Building An Experimentation Engine

By on March 20th, 2018 in Data Science, Engineering and Data, Product and Technology, Testing
TrueAccord Blog

TrueAccord beats the competition on many levels, and does that through rigorous testing and improvement. Hear a talk from our CTO Paul Lucas and Director of Product Roger Lai on our approach to experimentation.


To download a transcript of this post, click here.

Sending Emails At Scale

By on March 13th, 2018 in Industry Insights, Product and Technology
TrueAccord Blog

Sending emails to millions of consumers is a hard problem. Sending them to millions of consumers in debt is harder. Learn what makes this a hard problem and how TrueAccord solves it as we scale email delivery to millions of consumers.

To download the episode’s transcript, click here

(Video) Learning from TrueAccord’s Experimentation Framework

By on March 8th, 2018 in Industry Insights
TrueAccord Blog

Our Senior Product Manager, Julie Hughes, gave a talk about TrueAccord’s product and experimentation approach at the FinTech Devs & PMs meetup. Here’s what the host had to say about the talk:

TrueAccord talked about how they are modernizing and humanizing the debt collection industry. For consumers this means instead of harassing phone calls from agents, you get a web form that allows you to control your repayment scheme by adjusting the term of the payback and scheduling auto-drafts when you know you’ll have the money, such as on a payday. For businesses, this results in higher collection rates without compromising your brand by turning over charged off accounts to sometimes predatory collection agencies. In particular, TrueAccord did a deep dive on how their scheduled payment feature allowed users to avoid overdrafts and help retire their past due accounts faster.

You can watch the video below.

The Intelligent Alternative to Debt Collection Call Centers

By on March 6th, 2018 in Compliance, Debt Collection, Industry Insights, User Experience
TrueAccord Blog

As is often the case in evolving industries, it takes time for technology adoption to begin transforming the way companies do business. For debt collection, many organizations are still relying on an aging and outdated process to pursue debtors and recover revenue – the collection call center. Dozens or even hundreds of collection reps spend their days on the phone lines, methodically and painstakingly pursuing consumers who have racked up debt in the hopes that some will actually pan out.  

Unfortunately, call centers are fraught with challenges that can have a debilitating impact on the collecting organization, the company’s brand and reputation, and the consumers on the other end of the phone, who in many cases truly want to regain control of their financial lives. Among the many problems call centers face:

They’re Reactive and Emotional Environments

When individuals are the driving force behind an emotional transaction like a phone collection call, it’s not hard to have a bad day – especially when reps tend to garner low base salaries and are incented with commissions and bonuses to succeed. If a consumer rudely hangs up on a rep, for example, it’s easy to fall into a retaliatory frame of mind and call back multiple times simply to harass the debtor. Reactive and emotional responses from a rep can lead to bad exposure and higher risk of complaints or even legal action. Even voice analytics systems that monitor language used by reps are not infallible, as reps usually know what trigger words to avoid (such as “garnishment” or “lawsuit”) and how far they can push the envelope and not be flagged.

Even Hiring More Reps Doesn’t Really Scale

Many companies see hiring more reps as a simple solution to get as much coverage as possible. This conventional wisdom looks good on paper, until your realize more reps also means more training, more compensation, more resources and more oversight to monitor every active rep’s calls. Moreover, it is difficult to match staffing needs to varying workflows. If business is brisk and opportunity is high, it makes sense to have more workers. But all companies experience ebbs and flows in business activity, so when it comes time to scale down, they are forced to eliminate call center positions, then scale back up when the demand returns. Such fluxuations create a complex and unsustainable model for smooth debt collection execution.  

Ultimately, It’s All About Risk

Large call centers create the potential for more problem interactions with debtors and a greater probability of complaints and lawsuits, and risks and costs can rise exponentially when you consider how long it takes to manage each incident. Interviewing the violating rep in question, piecing together what happened and facing legal action or an angry regulators all create instability and unpredictability.

