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 For debt collection, many organizations are still relying on an aging and outdated process to pursue debtors and recover revenue – the collection call center.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.

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.

TrueAccord’s 2018 Predictions for Debt Collections Market

By on February 1st, 2018 in Debt Collection, Industry Insights

The year 2017 was full of intriguing developments in the US debt collection industry.

  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau published a report that revealed debt collection was the issue most complained about by American consumers. Along with mortgage-related complaints, debt collection makes up about half of the 1.2million issues raised with the CFPB since it started accepting complaints in 2011.
  • The Federal Communications Commission adopted a new set of rules aimed at shutting down robocalls, an engagement method which has long been used by traditional collection agencies.
  • And, despite a growing regulatory pressure matched by increasing consumer demand, the pace of technological and product innovation in the space remained slow.

As we move through the early weeks of 2018, it is time for us to assess how the debt collection landscape might change and advance in the coming year. Here are our predictions for the rest of 2018.

Levels of consumer debt in the United States will continue to rise

Midway through 2017, Nasdaq.com commented that consumer debt in the US was rising at an “alarming” pace. In the second week of 2018, it was clear that that trend shows no sign of slacking, as NowThis reported that credit card debt had reached an all-time high of $1.023trillion. Student loans have become the largest source of household debt outside of mortgages. The most recent reports indicate a total US student loan debt of $1.48 trillion – that’s an average of more than $37,000 per graduate. And the student loan delinquency rate is 11.2%.  Car loans are also rising. Automotive News confirmed in September that Americans owe $1.1tr in auto loans – a new record.  At the same time, the cost of consumer goods and services is also increasing. The cost of several major areas of household expenditure – including medical expenses, housing, and food and beverages – has increased faster than income growth since 2007. The American economy is strong and shows every sign of remaining so in the coming months. And while the economy remains strong, people across the nation will keep spending. The need for a new generation of consumer-centric, automated, technology-driven debt collection experiences has never been greater.

Traditional methods of debt collection will become progressively less effective

The total recovered by debt collectors has declined steadily in recent years, falling from $13.3billion in 2012 to $11.4bn in 2016. At the same time, the CFPB reports that the net credit card charge-off rate – a handy barometer of the efficiency of debt collection – has risen gradually from a low of 3.8% in the second quarter of 2015 to 4.9% in the second quarter of 2017. One of the reasons why less debt is being recovered is the methods which have traditionally been used. Telephone calls and letters are not how modern consumers want to be approached. They find it easier to block phone calls; they want an interactive, user-friendly solution that is tailored to their needs and allows them to use their preferred technology in a way and at a time that suits them.

There is an app for everything these days. The average internet user now spends more than two hours a day on social media and messaging services. All consumers are spending more and more time online and millennials, the largest demographic in debt today, spend an average of 223 minutes each day – more than three-and-a-half hours – on their mobile devices, up from 188 minutes in 2016. And yet the debt collection space has not seen the sort of technological innovations that will allow it to keep pace with this new mobile-first age. Agencies are reacting by consolidating for scale but, as the CFPB report stated, they are still using the same methods for collection.

The debt collection industry will need to start investing in technology and creating customer-centric experiences

To counter the above trends, it’s imperative that debt collection agencies invest in data-driven technology that allows them to learn about, and understand, the behavior of the consumer. In short, they need to ask themselves the following questions:

  •   How can we have a conversation with consumers?
  •   How do we track their behavior?
  •   How do we then adjust our strategy to ensure better results?

It’s not just millennials. Older demographics also want a more customer-friendly, consumer-focused approach that is driven by digital technology. Consumers want to pay off their debt, but they want to do it in a way and at a pace that is convenient for them.  There needs to be a shift in creating tools that make it easier to pay off debt, so more people will do it. That means investing in the technology that allows for a user-friendly, omnichannel approach.  Flexibility, convenience and a great user experience are key to more debt being recovered. The industry has to begin its shift to use technology, automate and implement user-centric approaches to collections to keep pace with increasing levels of debt and consumer preferences.  

