5 tips for building scalable email infrastructure

By on February 6th, 2020 in Product and Technology

Using email as a channel for consumer communication seems like a simple way to dive into the digital revolution, but internet service providers (ISPs) actively develop tools to combat spam and abuse.

You may have the best intentions, but these service providers want to help consumers feel like they are protected which means blacklisting and filtering out junk mail. Unfortunately, emails sent by the untrained email sender can veer dangerously close to junk. 

This can make breaking into emailing consumers difficult, but it makes sending emails by the thousands (and millions) impossible without building email infrastructure that is sustainable and scalable. Establishing that infrastructure begins with recognizing the challenges you might face and then considering how to best confront them.

Why scaling email infrastructure is difficult

Email communication is heavily regulated by automated filters and systems in a way that more manual forms of communication aren’t. Cell service providers, for example, do not have nearly as much control over the volume or quality of calls that their customers receive. 

ISPs have dedicated engineers that design algorithms to keep their users happy, engaged, and protected from malicious senders, and an inbox packed with spam mail makes for a poor user experience. These algorithms are not perfect, and when they are designed, they lean on the side of being more restrictive than less which can lead to some misunderstanding. They may accidentally filter out an email from a legitimate sender that, according to their understanding of what is deemed safe, seems suspicious.

To make matters more complicated, each ISP has unique criteria that serve as the basis of their filtering rules. An email that is flagged as spam by Google could land safely in a Yahoo Mail inbox and vice versa. These rules are also constantly changing and updating to fight back against more advanced scammers making it impossible to create a one-and-done solution to properly sending emails at a massive scale.

Here are just a few things that spam filters analyze that you’ll need to consider:

  • Content: What do your emails say? Do you have any suspicious attachments or links?
  • Design: How do your emails look?
  • Sending time: Did your email arrive at 4pm or 4am?
  • Sending volume: How many of these emails did you send out at once?
  • Sending frequency: How often are you trying to email people?
  • Consumer engagement: Is anyone actually opening/clicking your emails?

Working to get all of these answers (and more) right is essential or you might find your email domain permanently blacklisted from one or all of the ISPs that you’re sending to. So what can you do to build a scalable infrastructure and work within these restraints?

How to successfully send email at scale

As we mentioned above, there isn’t necessarily a single, perfect solution for overcoming the innumerable hurdles to large-scale emailing. It takes dedicated and focused strategy to improve your long term inbox placement rates. Here are a few tips that our team keeps in mind as we continue to grow.

Create valuable content

The first step to making sure your emails are well-received by both users and ISP filters alike is creating the right content. Well-designed UX and carefully curated text are important, but it’s equally important that you steer clear of some phrases and keywords and trigger red flags.

Here’s a list of some spam trigger words that you might want to avoid!

Having a dedicated content team gives you the flexibility to create more personalized and more human messages that have a better chance at reaching your intended audience!

Talk to experts

We know we’ve been thorough, but fully understanding the challenges of sending email at scale isn’t something we can teach you in a few hundred words. TrueAccord has a full team of email deliverability experts on staff that can provide industry specific knowledge and know the ins-and-outs of different ISPs’ requirements. 

They also regularly audit our deliverability rates so that we can iterate on our processes and improve and help segment our domains and IP addresses as we grow.

Segment domains and IP addresses

Thankfully, our email experts can help explain what that last bit means. Segmenting your domains simply means building different domains that you can email consumers from. For example, some of your emails may come from emails@companyA.com and others may come from emails@help.companyA.com. The same goes for segmenting IP addresses; you may send some of your emails from your main office and others from your satellite office.

This process can help to limit the risk to your brand’s reputation with ISPs as you are less likely to take a big hit if only one of your many email addresses makes a mistake (e.g. bouncing frequently, receiving a lot of spam complaints, having many of its emails remain unopened). 

This process is intricate and methodical. Creating ten new domains can’t solve deliverability problems because brand new domains also lack authority. If an ISP’s filters see that a brand new email address is sending out 100,000 emails, it’s likely that it’ll be swept to the side. Which brings us to our next point!

Take it slow

Scaling your program too quickly is heavily penalized even among senders with high engagements. Many well-established companies that want to build a large scale email strategy with their existing customer base make this mistake, and sometimes there isn’t a way to fix it. Placing strict limits on email volume growth can help ensure that ISPs don’t flag your domain.

Track your data

Set your benchmarks, track your performance, and make changes as you go. Data is the life blood of a scalable email program. As you’ve seen, there’s a lot to keep track of, and if any segments of your strategy spring a leak, the ship might sink. 

By frequently and carefully monitoring performance—from open and click rates to inboxing rates to bounce rates—you can maintain a full view of your email strategy and make improvements as you build. 

No one has the power to flip a switch and send millions of emails per month without risk, but if you build slowly, you can lay the foundation for a successful email strategy. If you have any questions, let us know in the comments below! 

