A great deal of work goes into getting a consumer to the payment phase of collecting a debt. The last thing any collection professional wants is the payment portal to act as yet another obstacle for the consumer to hurdle. Collection Advisor spoke with software developers to see what prevalent mistakes collection professionals make when setting up electronic payment portals and what you can do to avoid them.
What is something an agency/first party might do with electronic payment software that would discourage consumer payment?
Michelle Jeffers VP Business Development of Applied Innovation
Online payment portals have to be usable on all device types. According to research by Pew Charitable Trusts, 24% of consumers use their smartphone to pay bills, that’s nearly a quarter of your online payments. Payment sites should easily adjust to the screen size of any user. The site should reassure the consumer that their data is secure and private. Many consumers are very savvy about technology and they should be comfortable enough with a site to enter personal and banking information. Make it simple. Make sure it is easy to get to the site, easy to navigate the site and don’t have anything on the page to distract. Let’s face it, paying a bad debt is not a pleasurable experience, so make it painless and quick. Offer various repayment options so they can take care of repayment easily the first time they access the site. Don’t make them hunt for contact information. Be sure it is easy to find a phone number, email, or some type of messaging system. If a consumer has questions and cannot get an easy answer, preferably online, you may lose them.
Robert Pollin CEO of Autoscribe
Failure to provide their consumers with payment solutions that are easily accessible. Not giving consumers the ability to pay anytime, anywhere would discourage consumer payment by limiting their ability to self-service their account.
The need to have an online payment portal has grown significantly over the past decade – with approximately 88% of Americans adopting and regularly using the Internet in the U.S. Online payment portals and automated phone systems (IVR) enable billers and agencies to be more efficient, encouraging consumers to self-service their accounts from anywhere, 24/7.
Similar to online and IVR self-service offerings, it’s become increasingly important for agencies to offer mobile solutions. Roughly three-quarters of Americans (77%) own a smartphone, up from approximately 35% in 2011. It’s no longer enough to have an online payment portal. The portal must be mobile friendly to provide an optimal user experience.
Carl A. Briganti President and Founder of CSS, Inc.
No sense of security, check for duplicating payments and a hassle for consumer to submit payment. Consumers would not be inclined to submit electronic payment when they do not feel confident in the secure handling of their credit card or bank account information. If an electronic payment software is not capable of providing the level of security required to securely store and transmit personal payment information then it can be expected that consumers would be unconvinced to release such information.
Another occurrence guaranteed to discourage consumers from offering payment is if they were to be unintentionally double charged or charged a different amount or date than what had been agreed upon. Electronic payment software companies should incorporate tools into their software to put checks and systems in place to monitor, verify and authenticate all electronic payment submissions.
Bonnie Finley Chief Sales Officer of EFT Network
Collection agencies and creditors often prefer to connect with the consumer on the phone. While they have business reasons for this, it often discourages consumers from making payments. Keep it simple and encourage consumers to make payments in a confrontation free and convenient payment channel. Online, IVR, mobile apps are quick for the consumer and easy to integrate for the merchant.
Jennifer Brummett Vice president of IES
There may be factors present in a payment solution that will definitely discourage payers. These would include: if the agency or merchant offers payment solutions/software that are limited as to payment types, such as not being able to accept credit or HSA cards; if payment channels are limited, such as not including IVR or web payments; if payers are limited as to when they can make payments; if payers are limited in their ability to schedule future and recurring payments; if the language or instructions on a self-pay solution are confusing or incomplete which would make the payer reluctant or hesitant to initiate payment.
Matthew Hill President/CEO of InterProse
If the site lacks a straightforward design resulting in a consumer's confusion of how to login, navigate or if the branding doesn't match the correspondence, many times the consumer will just exit as they are often overcautious about online payment sites.
Chad Deatherage CEO of Payment Savvy
Of course just investing in a robust electronic payment software does not guarantee your agency’s envisioned results. For as much potential a platform can provide, there is always room for undesirable consumer acceptance.
By all means, the consumer must feel safe in your online payment portal. If reputable security standards and certificates are not clearly visible, there is a strong chance many consumers will abort the process. While portals should be easy to navigate and streamlined, creating a generic interface can also reduce the chances of receiving a successful payment transaction. Take the time to ensure your company’s brand is noticeable and provide support contact details so your customer can easily reach out with any questions or concerns about the electronic payment process. Another way to reduce consumer confidence is by not posting important policies within your site. Make sure to disclose terms and conditions, privacy policies and refund policies so one feels fully knowledgeable and protected with the transaction they are about to perform.
