimately see the whole picture before making an offer.

In the first article of our sales strategies article series, I talked about the most important cold sales call strategies you’ll need to leverage in order to sell more. In this article, I will elaborate on one of the most important strategies in sales: how to successfully handle sales objections.

Tip 1.  Every sales objection is actually an opportunity

The fact that your customers are raising a concern regarding your product or service means that they might in reality have the intention to buy it, but they just need more information or affirmation. It’s definitely a good start, as if they were completely uninterested, they would just simply say no without making any objections.

So, my first and most important tip is to think of every sales objection as an opportunity to sell: try and turn objections into selling by addressing them right away in a professional manner. Read on to find out how!

Tip 2.  Listen carefully before reacting

When a customer starts raising an objection, instead of immediately reacting negatively, disagreeing, or pushing them too hard to proceed with the purchase anyway, make sure to listen carefully and wait until they finish sharing their concerns.

Also, make sure to show your prospect that you’re actively listening by validating your listening skills. For instance, summarize what they’ve just told you and ask relatable questions.

However, when summarizing, make sure to avoid negative words and start handling the objection by reassuring the customer. For example, let’s say your customer says your solution is not the best for them because it’s too expensive and they already have a similar solution. In this case, remind the customer that even though they have a similar solution, they started to look for another option and there might be a reason for that. 

When listening to a sales objection, don’t forget the golden rule of commerce: the customer is always right (or should be made to feel that they are right). So, even if you don’t agree with what they are saying at the beginning, wait until they finish and respond in a way that makes them feel they are right.

Tip 3.  Find out their real concerns

Quite often the first objections are not the customer’s real concern regarding your product. For example, your customer might feel embarrassed to admit that your offer is too expensive for them. On the other hand, some customers may simply refer to the easiest and most common type of objection there is, namely, objection based on price.

In both cases, customers might actually have every intention of making the purchase, so it’s worth asking a few additional questions to discover what their real objections are before you start handling the first concern they raise.

Don’t forget, the longer you engage with them the more they will trust and open up to you. And once you know their real concerns, you can genuinely answer and handle them.

Tip 4. Redirect the conversation

We all know how easy it is to engage in lengthy conversations. Indeed, elaborating on prospects’ objections can easily result in the focus of your conversation moving from selling to superfluous small talk.

So, once you feel you properly answered your customers’ objections and concerns, it’s time to move the conversation back to your ultimate goal, namely to sell your product or services.

After the objections have been handled, quickly summarize what you were talking about, ask your customers if they have any other questions or concerns, and proceed with closing the deal. The customer needs to be brought back into the sales flow.

As you can see then, sales objections do not necessarily mean your customers do not want to purchase your product. In fact, sales objections are actually another opportunity to make a sale. So, make sure to follow my tips and don’t let objections prevent you from selling more!

The Benefits of Real-Time Monitoring in Call Centers

Posted on: October 16th, 2019 by Gábor Gyulai No Comments

Analyzing and evaluating your call center operation statistics is a vital process, as it provides you with invaluable insights into the bigger picture. But what about individual calls themselves? There are times when data alone cannot help you understand what really is going on during calls. And in particular, there may be situations during calls where immediate supervisor interactions are necessary. It is for these reasons that you should consider utilizing real-time monitoring, a powerful tool which allows you to listen in to ongoing conversations, supervise your agent’s input as needed, and join a call if necessary.

What is Real-Time Monitoring?

In call center solutions, real-time monitoring refers to features and tools that enable supervisors to track and oversee conversations that take place between agents and customers during a call. By using real-time monitoring, you can get an insight into your call center’s daily operations, such as your agent status figures or your inbound and outbound activities. Utilizing real-time monitoring provides a number of benefits for your business, including helping to boost your company performance, customer satisfaction and employee workflow effectiveness.

Improve Your Agents’ Quality of Work

By listening in to agent calls, you can identify areas of knowledge or skills that may need further improvement. In VCC Live®’s solution, you even have the possibility of talking to your agent without the customer on the other end of the line hearing a word of what you are saying. This is a very effective way of providing continuous feedback to your agents in a live environment.

