If a consumer has the means to pay an account in full, the last thing a collection professional wants to deal with is a barrier in the transaction medium. But how can a professional find a balance between ease-of-use and secure/compliant data collection? As many still struggle with this conundrum, Collection Advisor gathered the thoughts of leading minds in electronic payments to determine how best to secure a payment from a consumer while protecting their relationship with the client/agency.

Michelle Jeffers VP Business Development of Applied Innovation

jeffers michelleOnline 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

pollin robertUser experience optimization is paramount to ensuring ease of use and encouraging consumer payments. Electronic payment processors should optimize their payment capture channels to ensure each provides customized, personalized and frictionless payment experience for each agency. With payment processors focused on these microconversion funnels, they will be examining each step of the payment process and common consumer pathways to improve the overall successful payment conversion rate within each payment capture channel. This goes beyond the payment capture channel itself – knowing how consumers are arriving at the payment capture channel allows electronic payment processors to focus and optimize each step of the payment process and cater the experience for each consumer and each agency.

Carl A. Briganti President and Founder of CSS, Inc.

briganti carlThere are two key components for encouraging consumer payment with an electronic payment software: sense of security and respect for time. When a consumer is expected to offer information as important as their credit card or banking information, they must be reassured that the handling of this information is going to be in a safe and secure manner. Integration with payment processors that take steps to ensure the security of this vital information, such as tokenization, is necessary. Ease of use is also central to encouraging consumer payment. When a consumer is able to confidently submit and store payment info for use for future payments with little to no hassle, then it can be predicted that the consumer will readily be willing to repeat payment submission the next time it is required. This may also include offering a user friendly web portal for entering payments, as well as being able to easily be directed to an available agent with a professional and courteous presence over the phone.

Bonnie Finley Chief Sales Officer of EFT Network

finley bonnieThrough integration, a payment software can provide multi-channel opportunities for the consumer to pay. In a world where everything is at a consumer’s fingertips, having the ability to pay at the stroke of a finger is key to transaction volume. One thing that a electronic processing software can provide to merchants is analytics. Analytics will help a merchant make smarter decisions in how they offer payments to consumer, what funding methods are most utilized and preferred by the consumer, the margin on the payment method, and the cost of returned, declined, or chargeback payments. Taking all of these things into consideration will allow the merchant to craft a payment channel that guarantees ease of use for the consumer with maximum return to the merchant.

Jennifer Brummett Vice president of IES

brummett jenniferEase of use of a payment solution/software is a primary factor in encouraging payment by debtors/ consumers. The solution provider should offer all payment channels and payment types. The payer should be able to pay using credit and debit cards, HSA cards, as well as ACH or other payments from their checking accounts. They should be able to make payments with a live agent during business hours, or totally on their own, at their convenience, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Payers should be able to make payment through a website, a virtual agent, IVR, or any other available method. They should be able to make both one-time and recurring payments, and should have fl exibility in scheduling those payments. Finally, all payer-initiated solutions should be easy to navigate, and should provide clear, concise, and complete instructions and information to eliminate any confusion or reluctance by the payer.

Matthew Hill President/CEO of InterProse

hill matthewThe key here is thoughtful design and keeping your audience in mind. A payment site designed to serve a broad range of consumers should include features to handle multiple languages, a step-by-step approach to payment options and a concise presentation. Research shows that a convoluted message, too many options on one screen and too many steps/clicks greatly reduce the chances of a positive outcome.

Chad Deatherage CEO of Payment Savvy

deatherage chadNo matter the industry, the merits of a dynamic electronic payment software are irrefutable. Within the collections world, a solid system coupled with key best practices increases customer satisfaction and drives down organizational costs – a solid win-win for both agency and consumer. At a base level, electronic payment software should drive a positive customer experience and encourage the continued use of selfservice. The key to achieving this is to hand the reins to the consumer. By allowing one to pick from a variety of payment dates and offering several repayment options – such as pay the balance in full, a minimum due payment or a completely consumer driven fi gure (within backend parameters you can enforce) – the control is put in the user’s hands. Ensuring your payment partner can set you up with both credit card and ACH merchant accounts only gives the driver more options to choose from and increases the likelihood of a successful transaction being processed. It’s also worthwhile to consider adding a pay-bytext option to your payment arsenal – it’s an affordable and complaint way to reach consumers on the go. Within the payment portal itself, a sleek and simple aesthetic reduces confusion and increases the odds a consumer will continue the payment course to completion. Ensure the login process is secure yet straightforward. If it’s cumbersome to even access their account, the probability of the site being used again falls fast to zero. Having a saved payment method within their profile, making the process to edit a previously scheduled payment effortless, and allowing for several future payments to be scheduled within the same session are all ways to guarantee a positive consumer interaction. Today the cell phone is king and more readily available to individuals across demographics than computers. It is imperative your organization’s site be mobile friendly. Take the time to test it on various mobile browsers and across all pages to guarantee a static user experience. In an industry heavily reliant upon avoiding negative consumer retaliations to remain viable, implementing any of the above measures to your electronic payment software not only encourages payment but increases consumer satisfaction. These options are not out of reach for an agency of any size to achieve and is a wise investment in your organizational success.