The pace of Fintech innovation will continue to be high

While the gap between spending and debt collection by traditional agencies continues to grow because of a reliance on outdated methods, in the banking and investment spheres there has been a large number of entrants that have quickly gained market share.  The wealth management space has seen disruption by newcomers such as Wealthfront, RobinHood, and Betterment offering financial planning and investing for just about anyone.  By lowering the barrier to entry and creating great user experiences they have been able to quickly penetrate the market and to go head to head with the more traditional established firms.  Challenger brands such LendingClub and SoFi are also re-imagining the lending pace, making it easier for consumers to access alternative loans.  These disruptors are bringing great marketing and compelling user experiences as a way to differentiate and gain market share with much smaller teams. As a result, they are challenging and changing consumers’ behavior. The debt collection industry needs to aspire to a similar agility simply to be able to keep pace with this hi-tech innovation.

Emerging companies will need to devise strategies to tackle debt collection

Emerging brands in the consumer space who are looking to grow retention and advocacy will need to address the issue of debt collection. They need to absorb the lessons of the current landscape and integrate optimal collection practices into their customer proposition sooner than later. As well as recovering more debt, this process will by definition help to increase customer retention. Emerging brands tend to focus first on growth and, as a result, they lack the expertise to carry out collections in-house and do not relate to traditional agencies’ methods and values. While they are focusing on their core offering, it is important that they embrace a more forward-looking method of debt collection. They will need collections processes that align with their organizational core values and their customer’s preferences, putting more pressure for innovation in the collections space.

Podcast: Creating a Positive Impact in Debt Collection Using Technology and Building Consumer-Centric Experiences

By on January 29th, 2018 in Compliance, Debt Collection, Industry Insights, Machine Learning, Product and Technology

Our CEO, Ohad Samet’s, recorded a podcast with Lend Academy discussing the positive impact technology is creating in the collections space and the need for more innovation. Will discuss TrueAccord’s unique approach to debt collection using data-driven, digital communications to create deeply personalized consumer experiences.  The podcast also covers the current state of the collections industry and where it’s likely headed as regulatory pressure, consumer preferences and compliance requirements converge.  Will cover how TrueAccord is using machine learning to deliver deeply personalized and engaging experiences for consumers while achieving higher recovery rates across various debt types.

Tune in and learn:

  • The state of the debt collection industry today and where it’s headed
  • How the use of machine learning is personalizing the debt collections experience for greater conversions
  • Why code-driven compliance outperforms traditional collections practices by reducing risk to organizations
  • How understanding consumers’ preferences for easy, self-service options with flexibility empowers  more consumers to pay off their debt and get on a path to financial health 

If you’re rather read the transcript, download it here.

Using Your Tax Refund To Repay Debt: Taking a Consumer-Centric Approach

By on January 23rd, 2018 in Debt Collection, Industry Insights

How appropriate is it that the Tax Season starts on December 31st?  The day before so many of us gear up for our New Year’s resolutions, often involving some sort of fitness goals or better eating habits, but sometimes the best intentions can fall flat, according to US News 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by mid-February.

There are clear similarities between the mindset that will help you to achieve your fitness goals and the one required to pay off a debt successfully. It’s all about pacing yourself and setting realistic expectations in the beginning. If you set an over-ambitious goal and aim too high, there’s a greater chance that you will quickly become disheartened and abandon your campaign. By setting a steady pace and you will feel accomplished, motivated to keep going, with a much greater likelihood of a positive long-term outcome.

Set realistic goals   

We know you that many of you intend to use your tax refunds to pay down your debt. According to a survey conducted by Credit Karma 62% or those surveyed expect to get a tax refund, and 40% of those plan to spend the money to pay down their debt.  We want to help you be successful, and help turn your intentions into actions.  TrueAccord will start the conversation early, using positive and encouraging content to motivate you towards getting started. We know you have choices to make, and we know that by building trust and creating a positive conversation we can help you to get started with your repayment process, and towards your better financial future.