TrueAccord sends 40x more emails and has up to 70% higher inboxing rates than other collection agencies. Chat with our team today to learn more about what that means for you!

Supervised vs. unsupervised machine learning

By on February 5th, 2020 in Machine Learning

Machine learning is a powerful tool that many companies can use to their advantage. The ability to have algorithms make decisions based on large scale sets of data enables teams to build efficient, scalable tools. Some of these algorithms require frequent monitoring and management from data scientists in order to get up to speed and continue learning. Others are able to operate and learn on their own in order to generate new information to act on! 

Supervised and unsupervised machine learning algorithms both have their time and place. Let’s discuss a few examples, the difference between the two, and how they can be used together to create a powerful, AI-driven strategy for your company!

Supervised Machine Learning

Supervised learning algorithms are trained over time based on foundational data. This data will provide certain features as data points that will teach the algorithm how to generate the correct predictions. Figure 1, below, provides an example of a binary classifier and a set of data about cats and dogs that will teach the algorithm how to identify one or the other!

These models function best in situations in which there is an expected, intentionally designed output. In the example above, the expected output is that the algorithm can properly separate cats from dogs. In digital debt collection, it may be separating accounts that will be easy to collect on from ones that are more difficult. 

Classification vs. Regression

The models above are both examples of a supervised learning model that is seeking classification, but supervised learning can also be used to build regression models. The key difference between the two is that in a regression model the output is a numerical value rather than categorical.

A regression-based model may use input features such as income and whether or not they have children to accurately predict a person’s age. When using a regression based model in combination with consumer data, you can even segment demographics for communication and marketing. 

For full transparency we want to state that TrueAccord does not use its customer demographic data for these purposes. This is strictly an example.

With proper supervision, these models will become more accurate over time, and the data scientists building them can adjust them as business needs change. Whether you are gathering data using a regressor or a classifier, it is dependent upon the data scientists to build the most effective inputs in order to get the “correct” output.

Unsupervised Machine Learning

While supervised models require careful curation in building proper features that will lead to the “correct” output, unsupervised models can take large sets of unlabeled data and identify patterns without aid. The output variables (e.g. dog or cat) are never specified because it is now the algorithm’s job to process and sort the data based on similarities that it can identify. Using this method, you can learn things about your data that you didn’t even know!

Clustering vs. Association

Just as supervised models have primary methods for training their output data as either classification or regression models, unsupervised models can be trained using clusters or associations. Clustering algorithms gather data into groups based on like-features that exist in the data set. 

If you have thousands upon thousands of customer accounts in your system, a clustering algorithm can learn using the customer data and form them into distinct (but unlabeled) groups. Once it has assigned these clusters, data scientists can review the output data and make inferences such as:

  • This cluster is all of the accounts that have not yet established a payment plan
  • This cluster is all of the users that started signing up for a payment plan but didn’t finish the process

This new data set then provides the foundation for a new outreach strategy!

Building the infrastructure to process this data is the hardest part. Learn more about how TrueAccord is laying the foundation for scalable machine learning systems!

Association algorithms are the other end of unsupervised learning algorithms. Associations take the idea of grouping random data points one step further and can make inferences based on the data available. Continuing on from our account creation example, an association-based model can identify two data points and draw conclusions based on the patterns it finds. One such pattern may be:

A person that signed up for an account the first time they opened an email is more likely to pay off their balance.

The algorithm recognizes that multiple steps in a customer’s journey creates another data point. Because association algorithms are still unsupervised, a team of scientists will be responsible for labeling the output data, but the algorithm can outline previously unnoticed patterns.

The power of teamwork

By leveraging both supervised and unsupervised machine-learning algorithms, you can make decisions based on previously unfathomable scales of data. While they cannot necessarily be used to substitute one another, they can be used to create a perpetually improving cycle. Using unsupervised models to extract meaningful information from large data sets and building new supervised models to further hone your data creates more opportunities than ever before.

Why customer feedback is so important for your small business

By on January 30th, 2020 in User Experience

Everyone knows that customers are the backbone of a business; if people don’t use your service or buy your product then you won’t have a business for very long. In order to solve this problem, companies often work to bring in as many new customers as possible, but you can’t forget to nurture relationships with consumers that you’ve worked with in the past. 

According to Adobe, 40% of eCommerce revenue comes from returning customers which make up only 8% of total visitors! That number alone should inspire you to get out and talk to your old customers and figure out what they think, but there are quite a few more reasons you should cherish customer feedback and use it to strengthen your company!

Building brand promoters

The omnipresence of social media means that consumers that are excited about your company will shout from the digital rooftops to endorse you. Unfortunately, the power of social sharing also means that the opposite is true: if a person has a particularly negative experience with your brand, they will spread the word around fairly quickly. 