Real-time monitoring can also come in handy when handling sudden changes in a project. It can, for example, immediately let your agents know what new issues they need to pay attention to, be they updates to a certain script or special information regarding specific customers. Moreover, it can help you improve your agents’ performance, by helping you to reorganize your teams or transfer agents to other projects where they can work more efficiently based on their skills and expertise. By carrying out real-time prioritization, you can make both the workflow of your company more customer-oriented and your agents more productive.

Acquire Useful Insights for Your Business

Complementing your post-call evaluation procedures with real-time monitoring can provide another level of insight to help improve your business strategies. By listening in to conversations you can see which agents are performing the best, allowing you to work out what types of conversational styles and techniques should be implemented by other agents, and which employees could benefit from more one-on-one coaching. Focusing on improving your agent performance will result in lowering idle time, which will benefit your business in terms of profit and efficiency.

Another way to gain insights into your call center’s performance is to focus on real-time metrics data, such as SLA, waiting time or number of calls with different statuses in a given timeframe. With this information to hand you can capture and analyze your processes to help detect issues and leverage effectiveness in order to improve your business performance.

Provide Better Customer Experience

As this article’s title suggests, one of the main benefits of real-time monitoring is the ability to actually monitor the calls your agents are making. Listening to them in real time will immediately show you whether your agents are using the right tone, structure, language and protocol when representing the company. Some might wonder if it is really necessary to check agent performance as they work, but the benefit is clear: it is not about stressing out your employees but rather about trying to provide a better customer experience and improve rates of satisfaction from your clients in the long run.

Furthermore, customers come in all shapes and sizes, and while most of the time discussions about a complaint, issue or inquiry can be carried out without a problem, there are occasions when an agent simply will not be able to satisfy the needs of a customer. At such times it is crucial for a supervisor to have the opportunity to join a conversation before things get out of hand. With the help of real-time monitoring, managers can provide appropriate guidance and high-quality assistance to their agents, ensuring that customers have their issues taken seriously as well as successfully resolved.

In conclusion: utilizing a real-time monitoring solution in your call center environment will result in a number of benefits. Using real-time monitoring will help you identify your top agents and thus let you plan training strategies and reward structures, while also allowing you to aim for the best quality customer experience your business can offer.

Effective Ways to Leverage Outbound IVR in the Call Center

Posted on: October 3rd, 2019 by Elemér Erdősi No Comments

Have you ever asked your customers what the first thing is that comes to their minds when they think of IVR systems?

Well, the bad news is that it’s probably the vision of never-ending calls, with an automated system playing annoying music in the background until they get transferred to a live agent.

The good news is that these days, thanks to rapidly advancing technology solutions, an IVR system can be used for a lot more than just routing callers’ incoming queries.

IVR technology can now also be used for outbound purposes as well, a well-constructed outbound IVR allowing companies to excel at some of the most important customer service activities.

Check out my article and find out what the most effective ways are to use an outbound IVR system in the call center!

Outbound IVR surveys

As we all know, customer feedback is vital to any business. On one hand, by collecting customer feedback, you can communicate that your customers’ opinions matters to you. On the other hand, customer reviews contain some of the most valuable information you can gather about your product, allowing you to improve your processes in the long run. After all, it is customers who use your products, isn’t it?

When it comes to collecting feedback, companies often send out mass SMS messages with a link that directs customers to a survey they can fill out. And while this is one way of collecting customer feedback, why not instead simply give your customers a call and ask them directly for their opinion?  

An outbound IVR can be used to proactively reach out to a large number of customers and conduct a survey with them over the phone. Customers can either use their dial pad to type their message or simply say their opinion out loud while the IVR system records it, and using speech-to-text these voice responses can be also saved as a text.

Luckily, outbound IVR survey calls can be personalized as well. By leveraging text to speech technology, for example, you can address your customers by name and further personalize the message by providing additional personal details in the conversation.

IVR for debt collection

One thing is certain, debt collection companies receive a lot of payment promises. There’s only one problem: these promises are not usually kept. When this happens, debt collectors have no other choice but to repeatedly call back customers and remind them of their outstanding debts. And of course, it is costly allocating some of your resources to repeatedly remind the same customers of their debts.