Consider Automating Debt Collection – and Making It Smarter

How can you overcome these inherent problems with debt collection call centers? Progressive organizations in the credit card, consumer loan, ecommerce, technology and telecom industries are all turning to a more sensible and intelligent approach to replace the call center strategy: Automation engines that replace most collection activities offer a more proactive system that has compliance, risk mitigation, content and costs all built in.

Here’s what it looks like:

Start with an Intelligent, Machine-learning System

Today’s automated collection systems, like those pioneered by TrueAccord, rely on a process that goes far beyond outbound calls. Combining outbound emails, text messages and other channels with an intelligent machine-learning system that sees what type of interaction each recipient prefers, you create a less obtrusive environment that debtors are more likely to respond to. In most cases, consumers are the ones taking the initiative to call collection reps directly to solve the debt issue, reducing the number of calls you need to make by up to 95 percent and lowering the number of agents you need on staff. And because the TrueAccord platform automatically monitors every call and interaction and uses pre-written and pre-approved content, you’re protected.  

Control and Monitor Your Content

Code-controlled compliance is critical to ensuring that reps are sticking to script and aren’t sending improper content to a consumer. With TrueAccord, compliance is built right into the system. Messaging for emails and other interactions are pre-defined and pre-approved so you don’t have to micromanage every agent’s conversations. The system also makes it very easy to track and measure the effectiveness of your program and allows multiple approvers to oversee and continually improve the process.

Create a Far Better Consumer Experience

Once you begin dealing with consumers on their terms and personalizing the experience for them, you create a more collaborative and cooperative environment – and improve your chances that they’ll remain a customer. Change the nature of the conversation so that’s it’s less adversarial, and you’ll improve customer retention and lock in better recovery rates. There is also less incentive for a rebel rep to push the boundaries because they’ll be working with consumers, not against them.

As the debt collection industry matures, there is a huge opportunity for companies to take a positive step forward, recovering more revenue in less time and changing the nature of their debt collection business along the way.

To hear our CCO and CEO discussing the Perils of Call Centers, check out our podcast.

TrueAccord’s 2018 Customer Survey: Net Promoter Score and Digital Trends

By on February 27th, 2018 in Company News, Product and Technology, User Experience
TrueAccord Blog


We just posted our 2018 Customer Survey and the results are incredibly interesting.

Consumers in debt are definitely feeling more like TrueAccord customers, giving us a Net Promoter Score of 40, a new record for us and for the industry. We have also uncovered several interesting trends in customer preferences – not new, but definitely eye opening.

Click here to download the infographic summarizing our findings.

The Perils of Call Centers

By on February 22nd, 2018 in Compliance, Industry Insights, User Experience
TrueAccord Blog

Call centers are risky: expensive to operate, experience high turnover, training and retraining are increasing overhead, and controlling calls is close to impossible because humans are fallible. In this episode, Tim Collins and Ohad Samet compare and contrast a call center based collection operation with TrueAccord’s compliance management and scale: pre-written content, compliance firewall, and other solutions.

To download the episode’s transcript, click here.

Millennials are the new debtors

By on February 20th, 2018 in Industry Insights, User Experience
TrueAccord Blog

The New Debtor

Data from the Federal Reserve Bank shows consumer debt has been increasing and hit its peak in 2017 totalling $12.73 trillion, exceeding the previous peak in 2008, with roughly $1.3 trillion in student loans. The expected decrease in regulatory and tax burdens on U.S businesses suggests that the US economy will grow even faster than expected, giving consumers more confidence to spend. This growth in debt volume is accompanied by a change in the profile of consumers that owe it. Millennials are a new type of consumer, and therefore also a new type of debtor. This shift has left the debt collection industry struggling to deliver the type of user experiences consumers demand today. Companies wanting to stay successful, recover debt and retain their positive brand perception must adapt.  

