The speed at which technology in the accounts receivable industry is advancing seems to be increasing exponentially. As the CFPB has finally provided guidance on expectations for newer technology use, advancement is about to be kicked into hyperdrive.
But what is the best direction for technology and how professionals plan to use it? There are many viable directions and many needs to be addressed. Receivables Advisor reached out to industry leadership to get their thoughts on what preparations professionals should begin for the future, what tools we might be using and what technology professionals should start updating to get a jump start.
What is a key collection technology to master for 2020?
Matt Kiefer, MBA
Chief Officer of Information, Compliance & Development
The Preferred Group of Tampa
Alternative communication channels like SMS and email, I think, will be key to master in 2020 depending on what the final rule is that comes from the CFPB as well as the FCC in clarifying the TCPA and FDCPA. We have to be able to (legally) adapt to changing consumer preferences in the way we communicate that is not obtrusive to the consumer but doesn’t open a niche market to frivolous litigation either.
Melissa L. Nash
Digital conversations such as texting, FaceTime and Skype. I believe consumers will speak with representatives face to face to resolve issues and our internal agents will use facial recognition to assist with rightparty contacts assuaging fears of confirming personal data with unknown parties. Our operational software will evolve for online payment processing with ease.
Paid In Full, Inc.
The use of virtual negotiators in the collection process is definitely becoming more commonplace as agencies large and small try to find ways to more efficiently communicate with consumers. Agencies who embrace this technology being offered by more and more vendors will see increases in recoveries without an investment of an actual collector.
Omni-channel communication methods: I think it’s fairly apparent that we will have to adapt to our consumers’ chosen methods of communication.
Multi-channel communications. How often do you see teenagers actually talking on their phone? Not that often! Take a moment to observe how these teens communicate: Snapchat, Instagram, FaceTime/ video chat, text and email. This demographic of future debtor avoids voice-only communications with almost as much gusto as avoiding their chores! If you’re not planning to expand the modes of communication your agency uses, you may find yourself getting left behind.
General Managing Director
KLS Financial Services
I think the biggest hottest collection technology to master that can directly impact the bottom line and payroll is a software that can manage, catalog and cut down on time spent responding to e-OSCAR disputes and allow for timely responses. We are excited to implement this software here in the next few weeks. The only one that I know of is the Sonnet product, but there may be others. Other agencies have already gotten this integrated into their collection software and the references have been outstanding. When an agency owner tells you this is the best technology they have implemented in ten years, that speaks volumes! The immediate return in reduced payroll and fluidity in responses, and simple automation will be noticeable in the first month of launch. I think moving administrative resources to items that can generate revenue will be a game changer especially for the small to midsize agency whose resources may be stretched already.
The Stark Collection Agency
I would say having an omni-channel platform will be a critical element of our overall strategy leading to success. The generations including Millennials, Gen Z and to some degree Gen X individuals would rather communicate via a means other than by telephone. We need to have the right technology available for the right consumer to communicate with us at the right time!
VP of Information Technology, CIO
Immediate Credit Recovery
A key collection technology for 2020 will be the necessity of the appropriate data analytics tools which allows agents to analyze and predict consumer behavior. Firms planning for an implementation must realize that storing and processing data throughout the collection lifecycle can be overwhelming if not sized correctly as the amount of consumer related data will significantly grow. As such, accounts receivable firms will be required to procure a scalable system that is expandable to match data growth and include enough computing power to process the volume data accordingly. Accurate analytics of collection data when applied to the appropriate collection methodologies is sure to increase revenue, improve business processes, lower operational costs and allow firms to remain competitive. Also, to extend predictive analysis, the inclusion of AI system learning capabilities in the process will provide assumptions based on the data, test its findings and continue to learn autonomously which can significantly increase collections potential. What is an often-neglected collection technology professionals need to update?
What is an often-neglected collection technology professionals need to update?
Matt Kiefer, MBA
I think security protocols are often neglected because an agency either thinks they are not on the radar or get complacent. Security patches and updates to firewall and antivirus software need to be maintained and, more importantly, followed up on to ensure they are updated, as well as at least quarterly scans and penetration testing even if it means enlisting the services of a professional outside of your organization needs to be considered.
Melissa L. Nash
Staffing becomes a reactionary update and initiating change is becoming harder and harder. First it’s overcoming the fear of the next lawsuit and secondly, the mindset of the future workforce. Agencies will automate processes and reduce personnel. The next next: The data company who takes our bad phone numbers and scrubs them to return only good numbers will make a fortune. The reselling of old and bad data has to be addressed by agencies and the company who truly realizes the value of receiving information will be the industry standard. The cost of bad data drives up our liability and operational costs.
Agencies need to ensure their collection software and their network as a whole are as secure as possible. The data most agencies maintain in their systems is highly sought after by identity thieves. Blocking access to the data via highquality and up-to-date firewalls and anti-virus software is all that is standing between the agency and the data thief.
Internal scoring: We have access to so much data within our systems that has already been segregated into our target markets. We have historical performance that can be linked to consumer demographics, industry types, payment histories, contact rates, geographic information, etc. It doesn’t require a lot of computing power or sophisticated programming to utilize this data to help predict the outcomes and behaviors of our consumers.
Analysis of your data. Most collection software has very robust reporting; however, it seems many agencies are not taking the time to extract and analyze this data. I always encourage that business decisions should be based more on quantifiable data and less on our “gut feelings.”
This is a difficult question, as we have pretty much implemented changes in just about every area of collection technology in the last couple of years which in all honesty we neglected because of the old adage “if it ain’t broke.” For us, the most significant switch was telephonic. Phone systems can last for years! For a mid-sized agency, a 50K investment in phone system and recording software on a five-year lease should last at least twice that time, and it did (perhaps longer but time flies). Admittedly, this was a neglected area and systematically we were using four or five tools to come up with metrics, call logs, recording logs, dialing campaigns, interoffice messaging, and manually analyzing data to determine call times, etc.
Yes, it lasted for years and actually still works (currently for sale on eBay). As a collection professional, focus was on revenue generating changes; therefore, the phone system just wasn’t on the radar. Who knew that soft phones would be so much easier for our younger staffers and that dialing out would improve by 10%? Who knew that with one cloud software I could reroute calls while at a conference or when stuck at home in a snowstorm? Who knew that my phone vendor (Vaspian) could offer support and compliance for a per seat cost? I finally paid attention and now my fastest dialers are even faster, my recordings are much easier to locate.
Training software like Balto (another technology you should investigate) can be attached and give live analysis on calls to monitor compliance and train in the moment. A cloud solution means I don’t have to deal with four servers and an overheating server room. So for me, I realized that my focus on revenue generating collection changes missed the mark for years and perhaps limited our growth in ways I didn’t even conceptualize. Attending the national conferences and paying attention to vendors there and at our local unit meetings made the difference with simple knowledge of what is available in our industry. Often at these conferences the face-to-face with our vendors affords better pricing opportunities.
As old fashioned as it sounds, we all still need to send collection notices at some point during our normal course of business. We need to pay attention to what our letter vendors can offer in terms of integration with texting, emailing, etc. I think letter vendors have more to offer than some of us are taking advantage of.
Clients are requiring that their collection firms maintain security as a high priority. As data breaches are on the rise, potent and modern security tools are required to safeguard consumer data against today’s ever-increasing technical vulnerabilities, exploits and breaches. Proven detection tools which collect and examine active network data then utilize machine learning with forensic analytics to validate potential network security events should be added to firms’ respective IT security infrastructure. To remain competitive collection firms’ data centers must be adequately equipped to prevent breaches and insure consumer data remains safe.