So, have you thought about launching an outbound IVR campaign that uses a recorded message to notify customers of their outstanding debts and due dates? For example, VCC Live’s outbound IVR feature can calculate and subsequently let customers know how many days are left until they need to settle their debts.

And if you want to kill two birds with one stone, you can even offer your customers the option of being transferred to a live agent or self-service to pay their debts during a call. How amazing is that?

Telesales and lead generation

Outbound IVR systems can also be used for telesales and lead generation purposes. Most companies have at least a few databases with extremely cold contacts who almost never pick up their phone.

Allocating members of your workforce to repeatedly call numbers that are unavailable for the majority of the time is unlikely to bring any return to your business. And this is where an outbound IVR campaign comes in handy: you can launch an outbound IVR campaign specifically for your cold contacts, and if any of those customers pick up, they can be automatically transferred to a live agent. By doing this, you can make the most of your cold contacts without having to waste your expensive workforce on them.

Furthermore, it is the main goal of any telesales department to prospect for qualified leads. Finding these qualified leads, however, takes a lot of cold calling, which is again very costly. An outbound IVR system, on the other hand, can greatly improve your lead conversion process by pre-qualifying interest.

In other words, you can start automated cold calls, play messages regarding your product, and then offer customers an option to be transferred to a live agent if they are interested.

Mass notifications with outbound IVR

Outages and service interruptions can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere. In such cases, you’ll need to notify hundreds or even thousands of customers about the interruptions within the shortest possible time period.

But handling mass notifications in a call center greatly reduces productivity, as agents end up dealing with the notifications rather than handling customer queries. However, one effective way to easily communicate such interruptions with your customers is by sending out mass notifications through an outbound IVR.

Again, you can personalize your mass notifications by using a combination of pre-recorded audio and text-to-speech technology.

Of course, with an outbound IVR, you can communicate other important messages as well, such as letting your customers know of unexpected changes in your business, driving them towards last-minute sales, or reminding them of an upcoming appointment with your company. 

Outbound IVR systems can be greatly beneficial for any call center that deals with outbound customer activities. Make sure you also leverage it!

Cold Sales Call Strategies to Sell More Effectively

Posted on: September 13th, 2019 by Péter Málhai No Comments

People tend to say cold calling is dead, but in reality, there’s still a lot of potential in cold sales calls. But only if you do it right.

When it comes to cold calls, getting it right means thoroughly planning your conversations in advance.

Using my 15 years’ experience in sales, I’ll bring you an article every month to show you how to plan and execute cold sales calls effectively, so that you can make more sales and close more deals. Don’t miss out on the first article of our cold sales call strategies article series!

Build trust and gain sympathy

Imagine the situation: you’re at home and hear your cell phone ringing. You check your phone and don’t recognize the number. You think maybe it’s the feedback you’re waiting for from that job interview last week, so you pick it up excitedly – only to find out it’s a cold call from a company. As soon as the operator starts speaking, you already know they will want to sell you something, and you immediately begin to feel negatively about the call. That’s why building mutual sympathy and trust is the first and very (if not the most) important step in any cold call.

Pro tip: when making a cold call, the first sentence decides everything. Don’t start by asking “is it a good time to talk”, since it’s not only vague but also indicates the call might be long and therefore reinforces the receiver’s negative feelings towards the company you represent. Instead, try and introduce yourself quickly, ask them if they have 2-3 minutes for the call, and promise them you’ll be very quick. By doing this, your customers will know from the very beginning of the conversation that the call will not take long and you’re not going to take their valuable time for too long. 

Assess needs and make an offer

The goal of customer needs assessment during a cold sales call is to understand what your customers want and how your product or services can meet their expectations. Assessing customer needs is a vital part of the sales process. Put simply, if you don’t know what your customers want, then it will be difficult (if not impossible) to meet their expectations.

Pro tip: In certain occasions, customers don’t have any specific needs. In such cases, it is the sales rep’s task to generate needs for them. Let’s look at an example: “I understand that you like your smart TV, however, I’m sure you would enjoy watching your favorite movies even more on a device with higher resolution (of course, it only works if you manage to gain information about their favorite movies before.)”.

Once you manage to build trust with a customer, it’s time to thoroughly assess their needs. The best way to do this is by preparing a series of questions and selecting the most relevant ones, based on the current conversation. After having got an overall picture of the customer’s needs, make sure to summarize what you’ve heard, and the make an appropriate offer.

