Tackling the taboo of debt collection with a digital approach

The words 'debt collection' have for a long time carried a whole load of negative connotations.

From the customer's perspective, being contacted by a debt collector often brings on feelings of shame or embarrassment, despite the fact that most people fall behind on payments due to unexpected life events. 62% of consumers agree they would feel more comfortable getting chased for a late or failed payment by an automated message, such as an email or text, rather than a call or notice from a human being, though industry practices have traditionally used the latter methods.

When it comes to the industry, a long history of poor customer service, the use of bailiffs, and aggressive tactics that operate on the outer lines of legality has been left behind by old-school debt collectors, generating a callous and uncaring image in the public eye.

The topic of missing payments leaves businesses red-faced too; a recent study by open banking company Go Cardless found that 7 in 10 SMEs would rather forgo revenue than have awkward money conversations.

This widespread stigma is a very real problem. It only serves to compound the problem for customers who are often in already-difficult financial situations, making it hard for people to discuss issues openly, even with debt professionals. Misconceptions and misinformation can make working with a debt collector off-putting to customers and businesses, which can affect the individual's likelihood of clearing debt or seeking help, and on a businesses' ability to stay afloat.

So what's the answer?

At Ophelos, we're creating a solution where both customers and businesses can have a positive experiences from the collections process, and individuals can feel more at ease with their debt. Our online platform allows customers to view their debt, explore payment options, personalise a plan and reach customer service all in one place. The customer can settle their debt at a time that suits them and they never have to speak to anyone unless they want to. We primarily use digital channels as our communication methods, which helps to confront the perceived embarrassment of owing money since people aren't caught off-guard at an inconvenient time at their doorstep or over the phone.

Technology has the potential to minimise awkwardness on both sides. Our AI-driven platform not only provides a better service for our clients' customers, but also offers key insights into our clients' indebted customer base. Our natural language processing model OLIVE, for example, scans customer messages and flags up potentially vulnerable customers to our support agents. This means that as well as identifying potentially vulnerable customers with more accuracy, we can also relay data back to our clients so that they can understand which cohorts are falling behind on payments. This allows them to improve their products accordingly; for example, if a large number of their customers are struggling with gambling, they may consider introducing a gambling block. On top of providing a solution that allows our clients to quickly and easily receive due payments, our digital platform gives businesses a competitive edge.

Finally, a slick digital solution means that we can hugely improve customer satisfaction. This is not only because it is intuitive and convenient, but also because it allows more people to settle matters on their own, meaning that fewer people seek help, and with fewer people seeking help, customer support agents have more time to help those who need it. With higher customer satisfaction comes less of a fear around being contacted by a debt collector, and in turn less of a taboo around debt itself.

By offering a convenient, flexible and hassle-free solution to what can be an incredibly stressful situation, we're hoping to raise the standards of the debt collection industry and transform what has sometimes been viewed as a necessary evil into a force for good.

Would you like to hear more about how our digital platform can help grow your business and reputation? Speak with sales.

The words 'debt collection' have for a long time carried a whole load of negative connotations.

From the customer's perspective, being contacted by a debt collector often brings on feelings of shame or embarrassment, despite the fact that most people fall behind on payments due to unexpected life events. 62% of consumers agree they would feel more comfortable getting chased for a late or failed payment by an automated message, such as an email or text, rather than a call or notice from a human being, though industry practices have traditionally used the latter methods.

When it comes to the industry, a long history of poor customer service, the use of bailiffs, and aggressive tactics that operate on the outer lines of legality has been left behind by old-school debt collectors, generating a callous and uncaring image in the public eye.

The topic of missing payments leaves businesses red-faced too; a recent study by open banking company Go Cardless found that 7 in 10 SMEs would rather forgo revenue than have awkward money conversations.

This widespread stigma is a very real problem. It only serves to compound the problem for customers who are often in already-difficult financial situations, making it hard for people to discuss issues openly, even with debt professionals. Misconceptions and misinformation can make working with a debt collector off-putting to customers and businesses, which can affect the individual's likelihood of clearing debt or seeking help, and on a businesses' ability to stay afloat.

So what's the answer?

At Ophelos, we're creating a solution where both customers and businesses can have a positive experiences from the collections process, and individuals can feel more at ease with their debt. Our online platform allows customers to view their debt, explore payment options, personalise a plan and reach customer service all in one place. The customer can settle their debt at a time that suits them and they never have to speak to anyone unless they want to. We primarily use digital channels as our communication methods, which helps to confront the perceived embarrassment of owing money since people aren't caught off-guard at an inconvenient time at their doorstep or over the phone.

Technology has the potential to minimise awkwardness on both sides. Our AI-driven platform not only provides a better service for our clients' customers, but also offers key insights into our clients' indebted customer base. Our natural language processing model OLIVE, for example, scans customer messages and flags up potentially vulnerable customers to our support agents. This means that as well as identifying potentially vulnerable customers with more accuracy, we can also relay data back to our clients so that they can understand which cohorts are falling behind on payments. This allows them to improve their products accordingly; for example, if a large number of their customers are struggling with gambling, they may consider introducing a gambling block. On top of providing a solution that allows our clients to quickly and easily receive due payments, our digital platform gives businesses a competitive edge.

Finally, a slick digital solution means that we can hugely improve customer satisfaction. This is not only because it is intuitive and convenient, but also because it allows more people to settle matters on their own, meaning that fewer people seek help, and with fewer people seeking help, customer support agents have more time to help those who need it. With higher customer satisfaction comes less of a fear around being contacted by a debt collector, and in turn less of a taboo around debt itself.

By offering a convenient, flexible and hassle-free solution to what can be an incredibly stressful situation, we're hoping to raise the standards of the debt collection industry and transform what has sometimes been viewed as a necessary evil into a force for good.

Would you like to hear more about how our digital platform can help grow your business and reputation? Speak with sales.

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Tackling the taboo of debt collection with a digital approach
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