Last week, Sheila Monroe, TrueAccord’s COO, was the featured guest on “Credit Eco To Go,” a consumer finance podcast hosted by Joann Needleman, a leading financial services attorney at Clark Hill. The theme was putting the “consumer” back into consumer financial services. Sheila had the opportunity to share TrueAccord’s perspectives and experiences working with consumers throughout the credit ecosystems. Here are some highlights from the discussion.
#1 Flexibility is still the key to helping consumers during the pandemic
With the pandemic still dramatically changing daily life and the economy, it’s no wonder that many banks and creditors are concerned about revenue and profitability. A way to address that and help consumers simultaneously is to offer flexibility during these difficult times. Sheila cites how TrueAccord’s first reaction was to think of ways to help people impacted by the pandemic who may not be able to afford their repayment plans.
“TrueAccord was born with this mission, not to maximize recoveries for clients (though we definitely do that), but how to help the 77 million consumers who are in debt in a humane way,” she said.
Sheila references how TrueAccord sprang into action, immediately sending out content to consumers on payment plans letting them know they could change the number of remaining payments to lower the monthly charge. She also notes how COVID-19 affected consumer behavior, such as when the government stimulus payments spurred an uptick in increased payments as consumers prioritized resolving their accounts.
#2 Consumers need urgent support throughout every step of the credit lifecycle
TrueAccord is not just interested in helping consumers through its collections business. The company sees an opportunity to bring its industry-leading collections experience to all consumers in debt.
“Consumers [that TrueAccord serviced in collections] say, gosh this was painless—I want to pay all my bills through TrueAccord. Well, the only way we can make that possible without clients giving us all their debt is to create a direct to consumer product, Engage, which allows consumers to come onto the platform, list their creditors and start making payment offers,” says Sheila. “They don’t want to be coerced into something over the phone that they didn’t feel comfortable with. They want to make offers to settle their debt or to pay monthly installments.”
#3 Banks and creditors need to leverage machine learning to meet the consumer preference for personalized communication
With video conferencing and digital communications becoming more prevalent as companies work from home, the financial services industry needs to better utilize technology to keep up customer engagement. Sheila predicts that consumer preferences will play a much bigger part in spurring technological change, especially with machine learning crafting unique customer experiences for each person.
“A ‘one size fits all’ approach is not right,” says Sheila. “The current best thing that needs to happen is using machine learning, which enables us to know the consumer at a more personalized level.” This approach, according to Sheila, can help turn unwanted outbound communication (like disruptive phone calls) into communication that is welcomed by the consumer — and empowers them to resolve their debt.
In addition, the use of multimedia communications is emerging as a more meaningful way of interacting with customers that naturally mimics conversations. For example, Sheila envisions, “We might start a conversation through a two-way text that then moves to a phone or even video call, where you can push a disclosure notification. A customer can upload a copy of their information that’s backing his dispute and we’ll handle it at the same time over the phone.” This mixed-channel, personalized approach gives the consumer an easy way to self-serve.
While the pandemic has certainly changed many things, including how many companies conduct business, one thing remains the same. There has never been a more crucial time for the finance industry to rise to the challenge of shifting consumer needs with innovative technology applications.