TrueAccord approach

TrueAccord is leading the way in providing new, easy, digital, customer-focused ways for debt collections process.  We are building a process that fits your needs.  But even when you do want to pay it off, it can be really hard to get started.  You may feel overwhelmed, fear it will take forever, after all, average credit card rates today are around 12.5%, significantly adding to the length of time and payment amounts. This is where the flexibility of payment plans and the best digital user-experience sets us apart from any other collections process you may have experienced.

The power of positive communications and UX

We’re not like traditional, old-fashioned agencies who turn up the heat by making more calls and sending more letters. This is not a user experience that will motivate people to take action, in fact, it can do quite the opposite.

TrueAccord starts the conversation as early as December, building on your own intentions and keeping debt repayment at the top of your mind.  We focus on encouraging messages personalized to individual situations, with the built-in flexibility needed to figure out what will work for each consumer.  And we give you the tools that make it fast and easy to repay, with on-demand access to a personalized dashboard via a mobile phone, tablet or desktop. It’s part of our mission to redefine the debt collection process by making it more personal and user-friendly.

Choices for a personalized approach 

TrueAccord offers a variety of payment plans on a regular basis, and during the tax season, we test more options to give you more ways to get engaged.  Some of you may pick to pay a larger sum up front and then smaller amounts going forward, or you may set up the first payment in advance of the refund day, or start out with smaller amounts and gradually increase over time. We test different messages and offer a variety of options to see what works; it’s all part of the personal approach. Again, the similarities with a New Year fitness campaign are compelling. Everybody has a different target and a variety of ways and means to get there. But as long as you feel better, fitter and happier with your financial world by the end of the process, we’ll be happy too.

Obtaining Consent In Digital Debt Collection

By on December 13th, 2017 in Compliance, Debt Collection, Industry Insights

There are few industries left that are as ripe for disruption as the collections industry is right now. In the case of collections, the old adage of “if ain’t broke don’t fix it” has guided the process for collection agencies for the better part of 40 years. Collectors knew that they could reliably collect on past due accounts by simply sending a letter or two and calling debtors repeatedly until they made contact and then convincing the debtor to pay off the account. Creditors built their customer contracts knowing that the collections model of phone and letter outreach was well established. Today, things are changing and they’re changing fast. Nearly 77% of American consumers own a smartphone. Naturally, consumer preferences on how they want to be communicated with have evolved, and at TrueAccord we’re working hard to stay on top of this trend, while maintaining the highest standard of compliance, and pushing the industry to catch up to the times.

The collections practices set out by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) were designed primarily to protect consumers from abusive contact by collectors in person, by phone, and by letter, but gave little thought to new technologies or how they would be used by consumers. It was only last year that the new proposed rules on debt collection were announced by the CFPB referencing new digital communications methods. This announcement has been creating waves for both creditors and debt collectors and now is the time to start thinking about consumer communications preferences and how to leverage new communications tools to contact your customers, even in collections.

The legal standards for how to obtain consent to contact a debtor is outlined in regulations and in basic agency law. In almost all cases consent to contact a consumer transfers to an agency. Most creditors have added to their contracts provisions allowing for consumer contact by mail and phone with some forward thinking creditors including consent language for the creditor to service the account using email or even better, digital communication channels. However, not many contracts underlying a debt that gets placed in collections anticipated a collector wanting to contact a debtor by email or text message.  With new rules coming, now is the time to anticipate this change and create broad consents that incorporate digital channels that currently exist, and that may be created. An example of a broad consent in a contract might look like:

“If we need to contact you to service your account or to collect amounts you owe, you authorize us (and our affiliates, agents, contractors and third party servicers) to contact you at any number you provide, from which you call us, or at which we believe we can reach you, at any email address you provide to us or at which we believe we can reach you, or through any social media or other digital communications platform you may use. We may contact by calling or texting. We may contact you using an automated dialer or prerecorded messages. We may contact you on a mobile, wireless or similar device, even if you are charged for it.”