Pro tip: when you summarize what you’ve heard make sure to apply the ‘three yeses’ rule, meaning if you ask three questions and the customer’s answer is yes to all three questions, then it’s 90% that they will say yes to your next question as well.

Handle customer objections

No matter how good a product or service is, every customer will have objections which will make them hesitate before buying them. And in order to make more sales and close more deals, sales reps will have to learn how to successfully overcome these objections.

Objection handling means responding to the customers’ concerns in a way that changes their opinion and encourages them to proceed with the purchase. The best way to handle objections is through active listening, asking follow up questions and responding to customers’ comments in a thoughtful way. When it comes to responding, reacting too impulsively, arguing with a customer, or pushing them too hard to proceed with a purchase will only make things worse, as customers will easily lose the trust you’ve built with them so far.

Also, don’t forget about the golden rule of commerce: the customer is always right. So, even if you don’t agree with what they are saying, try and respond in a way that makes them feel they are right. 

Pro tip: when customers are not sure about a purchase, they usually refer to the easiest and most common type of objection, which is objection based on price. In such cases, however, they might actually have every intention of making the purchase, therefore, it’s worth asking a few additional questions to discover what the customer’s real objections are and start handling them.

Cold sales calls can be frustrating both for your reps and customers. But if you follow the steps mentioned above, you’ll be able to build trust, gain customers’ attention and as a result close more deals. 

How Customer Service Automation Is Revolutionizing Contact Centers

Posted on: August 28th, 2019 by dorarapcsak No Comments

In today’s CX-driven world, customers can choose from a number of platforms when they want to communicate with your customer service team. As a result, businesses receive inbound conversations on far more channels than they used to.

It’s clear that your agent team on its own would struggle to respond to all of these incoming conversations that your business receives. However, by automating some of your processes you’ll be able to handle thousands of conversations simultaneously across all channels while keeping customers satisfied.

Implementing customer service automation processes in the call center has many advantages. Here are the top benefits!

Increase your productivity

Just because your agents are on the phone all day long, it doesn’t mean they are making productive calls or being efficient. Many call centers still rely on manual dialers, with agents having to dial numbers themselves. And many of these calls end up lost on answering machines, or with agents waiting too long for a customer to pick up.

Customer service automation can greatly benefit your call center’s productivity. With a predictive dialer, for example, you can automate your dialing process and thus potentially double your efficiency by reaching as many customers as possible.

Indeed, one major advantage of predictive dialers is that they can greatly enhance agent efficiency. Firstly, by relying on a predictive dialer, agents save time as they no longer need to manually dial numbers. Secondly, when an agent finishes their current call, a predictive dialer already has the next call ringing and ready to handle.

Furthermore, you can also provide automated responses to the most recurring customer queries, and thus free up your agents from typing out the same response multiple times a day. In fact, automating some of your workflows can potentially add up to hours of saved time per day.

Deliver better customer experience

Let’s face it, customers rarely look forward to contacting customer service lines. Having to contact a company’s customer service several times, and then being put on hold for several minutes, is clearly a frustrating customer experience.

With proper customer service automation processes, however, customer issues can be easily resolved without them (and you!) having lengthy and inefficient phone calls with customers.

Amongst other things, skills-based routing is a technique being increasingly used to direct customers to an appropriate agent by routing incoming calls to specific agents based on the service requested. As a result, customer experience greatly improves as agents are not only actively talking to customers but are also resolving their issues at potentially the highest level of efficiency.

It is also worth considering that it is increasingly common for companies to use automation tools such as an IVR system to handle their customer service traffic more effectively. However, voice-based IVR systems often mean customers calls take longer than expected, and actually don’t bring the results customers are looking for. So, if you want to unlock the full potential of IVR systems then make sure you opt for a visual IVR. Visual IVRs allow customers to use touch-screen menus to find the answers they’re looking for, instead of waiting for traditional IVR systems as they read out every option.

Lower your costs

As we all know, lowering costs is the number one priority in any call center. Saving costs by reducing staff numbers, however, is a gamble that is not worth taking, as during peak times it may actually end up costing you more in terms of poor service.

