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Digital collection platforms: can web portals enrich the customer journey?

When companies think about the customer journey, they often just consider the classic steps from awareness creation to conversion. But does the journey really end, when the customer signs a contract or clicks the “buy now” button? What about the ensuing process, especially when it comes to difficulties with payment? Does this necessarily lead to the end of a customer relationship or can a collection process be part of a positive customer journey, if handled wisely – including with the support of digital processes, tools and web portals?

Digital trends and technologies and how they can be smartly integrated in collection services have been of personal interest to me for many years and at Arvato Financial Solutions we have already completed several developments in this area. However, everything is on the move. This is why in previous months we conducted a structured survey of many of our clients, their debtors, internal experts and external analysts in several countries to get a bigger picture of current and future challenges and topics in collection.

Customer appreciation – A path towards more business

Most of our clients confirmed that they do not generally rate debtors as ex-customers. In fact, only 2 out of 30 clients we talked to think that debtors will not be future customers again. All others are convinced that someone who has financial difficulties today may again be a valuable customer in the future. This is why efficient collection is not simply about quick payment of debt, but about helping customers in debt by providing easy and flexible ways for them to engage and pay their bills. Debtor portals as an addition to traditional processes can make a big difference here.

Platforms for digital natives and digital immigrants

Digitalization is a process and it is not just about technology, but about people, who want to or have to cope with new tools and platforms. Of course, the so-called digital natives are more likely to prefer web-based self-service platforms in various areas of life – even when it comes to such delicate topics as payment of debt. At the AFS subsidiary Intervalor, Brazil, we experienced that within just a short timeframe after we on-boarded a client in the education industry to our debtor portal Quitaqui, already 25% of all payed debts were cleared via the portal – and the number is steadily increasing. One key finding for that success was that the platform is optimized for mobile accesses from phones or tablets. Within the last 3 months, 60% of the people accessed the platform via mobile phone or tablets.

However, we must be aware that there is still a large number of digital immigrants, who are normally a bit more cautious when it comes to the usage of portals. And, there is even a large number of people with no touchpoints to digital technologies at all. This is probably the reason why most of our clients and external analysts confirmed that a hybrid model, which combines traditional and digital collection methods is likely to be most successful today and in the midterm. Of course, with the intention to gradually include more and more technical innovations such as virtual agents and onmichannel platforms.

Tailored country approaches

It is not only individuals who differ regarding their needs, preferences and behavioral patterns. We also identified that different countries are at different stages regarding the acceptance and usage of digital platforms and tools. At Arvato Financial Solutions, all country organizations follow the same principle when it comes to Debt Collection Services. We offer highly efficient services and methods, but at the time seek to ensure that even the collection process becomes a comfortable part of the customer journey. This means that communication has to be respectful and the service highly user friendly. This is why Arvato Financial Solutions subsidiaries increasingly offer web-based debtor services, but always with slightly different characteristics – depending on different local needs and digital maturity.

In Brazil, for example, the people there set great value on mobility and flexibility. That is why the local portal Quitaqui is not only mobile-optimized but is also connected to the omnichannel platform NOC.AI – a solution that allows debtors to personally get in touch with collection experts using a variety of channels before completing the payment agreement on the portal. The ability paying the debt in installments or by credit card, is not only convenient for the debtor, but also increases the recovery rate.

In the UK, our RISE platform offers customers a convenient method of interaction with our collections team. The responsive platform design also makes it compatible with any mobile device. A RISE journey starts with the secure delivery of a message by email or SMS that contains a link which takes the customer to an interactive landing page displaying their personalized details and enabling them to self-serve their account. Since introducing RISE we have seen greater levels of customer engagement and satisfaction, as well as an increased uptake on instant card payments following payment reminder messages.

In the Nordic portal, MyGothia, customers get a complete overview of their debt. In our experience this overview encourages them to pay all their outstanding invoices rather than just the one they originally logged in to pay. MyGothia also allows for direct payments with credit card or mobile, and since the implementation in 2018 it has led to a large increase in online payments.

In Germany and Austria, Arvato Financial Solutions’ Debtor Portal has also grown tremendously in terms of users and payments within the last 12 months. A determinate digitalization strategy leads to more access via Mail and Messenger as well as a higher conversion rate thanks to easy pay and easy log. The Portal stands out thanks to the innovative Rebuy service. This special payment option allows customers to easily sell their used electronic devices in order to reduce outstanding claims.

I personally think that the combination of long-term experience in traditional collection services and the ability to evaluate, develop and innovate technology is a strong foundation to design and deploy customized collection strategies, which optimally address individuals with regard to their personal needs and living conditions, preferences and digital maturity.

More information on tailor-made debt collection services is available here.


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