If the consumer opt-ins to receive electronic statements, overlooking an embedded link to your online payment portal reduces the possibility of creating a frequent online user. Allowing for only static payment options, pay balance in full or minimum payment due, can likewise discourage payment. Give your consumers the option to create a payment amount they are comfortable with and can afford. If difficult to alter and/or cancel a future scheduled payment within the electronic payment software, a consumer may lean towards calling into your agency for payments time and time again instead of utilizing the online tools provided to them. Finally, charging a convenience fee to process a payment online most often results in a negative connotation and is best avoided if able.
Not having access to real-time payment confirmations can muddle a consumer’s actions – some may try to process a payment again resulting in multiple debits from their banking account. This ultimately can lead to higher than desired chargeback ratio. Provide your customers with emailed payment verifications and ensure wording is established within the portal stating the payment was successful upon submission.
Manpreet Singh President & Co-Founder of Payscout
Agencies/first-party collectors should not allow compliance controls to create friction in the payment process. Compliance is key in this environment, but requirements can be met without sacrificing efficiency.
As an example, some agencies are still uncomfortable allowing their collectors to enter payments on their own and either a) pass the calls to supervisors for payment, or b) take the payment information into notes or a form the supervisor or payment clerk can run later.
The first scenario risks hang-ups and lost payments during the transfer. That authorization is not likely to be returned and the payment opportunity may be lost. Several good options exist to capture that formal authorization within the payment process after accepting a verbal confirmation for the initial communication.
The second option is neither secure nor PCI compliant and can compromise the agency's ability to accept payments going forward. Most collection software either encrypts or simply passes the card and check data to the electronic payment software without storing it. If an agency or first party isn't using a software platform that has an integration option to the major payment processors in the industry, they can use a virtual terminal option. That way the collector can input the data directly in an efficient, secure and compliant manner. The added advantage is real-time approval (or decline), which either encourages the collector for the next call or allows them to request another form of payment before the consumer disconnects, leading to more completed transactions.
Dawn Updike Marketing and Customer Success Manager of PDCflow
It is usually agreed upon that generic payment forms can create a bad user experience, which will discourage payments. Agencies should not make customers fill out too many unnecessary fields, or create too much clicking or scrolling by assuming that the consumer can follow a complicated workflow. Some agencies ask debtors for account sign up and management. This requires multiple steps for logging in just to pay a bill. Adding unnecessary steps to the process will drastically raise the rate of incomplete payments for an agency.
Mike McDonnell VP for Sales and Marketing of RevSpring
Your payment site should be easy to access from your website home page. If consumers need to click four layers down into your website, they will be less likely to access the payment site to make a payment.
Edz Sturans CEO and President of BillingTree
A lack of payment options is the first thing that will discourage a consumer to make a payment.
Not enough choice: Simply offering one way of paying a bill can seriously limit the number of consumers settling bills. A consumer’s experience with an agency must be an “omni-channel” one. This could be as simple as including the website link to an online payment portal in all paper communication with consumers while enhancing the agencies website to make visitors more aware of the range of payment options available to them. These tick all the boxes for good customer service while the technology itself improves settlement rates and reduces delinquencies.
Too complicated: However, simply offering a wide range of payment methods doesn't necessarily mean a company has found the Holy Grail. The Corporate Executive Board reports 88% of consumers are more likely to spend more because of low-effort interaction. Similarly, the less effort required by a consumer to pay a bill, the more likely they are to attempt to pay it. The payment technology must provide an effortless interaction.
Consumers need to know their payment channel is accurate, secure and compliant: When implementing payment technology, agencies must also make sure solutions don’t compromise customer privacy.
In collections, compliance is king. Any agency or first party involved in financial services is subject to PCI-DSS regulations. There have been a number of large-scale credit card frauds this year, especially online, and it is the responsibility of the service provider to properly manage and safeguard all of the card data that enters their systems. In the case of healthcare receivables, agencies and first parties hold personal health information on their clients. It is vital that any payment technology provider, and any other vendors involved in the payment process, can provide HIPAA certifications to ensure your payment cycle is compliant with all governing entities.