Customer retention is essential for every business in every industry. And yet, many businesses are quick to terminate relationships with customers who default on their loans. Could this delicate situation actually be an opportunity in disguise? When customers fall on hard times, implementing a suitable debt collection process might be all it takes to help them get back on track. Here, Volker Bornhöft, President of Accounting & Collection Germany at Arvato Financial Solutions (AFS), offers his insights on the importance of good customer communication.
At AFS, we develop and use digital solutions to help customers to pay their debts in a way that is easy and convenient for them. Customers who fall on hard times are often only in temporary financial difficulty, so it is important for companies to maintain a positive business relationship with them. After all, it’s a great way to build loyalty, get to know why they use your services, and learn how you can assist them in the future. That point is always at the forefront of our mind.
Individual beats general
For us, customer retention in the event of late payment ideally begins one step before debt collection – in the company’s dunning process. At this stage we use our many years of experience to advise our clients how to communicate with their customers.
In debt collection, it is important to balance maintenance of customer relationships. From the very beginning of processing, it is important to not view the customer as a ‘case’ but as a human being in a unique situation. To find a solution for this is a key component of our client’s business. We listen to the consumer and offer appropriate payment methods that are tailored to his or her personal situation and solvency. Our aim is to provide a satisfied, returning and paying customer.
At our Innovation Lab we are working to create segmentation models using advanced analytics and machine learning to make the best possible decisions about how we communicate with consumers. The intelligent systems provide recommendations on how, when and via which channel we can optimally reach our dialog partner. We can utlizie different digital solutions, such as our self-service portal (24/7), payment reminders via mobile phone, e-mail or the classic personal call to clarify the situation and advise end customers.
Focused communication is key
From my experience, communication is becoming ever more agile and direct.
Our response is the continuous expansion and qualitative improvement of our communication mix in order to guarantee a uniformly high level of service at all times and everywhere. In my view, concentrating on additional communication channels alone is not enough. Rather, it is a matter of using existing channels intelligently and in a situation-specific manner, in order to make the process as easy as possible for the consumer. This is particularly true when the focus is on maintaining customer relationships.
By taking a holistic view of all steps in the payment process, AFS is able to provide companies the most efficient and sucessful processes. Thus, our clients benefit from accelerated returns and, thanks to tailor-made communication, the customer has a positive experience paying their outstanding receivables.