New to collections? Looking to understand the moving parts? Or maybe you’re an experienced strategist looking to understand how to best use TrueAccord? Hear our Head of Business Development, Jason Hass, and Head of Client Services, Pej Azarm, talk about these important topics.
American Banker wrote a story about the changing landscape of jobs in financial services. Following a recommendation from an industry analyst, the publication discussed how TrueAccord’s solution drives that change in debt collection.
Not everyone believes that humans are better at emotional work, like dealing with a sad or irate customer.
Sokolin argued that AI systems are good at emotional labor. He pointed to the debt-collection fintech TrueAccord, whose AI engine handles collections work for banks and card issuers.
“All they do is emotional labor, and they’re much better at it than people who call you during dinner,” he said.
Read the story here.
Scaling to sending millions of emails a month is a difficult task, and sending debt collection emails is exponentially harder. To prevent spam and abuse, email providers and infrastructure vendors developed tools and tactics that can easily hurt, blacklist, and eliminate not only the “bad guys” but also the uninitiated sender. Still, we scaled to sending millions of emails a month while enjoying high open and click-through rates that allow us to service consumers the way they want to be serviced (we use other channels as well, but focus on email here). We learned important lessons about scale along the way, through trial and error and calculated planning, and we’re sharing them today.
Challenges With Scaling Email
Email is one of the most penalized communication platforms. There are no filters or blockers or spam buttons when receiving a phone call, or picking up a letter from your mailbox, but email is equipped to keep the bad guys out and let the good guys in. ISPs (email inbox providers) design algorithms to keep the user happy and engaged, and an inbox full of spam is not very pleasant. Unfortunately, sometimes the algorithm gets it wrong, and what is actually an email with good intentions from a trusted sender gets filtered through as spam.
To further complicate the issue for email senders, each ISP has a different set of rules and regulations they filter for. What may be an acceptable email in Google is flagged as spam in Yahoo and vise versa. There is no clear rule book to refer to when attempting to scale emails to a very high volume. The algorithms are also always changing to react to real spammer behavior, further complicating any attempt to create one clear step-by-step process for success.
The signals for spam prevention algorithms touch on many aspects of emails but include content, design, time, volume, and frequency of sending emails, consumer engagement, digital signatures, and many more. Getting everything right is complex, but if you get any of these wrong, you may find yourself indefinitely blacklisted and banned from emailing.
TrueAccord’s Unique Perspective
Operating in the debt collection space further complicates scaling emails. Even if consumers agreed to be contacted via email, they do not necessarily welcome them, leading to lower inbox placements than eCommerce brands. Despite this enormous hurdle, TrueAccord has similar engagement rates to that of eCommerce companies with up to 30% open rate and 14+% click through rates. IT took a lot of work and careful attention to detail to get us there.
TrueAccord uses machine learning algorithms to pick the best email to send to a specific person at the right time in their debt collections process. The team customizes content, time, and frequency of emails, slowly ramping up scale while monitoring performance. In addition, a lot of TrueAccord contact attempts are reactive, made in response to consumer action or feedback. Contacting consumers in context adds credibility and attracts consumer attention while they are still engaged, further improving their response rates. This close attention to detail coupled with engaging content and data driven targeting makes a significant difference. TrueAccord increases consumer engagement and signals to ISPs that its emails are legitimate, creating a virtuous cycle that improves inbox placement and consumer exposure to emails, again improving engagement.
Our Top Tips for Emails at Scale
We’ve polled our product and deliverability experts to offer you our top tips to follow when building a scalable email program. If you follow these you’ll have a better chance to replicate our success and experience engagement rates that will support, rather than hurt, your long term inbox placement.
Create Valuable Content
The most important aspect to scaling email is writing good content that looks reputable and is well designed. It’s important to earn the consumer’s trust and stay away from using words and phrases that trigger spam engines. TrueAccord accomplishes this by personalizing every email, and sending the right email at the right time during the debt collections process, while also passing every email through a robust approval process to maintain quality.
Because consumer engagement and open rates are a cornerstone of our business practice, we work closely with a team of email deliverability experts and providers. They provide specific industry knowledge concerning each ISP and assist in the warm up strategy for each domain and IP address. Experts help audit deliverability programs as well as deal with ISP-specific challenges and knowhow.
Segment Domains and IP addresses
Utilizing segmented domains and IP addresses allows for growth and scale while limiting the risk to your reputation from a single mistake, which is one of the biggest traps for new email programs. TrueAccord segments email sends to manage sender reputation and distribute potential issues across multiple domains and IP so none of them see too many bounces or receive too many spam complaints, nor have a too high proportion of unopened emails.
Start Methodically and Slow
Scaling your program too early is heavily penalized even among high engagement senders. Most established companies who add an email strategy to an existing customer base make this mistake, which often cannot be undone. TrueAccord places strict limits on email volume growth to make sure ISPs don’t flag our systems.
This is especially important when starting out with a new client. When a new portfolio is added we will send a small group of several hundred test emails for a few days to measure general deliverability and bounce rates. This test cycle provides insight into the appropriate strategy to use for this specific portfolio. If bounce rates are normal, we can begin to send emails freely, but if the levels are higher than expected we’ll utilize high risk mitigation strategies.
Measure Measure Measure
Set, measure, track. Data is the life blood of a scalable email program because you must track performance in of multiple indicators across multiple segments to detect any developing issue. TrueAccord created smart alerts that highlight engagement, spam issues, email features and other indicators across IPs, domains, receiver domains and several others. Together they provide us with a realistic view of how the program is doing as it scales, and where we may have opportunities for improvement.
It’s taken TrueAccord two years of trial and error and obsessing over data to scale to millions of emails sent each month. Our email scale will continue to grow as our consumer base and business grows, and we are confident that this strategy will support our growth.
Sophie Benbenek, TrueAccord’s Head of Data Science, discusses the early days of building our machine learning based engine, Heartbeat, and how it has evolved since. Hear about our approach to machine learning, how we move from heuristics to statistical models, and other anecdotes from the early days of TrueAccord.
TrueAccord beats traditional agency performance, and does so by using a machine learning based, digital first system. Since our system learns from individual consumer behavior, it requires specific pilot design to provide the right amount of data for the algorithms to tune themselves. In this episode, our Head of Client Services and Head of Data Science discuss the optimal pilot structure to make the best use of our platform.
TrueAccord’s machine learning based system handles millions of consumer interactions a month and is growing fast. In this podcast, hear our Head of Engineering Mike Higuera talk about scaling challenges, prioritizing work on bugs vs. features, and other pressing topics he’s had to deal with while building our system.
Our CCO and In House Counsel discuss 2017 litigation and complaints trends for the industry in general and TrueAccord specifically. We discuss the reasons why TrueAccord’s legal risk and exposure are so much smaller than the industry’s average.
Bonus addition: TrueAccord’s CCO, Tim Collins, reviewing trends in WebRecon’s January 2018 litigation and complaints trends report.
“I think no matter what direction you look at it from, debt collection in the United States is just broken. Because it takes consumers who want to pay, who could pay and turns them into customers that can’t,” noted TrueAccord CEO and Co-Founder Ohad Samet.
As an innovator looking to fix the broken system by using data as a substitute for “draconian collection methods,” Samet’s position on this issue is expected.
But it’s a position he shares with an unexpected regulatory source: CFPB Acting Director Mick Mulvaney.
Read more in this link from PYMNTS.