This clause incorporates phone, email, text, social media, and leaves the door open for new technology like push notices.  Even though there is some uncertainty around the ability to contact consumers using all of these new channels it’s important to think ahead for when the laws catch up to consumer preferences. It’s not uncommon for a consumer to reach out to TrueAccord and ask for us to text them account details and we wouldn’t be surprised if a consumer asked us to contact them using other messaging apps like Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger. With the consent language above a collector could respond to consumer demand and use these channels to contact a consumer in the way they want to be reached. Respecting consumer preferences will open the door to more successful collections opportunities benefiting consumers, collectors, and creditors.

I’m Excited to Join the CFPB’s Consumer Advisory Board

By on November 28th, 2017 in Company News, Debt Collection, Industry Insights
TrueAccord Blog

I’m very honored to have been appointed to the CFPB’s Consumer Advisory Board. With this appointment, the CFPB is sending a strong message about how it views technology’s role in shaping the future of consumer finance in general, and debt collection in particular. I’m proud to be able to represent the industry’s point of view while making sure we usher in a new era of great user experience and technology innovation. Even with Director Cordray’s planned departure, the CFPB remains a strong and active regulator. While some of the weight is likely to move to State level examinations, keeping in touch with Federal regulators remains a top priority as a way to contribute to consumer protection broadly, and to support TrueAccord’s long-term mission.

Anyone can apply to be a CAB member through the CFPB’s site. I applied and was appointed earlier this year. I did so because at TrueAccord we believe in the Bureau’s mission – protecting consumers – and also that engaging with your regulator is the smart thing to do. I was humbled and excited to be sworn in, because there is still so much in financial services in the US that can be improved, and innovation to be encouraged. I truly believe in the role of the CAB in informing the CFPB on important trends and how to support consumer protection and choice. I am lucky to be serving alongside academics such as Prof. Lisa Servon, consumer advocates such as Chi Chi Wu from the NCLC, and industry leaders such as Max Levchin. It’s a broad set of experiences and opinions that foster great discussions and set us up for the challenges in front of us.

The CAB looks at financial services in general, but my I cannot disregard my own backyard. In tricky, regulated markets like debt collection, with its active rulemaking process, it is even more important to take part in crafting fair and forward-looking rules that protect consumers. Any work I can do to ensure innovation can finally reach the debt collection market is a net positive for consumers and the industry.

The meeting span three full days in Tampa, Florida, and culminated in a public session with comments about the new PayDay rule. Bureau staff kept a tight schedule presenting latest developments in regulation, consumer education initiatives, and for first time members – an intro to the Bureau and its divisions. During the third day, I was also asked to give a 45-minute presentation on trends in the debt collection market. I used it to discuss the transformative role technology has in making the debt collection process customer-centric and digital first, creating better experiences with less friction and stress for consumers.

 

All in all, my first meeting was an incredibly positive experience. Staff turned out to be a diverse group of intelligent and thoughtful people, and the (now ex-)director a highly engaged and knowledgeable person. CAB members bring impressive backgrounds and facilitate an effective discussion, especially when they disagree. I am already looking forward to our next meeting, and reviewing developments we’ll see until then. I personally expect the debt collection rule to be one of them, though Bureau staff gave no formal guidance on this matter.

The Voice of the Consumer: Motivation to Pay Off the Debt

By on October 31st, 2017 in Debt Collection, Industry Insights, User Experience

Today, data science and analytics are empowering organizations to analyze user behavior and create better user experiences that drive success.  Big data and scale are top of mind as companies compete for market share and aim to deliver the best user experience possible. While powerful tools and testing can tell us a lot about what users want and how they interact with applications, features, and content, neither tells the whole story. It is still important to talk to your users in a traditional sense, by picking up the phone and having a conversation to understand how they feel and ask questions that data cannot fully answer. 

At TrueAccord we touch millions of consumers by empowering them to pay off their debt and reach financial health through a personalized, digital, self-managed process.  We are providing a powerful platform that is connecting our customers and consumers in debt during a sensitive process.  We are constantly testing and improving our product for better engagement and conversion, but when it comes to questions like, “how does it feel to be in this situation?” or “did you experience collections with other agencies? If yes, what was the process like and how did it make you feel?”, the only way to get valuable feedback is to have a conversation with consumers.  Their answers help us form an understanding of our users’ needs and shape more quantitative research. We want to understand how our users think and feel so we can better serve them. 