Properly managing customer feedback can dramatically improve your brand’s reliability. A Net Promoter Score measures customer’s satisfaction with a business by asking: “how likely are you to recommend this (product/service) to a friend?” Customers that rate your business at a 9 or a 10 are considered promoters and are your best friend when it comes to spreading the word about your brand. 

Maintaining a high NPS score is challenging, but by focusing some efforts on gathering and listening to customer feedback, you can gradually build effective, organic branding that sets you apart from your competition!

If maintaining customer relationships is so important, you may be hesitant to try and collect on debts for fear of negative feedback. But digital debt collection solutions can support your brand and your bottom line!

Incorporating feedback and iterating

Not every review will revolutionize your business. If you take every negative review to heart, you might start to feel a bit down on yourself, but by analyzing customer feedback in aggregate, you’ll start to see patterns emerge!

These patterns won’t appear overnight, and even some patterns may not give you the direction you’re looking for (it is still your business after all). That said, if you have dozens of customers asking for a new feature or piece of content, imagine how many more customers want the same thing that aren’t asking!

By listening to customer feedback and building new tools that your customers are looking for, you can demonstrate that you listen to them and further improve retention. Plus, incorporating these changes into your customer lifecycle can pay big dividends! 

Promoters will continue to support your brand, bring in new customers, and in the long run, they will continue to spend more as your brand relationship improves. A survey by Bain & Company shows that customers actually spend more in months 31-36 of their relationship with a brand than they do in the first six months.

Creating a self-sustaining system

Feedback helps your business to grow and meet the ever-expanding needs of your market. If you don’t listen to your customers and build in a vacuum, you may soon realize that you were not solving the root of a problem. This isn’t to say that every customer suggestion or idea is the right one for your business, but if you take the time to listen to your customers you’ll build their trust and might just find the next right step. 

5 tips for recognizing debt collection phishing scams

By on January 29th, 2020 in User Experience

When communicating with debt collectors it’s important to ensure they are legitimate before making a payment. Scammers posing as debt collectors will pressure you aggressively, use threatening language, and will not provide any documentation to verify the debt.. When a scammer is attempting to collect a fake debt using an email it’s called a phishing scam.

The vague nature of scammer scare tactics combined with the sense of urgency in their communications make for a worrisome case, but if you keep a level head and follow these quick tips, you can protect yourself from phishing scams.

1. Verify the sender’s email address

Scammers will often make themselves appear legitimate by operating under a company or other authority figure’s name, but they cannot replicate a sender’s address. For example, if you receive a collections communication from TrueAccord, it will be from one of our company domains meaning that the email address (after the @ symbol) will either read “trueaccord.com” or a related address.

Even if you are anticipating communications from a collector (or anyone else for that matter), take a second to review the “From” address confirm that they are who they say they are. And in the case of collections, if they seem suspicious or don’t have a company domain, don’t respond to the email or click on any links.

2. Validate but do not click on links

Debt collection phishing scams are designed to collect private information—like your credit card number or bank account and routing numbers—by tricking you into providing that data. Some of them are even more malicious and will try to get you to download malware directly onto your computer.

Any links provided in the body of the email could redirect you to fake sign-in pages that will share your login credentials with the scammer, payment portals designed to capture account numbers, or even prompt you to download malware that could jeopardize the security of your entire device.

In order to check that the links in the email are legitimate, you can hover your mouse cursor over the link to see a link preview, likely at the bottom of your screen with the full URL. Make sure that you do not click when previewing the link, especially if you spotted a suspicious email address.

By hovering your mouse cursor over the link without clicking, you can make sure that the link address information matches the information in the email explaining where the link will direct you.

3. Investigate the company

If a collector’s information seems accurate, but you don’t recognize the debt the most surefire way to dissuade a phishing scam is to probe more deeply. Look up the debt collection company online see if the company is registered with the Better Business Bureau, conduct a Certified Business Search through RMAI or and email the company’s support team to confirm they sent the message.

Like we mentioned above: a scammer’s best friend is an unaware consumer.

If the content of the email is legitimate, they will also have a way for you to validate your debt before you pay them a penny. Call, write, or email  the debt collection company directly and request additional documentation Scammers won’t offer additional details because they don’t have it—a company that collects real debt will. 

4. Take your time to process the content

Scammers know that they don’t have much time to get the information they want. Once a recipient of a phishing email can process the details and recognizes that they don’t add up, the scam is a bust. This is why scammers posing as debt collectors rely on aggressive, manipulative, and urgent language. They may threaten legal action or other types of harm and will stop at nothing to make you pay as soon as possible.

Real debt collectors will not resort to these tactics, and many of the actions that these scammers threaten are actually against the law. Don’t let explicit language and threats pressure you into paying; while being in debt has obvious downsides, fake debt does not. By remaining patient and seeing through their smoke and mirrors, you can report the email as a phishing attempt and safely move on with your day.