Millennials are the new consumers

Millennials have surpassed Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living generation, according to population estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau. Millennials are defined as ages 18-34 and in 2015 they numbered 75.4 million, surpassing Baby Boomers at 74.9 million. They are young, highly educated, driven, technology savvy and in significant debt. In 2016 the average student loan debt was close to $40,000 for the millennial generation. Student loans is now the second highest consumer debt category, trailing only mortgages.  

Income and debt introduce uncertainty

In a recent survey 68% of millennials have said that debt negatively impacts their life, causing personal and professional stress, and 19% have received collections calls. On average a millennial carries around $5500 high interest credit card debt, to which many add auto loans. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics an average millennial salary is $35,592, which leaves many dreaming of being debt free but finding that goal impossible to reach. Faced with mounting debt and economic uncertainty, millennials not only communicate and think differently, but are also faced with a substantially different economic reality. When they fall off the debt repayment wagon, they require much more support to get back on it.

A shift in demographics and values

Beyond the economic uncertainty, millennials’ money management habits also differ from those of baby boomers. Millennials place a high value on ephemeral consumption – experiences such as travel rather than goods and investments – leaving them with less long term financial security.  Coupled with lower salaries, they are facing a constant struggle between paying off their debt, building financial security, and living in the moment. Helping millennials pay down debt also requires an element of flexibility and financial education to help them start and stay on track with a debt repayment plan that works for their life.

Technology is key

Millennials’ love affair with technology has changed the way companies interact with them and created an opportunity for innovation that spans across all markets from healthcare to fintech and an on-demand economy for pretty much any service imaginable. With 98% of millennials owning a smartphone and using it for more than 2 hours per day, phones are their main source of communication and interaction with the world at large. Organizations need to invest and improve their technology to meet the millennial consumers’ ever changing and evolving preferences.  

Personalization is not a good-to-have

This generation puts a lot of emphasis on personal expression and personalization. Individuals express themselves not only by increasingly specific value sets and identities, but also by adopting brands and consumption patterns. Accordingly, millennials expect a higher degree of personalization when they engage with products and services including financial services. Millennials engage with products and services that understand them and connect to their experience, whether it’s expressing oneself through brands or the emotional experience of being in debt. The more variance companies can offer, the more they can respond to consumers’ individual circumstances and get better results.  

Looking ahead

To successfully engage with millennials we have to continue to focus on more sophisticated ways to learn from consumer behavior and preferences to offer real-time, meaningful, personal interactions. Millennials are not only the biggest demographic, but they are a maturing one, and are seeking ways to gain better control of their finances and build a more secure future. Properly servicing them and their mounting debt, personalizing and providing customized solutions, is crucial for the future of our growing economy. Issuers and collectors must adapt to this new world or see their charge offs rise rapidly.

Omnichannel communication is the future of consumer interaction

By on February 13th, 2018 in Industry Insights
TrueAccord Blog

Today, consumers engage with service providers and businesses through multiple digital devices and platforms. They expect to be able to research car loan interest rates on their iPad, then see an ad in their Facebook news feed on their desktop, and finally apply for the car loan application on the bank app using their mobile phone. According to a ComScore study, 50% of consumers rely solely on their mobile devices for all of their banking needs. These numbers reveal just how comfortable consumers are with digital communications and banking.   

An omnichannel approach creates a consumer experience that is consistent, complementary and seamless as they move across channels. This is now an expected way for consumers to interact with businesses, and that expectation continues into the debt collection process. Surprisingly, many debt collectors are still using phone calls and letters to get the attention of the consumer, but because their methods are so out of date, many customers will ignore or miss their communications all together, leaving a tremendous amount of debt unpaid.

What is an Omnichannel Debt Collection Strategy?

An omnichannel debt collection strategy is a consumer-centric approach to communicating with consumers. It’s a personalized and intelligent strategy of marketing that provides a seamless experience, regardless of channel or device. Consumers can now engage with a company in a physical store, on an online website or mobile app, or through social media. They can access products and services by calling a company on the phone, by using an app on their mobile smartphone, or with a tablet, a laptop, or a desktop computer.