Meet a few of the consumers that have recently used TrueAccord for their debt repayment process:

Stacy: from suspicion to delight

Tell me a bit about yourself.

Stacy is a 29-year-old, married woman with one child and works in the medical field.

Do you remember when you received your first TrueAccord Email?

I was surprised to get an email, it wasn’t the usual process that I had experienced with other collections agencies.  So at first I ignored them and didn’t open them, but when I finally opened and read it, and did a little research on the company, I realized how easy this was going to be.  I could see my total balance, pick a payment plan and do everything online. It was so refreshing to have an easy and friendly process.  I love that it was digital, that’s what I’m used to with other services, and it really made it stress-free to manage the process myself and not to have to talk to anyone.

Have you ever dealt with traditional agencies?

Yes, I had previous debt, I got letters in the mail, so I called in good faith, I know I owed the money and wanted to pay it off, and they made everything so difficult and were incredibly unprofessional.  I wasted more than 30 minutes of my time talking to them, it was so frustrating.  

What can we do better?

It would be great to have some tools and content to learn how to manage my credit and budget. Sometimes when you’re in debt you may not know where to start and then it’s easy to just ignore the problem.  There are a lot of tools out there, it’s just making it top of mind is important.

Josh: sometimes all you need is a reminder

Tell me a bit about yourself.

Josh is 27 years old, engaged, lives in Colorado Springs, has a 4-year degree and works in digital marketing.

Can you tell me a bit about the situation you were in?

It was a dispute with a ticket reseller, and I was going back and forth with them regarding the issue, but it was taking a while and getting frustrating.  It was an honest mistake on my part that just turned out to be expensive. Then all of a sudden, I received an email from TrueAccord.

What did it feel like to receive the first TrueAccord email?

Honestly, I was surprised that they sent me to collections so fast, but I liked the fact that I could take care of it online, it felt more professional and user-friendly.  I paid it off right away, I didn’t want to have it impact my credit in a negative way.  

Have you dealt with other collections agencies, what was the process like?

I had medical debt previously that I had to deal with, it was a very frustrating process, they called me all the time, sent letters, called my employer, it felt like there ware no limits on what they could do. I needed someone to work with me and help me through the process.  

What was your experience with TrueAccord?

I was very impressed with TrueAccord, it was so easy to use, everything was digital and the communications were professional.  I could see my account overview, decide how and when to pay and do everything online. Getting a phone call in this age is so outdated, and easy to ignore.  The fact that I could do it online motivated me to pay faster.

Do you have any feedback for us?

Continue to do what you’re doing, keep it easy and digital, adding humans to the process adds an embarrassing element and frustration, it just adds emotion that is not helpful during this process.  People respond to being treated well and respected and given options that are on their terms.

What about learning more about how to manage debt?

I think when you’re younger you need to understand more about credit, if not managed well it can negatively impact your finances, so having more information on the site would be a great opportunity to help educate people.  

Vera: a positive process in hard times

Tell me a bit about yourself.

Vera is 30 years old, single, lives in Flower Mound, Texas, and works in digital advertising.

Tell me a bit more about the debt?

It was a payday loan, and I hit a rough time and couldn’t make the payments.  I’ve had other times where I was in debt, it’s not a great feeling, it hangs over you.

Did the original creditor try to collect from you?

They did, it wasn’t easy, they called me and I ignored the calls, in order to pay I had to call them, and I just didn’t feel like it.  

What happened when you were contacted by TrueAccord?

When I received my first email from TrueAccord, I began paying within a week.  The fact that it was digital had a lot to do with it, the process was positive, easy and I was ready to pay and put the debt behind me. Not having to talk to someone makes it a better experience. I use a lot of other apps, it’s just what I expect these days.