In contrast, customer service automation will allow you to cut costs by reducing the amount of labor used on individual tasks, rather than your number of agents. By automating some of your processes, you’ll not only be able to free up your agents from repetitive, low-value activities but also reduce the number of customer calls your call center receives. And, most automation tools are available on a subscription basis, allowing you to only pay for what you use and also easily scale up based on your needs.

So, for example, if your call center receives a lot of repetitive questions, you can assess your calls and automate the repetitive ones, for example, using an IVR feature. The more calls your IVR system can handle the more money you can save on your workforce.

Reduce your agent workload

Handling low-value repetitive tasks, such as answering the most commonly-asked questions a company receives, is a nightmare for any call center agent, a soul-sucking activity which can easily result in them burning out. This is definitely one area where customer service automation can help.

Chatbots, for example, can carry out many kinds of repetitive tasks on behalf of call center agents. In recent years, chat solutions have become massively popular in the call center industry, allowing call centers to reduce agent workload and letting agents focus on higher-value activities.

Another great customer service automation tool is customer self-service. The benefits of self-service are obvious: if your customers can resolve simple queries themselves, this will allow your customer service agents to use the resulting additional time to handle more complex issues. The result will be significantly-reduced customer service call volumes, and so substantially reduced agent workloads.

Customer service automation is more than just about offering customers a more convenient experience. It enhances productivity and quality, while also allowing you to better manage your resources. Make sure to leverage it in order to get the most out of your customer service interactions!

Increasing Customer Satisfaction With Skills-based Routing. Here’s How!

Posted on: August 16th, 2019 by Roland Háry No Comments

Ask any call center manager what’s one of the most important KPIs they constantly strive to achieve in the call center, and you can be sure that they’ll tell you: it’s customer satisfaction.

Now ask customers what they find the most annoying when they contact a company’s customer service department, and you can be sure that they’ll tell you: it’s unresolved issues.

Customers reach out to customer service lines with a wide range of issues. But if they can be connected with the right agent for the first time that excels at the service they require, chances are better of achieving a satisfactory result. This is exactly what skills-based routing is for and why you absolutely need to leverage it in the call center.

Read on to find out how skills-based routing will help you reach high levels of customer satisfaction!

What is skills-based routing?

Most call centers offer several services, each of which requires a different skill set. Of course, not all agents are created equal: while some of them might be great at customer service, others might be natural-born salespeople.

And this is where skills-based routing comes in handy. Skills-based routing is a technique used to direct customers to the right agent by routing incoming calls to specific agents based on the service requested.

Calls might be routed based on agents’ availability and skills, the type of customer query and customers’ call history.

Benefits of skills-based routing

Every call center team consists of agents with different skill sets. And by leveraging these different skills and knowledge, you can easily skyrocket your customer satisfaction levels.

Skills-based routing will allow you to utilize your agents’ strengths by assigning them to calls that require their skills and knowledge. In other words, you’ll be able to direct callers with simple issues to less specialized agents, while customers with specific requests to more experienced and skilled agents.

As a result, both average wait times and first call resolution will improve as agents are not only talking to customers but are also efficiently resolving their issues.

For skills-based routing, all you need is reliable software solution that enables you to route your calls to agents with the proper skills and knowledge.

When it comes to routing your calls, the best method is to assign agents to different campaigns based on their skills, a technique that is already available in VCC Live’s solution.

However, in case you work with a smaller workforce, chances are your agents need to handle several types of services, and thus you cannot divide them by campaigns. Luckily, skills-based routing is an efficient method in such cases too.

Let’s look at an example: out of your 50 agents, 25 excel at sales activities, the rest is proficient in complaint handling. Let’s say you experience peak periods when all of your 50 agents need to actively take calls. With VCC Live, you can rank your agents based on their knowledge and customer profiles and route your calls accordingly.

As such, if you suddenly receive an increased number of incoming calls after a TV spot, the calls will be first routed to your 25 agents specialized in sales and after to your remaining agents in case extra help is needed. Similarly, customer complaints will be primarily routed to customer service agents but in case of an unexpected peak time sales agents will also receive incoming calls.