When utilizing an omnichannel debt collection strategy it’s important to note that you’re not just making your website mobile friendly or sending an email reminder once a month. It’s not using multiple channels in order to stay ‘top of mind’ to the consumer. According to TeleTech Consulting, “To succeed with emerging channels, you can’t leapfrog over the basics. Instead, you must build a solid customer experience foundation from which to incorporate all interaction channels. This means setting up people, processes, and technology to identify, differentiate, customize, and interact with customers to meet their needs and resolve their issues.”  An effective and precise omnichannel debt collection strategy will use the consumer’s behavior to personalize every interaction and communication in order to nurture the customer through the collections process until their debt is fully paid.

Consider the Customer Journey

Most businesses are aware of their customer’s journey. Consumers take this same journey when paying off their debts, but traditional debt collection agencies or agents are not nurturing their consumer through the process, which leads to ignored calls, irritated consumers, and unrecovered debt.

TrueAccord understands that in order to appropriately nurture the consumer through the process you must use the technology and platforms they are most comfortable with. We reach our consumers through text messaging, email, and push notifications on their devices. The average American spends 4.6 hours a day on their cell phone, but most of that time is spent on apps, searching the web, and texting.  A recent study by Informate, found that globally people are not spending time on speaking on their phones. Further, the FCC has warned the American people not to answer any unknown phone calls in order to remain safe and avoid scams. An omnichannel debt collections strategy is the only effective way to meet consumers needs, which is why 95% of TrueAccord’s customers resolve their debt through self-service, online, without a single phone call.

Customer Journey in the Omnichannel Debt Recovery Strategy

From the consumer’s viewpoint, paying off a debt and making a purchase for a product or a service are very much the same, so it is no surprise that they need the same amount of nurturing and follow a very similar customer journey. TrueAccord uses behavior analytics and machine learning to create a personalized omnichannel debt collections strategy that is seamless and effortless for the consumer.

Every step in the debt recovery process is determined by the consumer’s behavior and needs. TrueAccord consumers will experience an individualized consumer journey unique to them. Personalization coupled with flexibility enables TrueAccord to collect more debt from more consumers. TrueAccord’s customers are able to utilize payment plans to pay off debts because they are easy to set up, offer many choices and nurture and motivate consumers to stay committed with positive messages.  

The following chart is an example of one consumer’s personalized journey from debt collections to debt recovered.  As the consumer moves through the different stages, the decision engine decides on what channel to use, what content and how often based on the consumer’s interaction with the platform.

Click here to download a larger version of this diagram

Precision in an Omnichannel Debt Collection Strategy

A personalized omnichannel debt collection strategy is a very precise method of interacting with consumers. This is not a throw-it-all-at-them-everywhere approach to consumer communications. TrueAccord’s intelligent omnichannel debt collection strategy will actually communicate less frequently than a call center would, 3 times a week on average. There is no need to call the consumer 10x a day for weeks on end, or to send expensive direct mail letters in various color paper just to be ignored. The omnichannel approach communicates less frequently but much more effectively, reducing call volume by more than 95% and attempting to contact consumers about three times per week. Because the communication responds to each individual consumer’s behavior it has maximum impact resulting in 50-500% more funds collected than traditional agencies.

An intelligent omnichannel debt collections strategy is a relief to today’s consumer. They are looking for a way to take control of their debt and manage it on their terms. TeleTech’s study found that, “simple tools that give customers more say in their interactions can also improve the experience in the long run.” TrueAccord is the tool consumers with debt are looking for. We believe debt collection does not have to be a stressful never-ending process. When consumers are met on terms that make them most comfortable, and given options that suit their needs, they are happy to pay off their outstanding debts.