Have you used other resources for learning about debt or managing finances?

I use several apps: Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, WalletHub, I also like the Reddit forums, there is a lot of information about debt out there, and it’s easy to talk to strangers online where you’re anonymous.  For me, debt is a private issue so it’s not something I would widely talk about, just with close friends and family.

Richard: ease of use made the difference

Tell me a bit about yourself.

Richard, 35 years old, single, lives in Seattle and works in technology

Do you remember getting your first TrueAccord email?

I got an email and I paid my debt within the week.  It’s not a great feeling to be in debt, no matter how small the amount is.  

What was your experience with other agencies?

The process is always so time-consuming and difficult, they always call or just sent letters in the mail, these days that is not an experience I want to deal with.

How was your experience with TrueAccord?

TrueAccord was spectacular, I could just sit in front of my computer and take care of it.

Do you have any feedback for us?

Continue to work with people, help them if they need it.  Giving them the ability to do things online is easy to manage and convenient.  I think having options is helpful, choosing payment plan vs paying it off in a lump sum, flexibility is so important.

This is the first time I have ever had a call from an agency after having debt, it feels great to be asked for feedback.  Shows you genuinely care about what you’re doing and the people you work with.

What other financial services do you use or like?

I use Mint, Credit Karma, and my bank’s financial management tools.  I know how to manage my debt, but sometimes you can still get into trouble.  The are also a lot of blogs out there, so the content is there, but sharing with people during this time might be a good way to help them, people don’t always want to talk about this issue, or have someone to talk to.

Our users have strong opinions

From these conversations, it’s clear how much digital, self-managed experiences drive a more positive, trusted, and easy interaction for both sides.  How we feel has a lot to do with how we act, and by empowering consumers to make their own decisions and giving them the control and flexibility they want, we see they are more motivated to engage and pay.  Continuing the conversation, testing, and data analysis are at the forefront of what we do.   We are going to continue to bring great user experiences and new features to improve and enhance the TrueAccord experience to help consumers reach financial health.  

 

Consumer in Crisis: What To Do When Disaster Strikes

By on October 24th, 2017 in Company News, Culture, Debt Collection, Industry Insights, User Experience

Hurricanes, wildfires, floods. We’ve certainly seen our fair share of natural disasters in the past few months. Sometimes, disasters are more personal such as losing a job, losing a loved one or facing an unexpected medical condition. When these crises happen, financial institutions and debt collectors want to do whatever they can to ease the burden, if only for a short time. The key? Communicating early, communicating often, and asking for relief whenever it is available.

It may be hard to imagine that our bank or lender cares about our circumstances. That is often not true. Financial institutions work within communities and understand the need to support them. That’s true for debt collection as well.

The premise we work with is that people want to pay their debt, they just need the right tools. They also need to be treated like people which is why we offer personalized approaches to each customers’ unique situation.

When paying debt is not possible, it’s in everyone’s interest to find other solutions. At TrueAccord, many clients proactively ask us to stop collecting in crisis-struck areas, and we often do so ourselves. Hardship programs allow us to provide longer and even more flexible payment plans, delay collection attempts and sometimes pause collection efforts for a long period of time.

Many consumers don’t hear about these options – or even consider that there may be another solution available to them – because they choose to disengage with financial institutions and debt collectors. This can make a bad situation worse. We, and your bank, may not be aware of your situation. We understand that calling us may be the last thing on your mind. That’s why you can email us, and in some cases text or write to us on social media. Reaching out will allow you to get in front of the situation early. For your financial institution, it will help them support you sooner and more effectively.

If you are in a crisis, talk to your bank, talk to TrueAccord, and explore your options. While we may not be able to solve every problem, we’re here to help as much as we can.

 

Introducing Account Dashboard To Enable Flexibility and Control for Consumers

By on October 4th, 2017 in Debt Collection, Product and Technology, Testing, User Experience

We are very excited to announce the release of a new feature in the TrueAccord Collections Platform, the Account Dashboard.  The dashboard gives a consumer a comprehensive view of their individual account, enabling consumers to manage their account in real-time, including view balance, payment plans, disputes, and access to financial resources.  This is going to significantly improve consumer experience by giving consumers more control and flexibility to manage their account and their financial obligations in a flexible way, according to their needs.