Take away

Skills-based routing is inevitable for any call center that strives to provide superior customer experience. Amongst other things, it reduces average wait time, increases first call resolution and greatly improves customer satisfaction.

How to Provide Omnichannel Experience in the Banking Industry – With an Example

Posted on: June 14th, 2019 by Elemér Erdősi No Comments

With the evolution of technology and new strategies in today’s customer service landscape, it is of utmost importance for companies to explore and keep up with the latest trends in order to stay ahead of the game.

Currently, customer service is dominated by the concept of leveraging several channels with the aim of aligning customer communication. First, it was multichannel, later omnichannel, and now companies started to explore optichannel communication.

Multichannel vs. Omnichannel vs. Optichannel

The terms multichannel and omnichannel are often used interchangeably. And while both terms are related, there is a significant difference between them.  

Multichannel communication means leveraging several channels when interacting with customers. However, omnichannel communication takes things to the next level by aligning the channels utilized.

But what about optichannel? Well, when it comes to interacting with customers, companies need to rely on the most efficient communication methods. And this is where optichannel comes in handy.

Indeed, having only just started to embrace the omnichannel concept, optichannel is the new buzzword taking over the customer service landscape. While omnichannel allows customers to engage with companies on their preferred channel, with optichannel communication it is your business that specifically determines the optimal channel for your customers based on your goals for each channel and available customer information.  

Although optichannel will definitely become more popular in the future, at the moment it is omnichannel that rules in the banking industry. In this article, I will focus on the omnichannel approach, and more precisely, how you can provide an omnichannel experience in the banking industry. Let’s dive in!

Omnichannel experience in the banking industry

Providing an omnichannel experience in the banking industry is pretty much a prerequisite for any financial organization that wish to keep their customers in the long run.

Omnichannel experience in banking is about providing a seamless and consistent interaction with customers across multiple channels. In particular, during customer interactions, agents need to easily switch between several channels (for example, phone, sms, chat, video) in order to provide customers with an as convenient customer experience as possible.

And in order to be able to provide this seamless and consistent interaction, agents need to be able to rely on an all-in-one solution that is able to integrate all the channels you use, as well as displaying comprehensive customer information, on the same platform.

The solution offered by ourselves here at VCC Live®, for example, not only allows you to integrate your channels but also displays all your customer information on the same platform, helping your agents read your customers’ minds.

Furthermore, in the banking industry, providing customer support on any device is just as important as leveraging and aligning several channels. As customers these days are constantly on the go, the majority of them are likely to handle their queries via their mobile phones. Therefore, simply having a mobile application is not enough today, financial institutions also need to ensure that customer journeys carried out via their mobile platform are as convenient and simple as via phone/web.

In other words, providing multichannel experience in the banking industry means delivering the same quality of service across all channels and all devices, both online and offline.

Example of omnichannel support in the banking industry

So, now that you know how important omnichannel experience in the banking industry is, let’s have a look at a real-life omnichannel experience example that highlights what VCC Live®’s solution can offer.

Let’s say your customer wants to raise the limit of the amount of money they can withdraw from an ATM at any one time. They begin to search the bank’s website using their mobile to check out the possibilities.

The company’s chat window pops up and the customer types in the chat window that they want to raise the limit of the amount of money they can withdraw from an ATM at anyone time.

A live agent now enters the conversation and notifies the customer that in order to raise this limit, identification is needed. Thanks to the integration of the several channels the bank leverages for customer interactions, the agent is able to see the customer’s complete history on one single platform.

In the past, identification required customers to physically go to the financial institutions to identify themselves. However, thanks to the latest technology, which is incorporated into VCC Live®’s solution, customers can now identify themselves via video call.

The agent can thus offer the customer the opportunity to be identified via video call. The customer confirms video call identification. The agent send an SMS with instructions and a link to the video call.

The customer clicks on the link and the video call begins. Following the instructions given, the customer looks into the camera and holds up an appropriate identification card. The agent takes a photo, checks the quality, and informs the customer if the identification was successful.

After successful identification, the agent can now increase the limit on the customer’s card. The conversation ends, and the agent sends the customer an SMS with a link to a survey to assess the quality of the call.

