Tried and true methods of contacting consumers to collect debt continue to evolve with the increasing demands of compliance. One of these many methods is the use of the voice broadcasting functionality of an interactive voice response system or IVR. Though regulators’ efforts to improve the consumer’s position in debt collection have thrown voice broadcasting a few curveballs over the years, the process has evolved with scalable cloud based solutions.
“Consistent automated contacting is the key to collecting from consumers today,” said Jeryl Smith, with IAT. “Being very careful to not call cell phones with automated dialers without express written approval, contacting consumers can still be done and be effective. There are databases that can be used to avoid calling assigned cell phones and ported phone numbers to cell phones. These accounts with known cell phones can be isolated onto campaigns for manual contacting. Databases can be maintained to identify which accounts have given permission.”
A collection manager cannot be everywhere at once so keeping tabs on all collectors can be difficult. Voice broadcasting can help manage collectors by controlling the communication. The key is to know and control the IVR settings and scripts.
“Control is key to a more compliant IVR,” said Kerry Sherman, vice president business development at TCN. “Agencies cannot control everything that their agents say or promise within the regulatory guidelines. Know what message is being delivered as outbound and inbound calls are made.”
Sherman elaborated about his visit to a healthcare finance convention. In learning of the concerns specific to the healthcare field he commented about how prepared the collection business battle tests technology for other industries. The experience brought him to the conclusion that, “debt collection is the mixed martial arts of the dialer world.”
As voice broadcasting technology has been in use for some time and by multiple industries, consumers are familiar with its use. Some consumers prefer resolving debt without human interactions in favor of a sense of privacy. Those in need of a conversation with a collection professional can also be obliged by a click away to a live agent.
“Most consumers are understanding when debt recovery companies make automated calls," said Smith. “Technology should provide the ability to correctly identify the called party.” The balance owing can then be disclosed, and a non-human option given to satisfy the debt through an electronic payment provider.
Not only can voice broadcasting make a consumer feel more comfortable but it can also enhance security, protecting the agency from possible mistakes. It is also is effective helping your agents complete payments.
According to Tim Schriner, “Once an agent and consumer agree on a payment – whether a PIF (paid in full), SIF (settled in full) or a payment arrangement – the agent transfers the consumer. The consumer uses the telephone keypad to enter their account information and electronically sign the payment agreement. Security increases as the agent does not hear or see the account number. Furthermore, since the consumer does not speak the account number, the risk of it being overheard is eliminated. The IVR also enables the consumer to immediately provide the electronic signature required by Reg. E for payment arrangements.”
Making the appropriate adjustments and modifications of voice broadcasting can increase chances of collection while decreasing chances of a lawsuit. These adjustments can range from call times to scrubbing cell phone numbers.
“Utilizing an IVR provides agencies with a cost effective and compliant avenue for consumers who are willing and able to quickly make payments without human intervention,” said R. Fred Houston, president of Columbia Ultimate now a part of Ontario Systems. “IVRs can process payments in a secure environment and provide account information and details without the need to spend the agent’s valuable time. Additionally, IVRs are programmed to always maintain compliance with disclosures and privacy, preventing any human error in dealing with consumer account information. More and more consumers are accustomed to using self-service options to manage accounts and it frees up agent time for additional accounts.”
Such a tough environment means technology will need to continue pressing forward and evolving. Only with an effective collection process will collection professionals be able to harness voice broadcasting power and continue to thrive.