Our product and data science teams are always looking at ways to improve user experience and engagement by A/B testing new ideas and collecting user feedback.  Our machine learning platform is powered by a decision engine that draws upon millions of previous interactions to deliver digital, personalized experiences for each consumer. Sometimes, the result is a change in contact strategy for a specific set of accounts, but often we also see an impact on the way we design our user experience. This is one of these times.

A time for shifting paradigms

When we started TrueAccord, we were focused on creating a variety of contact strategies and the flexibility to deliver personalized consumer experiences and gather data that we could learn from and make actionable over time. So, we created a wide variety of offers and developed many landing pages with different value propositions, each of which was promoting a particular “offer”, as well as ways to attract consumers to look at those offers and act on them.  While it was simple for our team to create many pages and A/B test offers, we began to realize we were providing an “e-commerce” experience to consumers.

The “e-commerce” experience created a one-way relationship between TrueAccord and the consumer that responded in a limited way to changing consumer habits such as the use of digital technology to self-serve and a desire for individualized products and services. As consumers started getting familiar with the TrueAccord brand and our algorithms became more accurate, it was obvious that an ongoing relationship model better serves the consumer and yields better results, because consumers appreciate the transparency and feeling of control over their financial health.  Counterintuitively, they were starting to trust us, the collection agency. We also started to get feedback from our engagement team that consumers wanted to take advantage of offers they had previously received via email, but now couldn’t easily access. They were starting to think about TrueAccord like any account-based financial services firm they interact with.

We had to take a step back and ask a few key questions:

  • What was the market demanding from us?
  • What was our vision for the TrueAccord consumer experience?
  • Was the experience we were providing reflective of our vision and market needs?  

We realized that our first goal for the product was achieved: consumers don’t think about us as “the bad guys who chase me”. They think of us as a service provider that helps them with a part of their financial lives, and they want more: more engagement, more context, more options.  Consumers wanted the ability to login and view an account page, make payments, adjustments, etc. Part of TrueAccord’s mission is to become a platform for empowering financial health, through digital, data-driven, personalized experiences. So, a redesign was in order.

Creating a consumer-focused collection experience

It sounds counter-intuitive when it shouldn’t. Debt collection is an activity focused on recouping money that consumers owe but didn’t pay, but it can just as much be focused on helping consumers pay the money they owe. In fact, most consumers want to pay but are unable to for a variety of reasons. Creating a consumer-focused experience means providing a seamless, targeted, customized interface that is easy to manage and works with their day to day needs.

The Dashboard allows TrueAccord to show a consumer their available offers and options, while consumers, through their actions and feedback, let TrueAccord know what is or isn’t useful or helpful. It is truly a big step up in realizing our original vision for the product: introduce a system that puts consumers at the helm, in control of their lives and finances, and on the path to financial health.

Mobile

In some cases, more than 70% of traffic to TrueAccord’s web app is from mobile devices. We needed to make sure our new interface is easily accessible and navigable via mobile devices. The new dashboard interface is better optimized for mobile to meet consumer preferences. Consumers can access their account information at any time, from anywhere, giving them a reliable way to stay up to date with their account and to contact us if they have any questions or concerns.

Payment Plans

One of TrueAccord’s most popular payment options is our payment plans. 84% of consumers with debt balances over $300 choose to pay via a payment plan. Unfortunately, a large number of consumers set up plans but drop off before completely paying off their debt. Sometimes it’s because the payment plan amounts are too high, or dates don’t correspond well with the consumers pay days when they have money to pay. By developing a relationship with the consumer, TrueAccord is able to mitigate difficulties and provide solutions to help them get back on track.

Our goal is to be a platform for financial health that empowers consumers to get out of debt by giving them the control and flexibility of paying off their debt in a way that works for them.  This feature is a huge step in that direction.