Today, 64% of consumers approach businesses with the expectation of personalization and streamlined digital access, an omnichannel intelligent approach to debt collections is a necessity for the success of debt recovery. TrueAccord is the only collections platform powered by machine learning, which allows us to meet consumers exactly where they are and guide and nurture them efficiently through their personalized debt collection process until the debt is fully recovered.  We view the process through the eyes of the consumer and work to deliver an integrated experience that enables a seamless transfer between channels.

To get a larger version of our customer journey diagram, click here

Real issue for debt collectors is the irrelevance of telephones

By on February 6th, 2018 in Compliance, Debt Collection, Industry Insights, User Experience
TrueAccord Blog

Originally posted on American Banker’s BankThink blog.

In the past few years, the debate over limits on financial institutions’ electronic communications with consumers has focused on an outdated device: the telephone.

That is very well how the debate could continue under new leadership at the Federal Communications Commission, as industry supporters will likely urge the FCC to ease up on robo-calling restrictions.

In 2015, the FCC disappointed the financial services industry, which had wanted more flexibility on robo-calling restrictions. The agency’s ruling under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act went further, all but ending debt collectors’ use of robo-calls to cellphones. Then-Commissioner Ajit Pai, who is the new FCC chairman, wrote a scathing dissent. In it, Pai wrote, “The TCPA has become the poster child for lawsuit abuse.”

He is correct. In debt collection, TCPA litigation increased 31.8% from 2015 to 2016 while Fair Debt Collection Practices Act litigation decreased during the same time period. This isn’t surprising. The FDCPA puts a cap on damages while the TCPA does not. Furthermore, the 2015 FCC ruling provided broad and ambiguous definitions with many openings for legal action.

Lawyers have been making a living out of suing and settling with debt collection agencies for a long time – often in a way that can seem abusive. The industry is advocating for Pai to undo a lot of that perceived harm by reducing collectors’ TCPA-related compliance and litigation costs.

But if Mr. Pai loosens the rules on robo-calls, he will hurt consumers by subjecting them to more unwanted calls and also hurt debt collectors and creditors by allowing them to sink back into short-term complacency about their collection methods while the world changes around them.

Phone calls are losing relevance as consumers migrate to communicating with companies over digital channels. Indeed, the tech company Neustar reports that 97% of business calls go unanswered. Yet, some debt collectors are trying to stop regulators from placing limitations on their calling strategies – strategies that are harmful to consumers who don’t even want to communicate by phone.

To be sure, some debt collectors are acknowledging the communication trend.

Take, for instance, Albert Cadena, president and chief operating officer of USCB America. Cadena took the stand at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s field hearing on debt collection in Sacramento, Calif., in July, and said: “Communications is a key thing in our industry. We talk a lot about reaching out: letters, calls. The key thing … is to respond, communicate, talk to the collections agency whether it’s first party or third party.”

Perhaps unwittingly, Cadena was suggesting that communication is not as effective as it could be, and that traditional modes of communication (calls and letters) have become largely ineffective.

His remarks were made the day after the CFPB published its outline for a proposed regulation in debt collection – a document that was more than three years in the making and published a year after the FCC’s broad TCPA ruling. In the bureau’s outline were sections that point to the direction the industry should actually focus in on when communicating with consumers: email and text message.

The Trump administration may defund the CFPB, and the FCC may roll back its TCPA ruling. Debt collectors may hope for simpler compliance requirements and less frequent enforcement actions. However, in terms of the policy around telephone communications, both supporters and detractors of these agencies’ regulatory agenda are debating about a disappearing world. A policy focused on phone calls and written letters is inconsistent with a new generation of borrowers that responds to emails and social media posts. This debate is still focused on the minutiae of the FDCPA, a rule from the 1970s that forbids the use of postcards, while some consumers never set foot in a bank branch or talk to a banker.

Not all industry players are ignoring these realities. Several large issuers and banks have been leading the charge in shifting from call-heavy, to digital-first and consumer-friendly collections. The CFPB’s proposal explicitly calls out email and text messages as technologies for debt collection. The future of the industry lies in adapting to consumer behavior and the fact that consumers are not answering their phones.