During this simple and short conversation, the customer was smoothly switched between four communications channels, including chat, SMS, video call and email. The result is a convenient and efficient customer interaction that solved the customer’s query at the first go. And this is exactly what an omnichannel experience in the banking industry should be like.

New Debt Collection Rules in the US and Global Trends – an Interview with Richard Blewis, Digital Debt Collections Expert

Posted on: June 7th, 2019 by dorarapcsak No Comments

A new policy recently put forward by the US’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau proposes allowing debt collectors in the US to only be able to call debtors up to seven times a week. The new policy also states that once debt collectors reach a debtor by phone, they would have to leave them alone for at least a week. Additionally, the CFPB is proposing no cap on the number of texts or emails a collector could send, opening the door for digital messaging channels such as WhatsApp and Facebook to become viable communication options for debt collectors. I talked to Richard Blewis, Digital Debt Collections Manager at VCC Live, about this new regulation, as well as global trends currently dominating the debt collection industry.

According to the new rules being proposed by the CFPB, debt collectors would be able to call a delinquent borrower with an outstanding debt a maximum of seven times a week. How do you think the new rules will affect debt collection companies in the US?

Richard: I believe that the additional effect on limiting the amount of calls to 7 attempts weekly is minimal for companies. In general, as has been proven, if debt collectors initiate too many calls, debtors simply don’t answer them anymore. As a result, professional debt collection companies already reduced the amount of collection calls they initiate, as they are aware of the diminishing results if they try to bombard debtors with calls.  

The new rules also suggest that once debt collectors reach a debtor by phone, they’ll have to leave them alone for at least a week. Do you think that being able to talk to a debtor only once a week will negatively affect the performance of debt collection companies?

Richard: Yes. Companies who use aggressive collecting strategies and collect outstanding debts using methods that could be considered harassment, will definitely be negatively affected by only being able to have one conversation with non-payers per week. More professional debt collection agencies, however, won’t be affected that much, as they already realized that initiating as many as possible calls will not necessarily help collect more debts. Instead, they are aware that moving into the digital era by exploring new channels and reducing operating costs by making offers in self-service is the way forward.

Until now, phone was the most preferred way for companies to contact debtors. But we can now clearly see a shift from phone to other digital channels when it comes to collecting debts. Why do you think companies have started to focus on channels besides phone?

Richard: It is true that phone calls are still an important and efficient element of debt collection, but at the same time customers in general are moving to digital channels, one reason being that they increasingly prefer self-service when it comes to interacting with a company. In addition, customers also expect to be able to do their business out of business hours. In order to keep up with these changing customer demands, professional companies have already started to explore channels other than phone, and leverage methods such as data segmentation to guide self-service debt collection.

The new regulation proposes having no cap on the number of texts or emails a collector can send, and messages can also be sent on digital messaging channels, such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. How do you think debtors will react to receiving messages via their personal chat programs? Do you think the number of messages should also be restricted?

Richard: Debtors who might find it inappropriate or annoying to receive debt collection messages via their personal chat programs have the option to opt out on SMS and block those messages on Facebook. For others, however, receiving text reminders rather than endless phone calls might be a preferred way of being contacted. As there is always the option for debtors to opt out, I believe there is no need to regulate the number of messages debt collectors can send.

What do you suggest debt collection companies who currently focus their collection processes on phone calls should do? Is it time for them to explore other channels?

Richard: Phone calls should definitely remain a significant channel for debt collection agencies. At the same time, however, while constantly trying to improve the channels they already use, companies also need to explore other channels, and in particular how they interact with each other. For example, SMS text messages for debt collection should ideally contain a link to a chat channel, in case debtors have any questions, as well as a link to a digital document, such as an invoice or PTP (promise-to-pay) agreement. It is vital that companies need to align the channels they use in order to make the debt collection process for debtors as smooth as possible.

Are you seeing this shift from phone to other channels in Europe as well? Do you think the same rules should be applied in Europe too?

Richard: I believe the new rules are not that important enough to be applied in Europe, as there is a similar business trend happening in Europe as in the US. Here, as there, more and more debt collection companies are realizing that the future is in exploring and aligning several channels in order to reach debtors on their preferred channel. As a result, professional debt collection agencies are focusing their operations on several channels rather than blasting out as many calls as possible.