Manpreet Singh President & Co-Founder of Payscout

singh manpreetElectronic payment software should be accessible on a platform that is convenient for the consumer. Providing payment options on mobile devices through a text or email link (once permission is granted) is a good example of convenience and accessibility. If the customer interface is clear, intuitive and guides consumers through the necessary validations and authorizations seamlessly, they are much more likely to complete the process and finalize the payment.

Dawn Updike Marketing and Customer Success Manager of PDCflow

updike dawnOne of the best ways a payment software can ensure completed payments is to make the process as quick and painless as possible. A good software will be easy to implement, cause the least amount of friction and be intuitive for the user. It should provide options for testing the consumer experience such as web payments, customer recurring schedule setup and payment authorization requests. Agents should choose a product with the ability to modify and customize these functions in order to personalize the experience for their customer base. The software should be simple to manage no matter what associated tasks (document review, signature and ACH/credit card selection) need to be added to the payment.

Mike McDonnell VP for Sales and Marketing of RevSpring

mcdonnell michaelIt is critical for electronic payment solutions to offer consumers an intuitive user interface with maximum flexibility including: offer a quick pay option to accept a payment without creating an online account; provide the ability to set up one time payments, create a new payment arrangement or make a payment on an existing payment arrangement; offer the ability to schedule payments to better coincide with the consumer’s payroll cycle or availability of funds; allow online negotiation within client defined guidelines including settlements and payment arrangements; enable different payment types where legally possible including credit, debit and ACH.

Edz Sturans CEO and President of BillingTree

sturans edzEnsuring ease of use and encouraging payment is all about creating a path of least resistance for the consumer and having access to accurate data. To maximize settlements, we must start with the consumer. He or she must be able to move freely between ‘channels’ and payment methods and feel confi dent that the funds being requested are truly an accurate, verified debt that is owed by the consumer. Just because a consumer receives a notifi cation letter of an outstanding bill doesn’t always mean they plan to call or reply via mail. It may be more convenient to pay online, or contact the agency’s interactive voice response (IVR) system by phone to settle the outstanding account, or even negotiate a payment plan. A/R departments may deal with different consumer demographics that are more comfortable for different payment channels. An older client base may prefer paper-based processes needing staff to dedicate time to managing those transactions. On the flip side, a student loan agency will more likely interact with a younger generation who are more accustomed to settling payments online or via mobile. Having a variety of payment options becomes the best way to meet varying consumer demand.

There are four payment technologies that I see making things easier for consumers:

Interactive voice response and mobile solutions: IVR and mobile based technologies allow the consumer to receive accurate information and easily pay without agent intervention 24 hours a day. IVR and Mobile solutions are great ways to improve the consumer experience. Providing consumers with a simple automated method to pay a bill, when and how they want to, significantly reduces the time and work required to make a payment.

Recurring payment plans: Sometimes, for one reason or another, a one-off payment is not an option—healthcare insurance or property management bills being examples. A recurring payment becomes the next best option for settling a bill, but is often difficult for the practice to sort out.

For each month or billing cycle, a new notification statement is sent electronically to the consumers, often via email. The statement automatically triggers a payment, which is instantly taken out of the client’s account, usually via credit card or ACH.

Virtual negotiation: If a consumer can’t settle their bill in full or agree on a repayment structure, then it’s time for negotiation. New technology is enabling consumers to do this privately online without the stressful interaction with an agent. This process enables the consumer and the A/R department to agree to a reduced balance and/or payment plan that works for both parties.