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Motivating Your Collections Agents to Consider the Customer

Posted on  25 March 11  by 

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Note: This post is the final installment in a four-part series based on CCC’s research, “Pillars of a Customer-Driven Collections Strategy”.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve offered our perspective on how to create a truly customer-oriented collections strategy—one that both leverages customer insight and motivates staff to exhibit customer-focused behaviors. In this final installment, I’ll discuss how tracking customer experience metrics for collections agents can motivate customer-focused behaviors that help preserve long-term relationships—a key challenge facing our membership given new enterprise standards for customer satisfaction and higher customer churn stemming from increased competition.

In speaking with the CCC membership, we’ve come to understand the difficulty in motivating collectors to take the customer experience into account. Granted, the collections function doesn’t always lend itself easily to concepts like ‘customer centricity’ and ‘relationship building’; even with hours of soft-skills training under their belts, it can be difficult for agents to consistently exhibit the types of behaviors that are more likely to retain customers.

The most progressive, successful organizations in this space all realize one thing: holding agents accountable to customer experience metrics is the key to motivating customer-focused behaviors.

The obvious question, then, is how to ensure that your agents—many of whom are accustomed to using traditional heavy-handed collections techniques—are answerable to the customer experience, as well as to their collections goals. The following steps are one potential approach to doing so:

1)      Customer Surveying – quantifying the impact of collections through a post-call survey of your customers is a good first step in this process.

  • Case-in-Point: While many companies conduct customer surveys, they commonly fail to collect or act on customer experience-based data—and thus, fail to see a major area of opportunity. Oftentimes this data serves as tangible evidence of the need to take the customer into account in collections interactions.

2)      Agent Performance Reviews – incorporating customer experience metrics into performance evaluations is critical to motivating customer-focused behaviors.

  • Case-in-Point: Several companies weigh customer experience metrics (consisting of quality monitoring, customer survey scores, and supervisor input) at 50% of an agent’s evaluation, with dollars collected comprising the remaining 50%. This deliberate introduction of a customer-focused component of their evaluation acts as a powerful motivator: as with other metrics, agents justifiably act toward what they are measured on, so it only makes sense to begin measuring them on customer-focused metrics.

3)      Allocation Based on Customer Satisfaction – taking motivation one step further, we have also heard from companies that allocate delinquent accounts based on customer experience scores as a means of motivating customer-centric behaviors.

  • Case-in-Point: In practice, collections sites whose customer experience scores were relatively poor during Q1 would receive a smaller share of delinquent accounts to pursue in Q2—this way, there are fewer total dollars for agents at the site to collect, and they must focus greater attention on the customer experience portion of their evaluation in order to compensate.

The best news about this approach is that it improves the experience for the customer without sacrificing the primary goal of the collections function—collecting on debts. With companies reporting an overall improvement in traditional collections metrics, such as dollars collected and bad debt, an approach such as the one above can be a win-win solution to minimizing the fundamental tension between collections and customer retention.

To learn more about CCC’s work on collections, be sure to review our research brief.

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