5. Check for spelling and grammar errors

Phony debt collectors are hoping to catch you off guard. Their phishing emails are designed to look professional on the surface, but with a careful eye, they can easily be picked apart. Scammers target distracted, uninformed, and unaware consumers which is why their messages are often hastily thrown together. 

This means that phishing emails are much more likely to have typos, spelling errors, and issues with proper grammar. Read the message carefully and remain suspect if a message doesn’t make sense or look like they were thrown through a quick Google translate.

Stay informed and stay safe

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by debt, and mounting debts from multiple sources can make it feel like you’re in a spiral. Scammers that send phishing emails prey on vulnerable consumers and take advantage of those financial fears, but keep these tips in mind and protect your financial well being. 

Machine learning and debt collection 101

By on January 28th, 2020 in Machine Learning

In a technology driven world, effectively gathering and acting on data-driven decisions is essential for success. A growing market of analytical tools combined with an exponentially expanding pool of accessible data means that companies can make more precise decisions than ever before. The realm of machine learning makes accessing and processing that data even easier.

Machine learning is a field of computer science and statistics focused on giving computers the ability to make decisions that they haven’t been explicitly programmed to make. By leveraging data to enable computer systems to make decisions, some of the biggest companies in the world are able to provide better experiences for their users. 

Streaming services are able to automatically curate precise recommendations for their viewers, email service providers can more accurately filter and categorize incoming emails, and collection agencies can more effectively contact consumers in debt.

The future of debt collection communication is digital, and what better to aid in digital efforts than powerful, adaptable computer models? Here’s what you need to know about machine learning and how it can change your (and your consumer’s) debt collection experience.

How can a machine learn?

Just as a person can learn by consuming more information on a subject, machine learning algorithms are able to learn by aggregating large data sets and identifying patterns, but they still require help getting started! When building a machine learning system, engineers and data scientists collaborate to establish parameters that help the model define data in a set that it can use to extrapolate from. Here’s an example:

A simple, supervised machine learning model known as a binary classifier can serve as a foundation for more complex decision making. Imagine a program that is designed to distinguish cats from dogs. The data scientists building the system know the difference between the two and can pick a few features that are likely to identify one or the other and break the qualitative information into quantitative values that the model can recognize.

Figure 1 (below) depicts how physical features of cats and dogs can be broken down into numbers or binary (Y/N) responses to help the computer model understand what features likely indicate a cat and which features likely indicate a dog! 

Figure 1

Once the model has been trained using this data, it can learn what features are most likely correlate to a cat or a dog without the team telling it what to do! (See Figure 2, below). 

Figure 2

The binary classifier described here is a supervised learning algorithm, meaning that it still requires designers to engineer its features in order to get it up and running. 

Going beyond our cat and dog model, unsupervised machine learning models can aggregate data like this in order to make further predictions and decisions without human involvement!

Applying machine learning to debt collection

So your machine learning algorithm can now fairly reliably recognize the difference between a cat and a dog, but how can this process help in debt collection? When algorithms can slowly learn to distinguish results or users and place them into groups, they can learn to do things like:

  • Understand what kinds of messaging people respond to
  • Recognize what kinds of payment offers seem to be accepted
  • Define different types of consumers

With enough data to analyze and enough features extracted from that data, machine learning algorithms can help you to optimize collections processes. Rather than telling us “this is a cat” or “that is a dog,” a similar system could be used to make observations like:

  • “This type of account will be especially difficult to collect on”
  • “That consumer may like to receive fewer emails”
  • Or even something as specific as “this content might be more engaging for this consumer”

This information can help to inform new collections strategies, dictate the use of different communication channels, or provide further insights into effectively segmenting a customer base.

By crunching enormous amounts of information, an unsupervised machine learning model may be able to recognize patterns in groups that have similar preferences or needs and relay relevant communications to them based on that information! 

If you’re interested in learning more about how machine learning can be harnessed to communicate with customers, check out this interview with two of TrueAccord’s data team!

Experimenting to learn more

One way to continue improving a machine learning model’s decision making ability is to provide it with more data and features to learn from. Perfecting a model requires a very scientific (and iterative) approach:

  1. Start with a hypothesis that you want to test
  2. Monitor what decisions it is making based on the data available
  3. Introduce new information 
  4. Review how the system operates and what decisions it makes with the newly presented data
  5. Iterate

By experimenting with various tools and approaches, a debt collection-focused machine-learning model can work in conjunction with data teams to rapidly evolve and improve collections efficiencies at different stages of the collections process.

Machines learn and collections grow

As it becomes more and more difficult to contact consumers in debt, integrating digital collections solutions into a collection strategy is becoming invaluable. Digital debt collection offers more opportunities for in-depth analysis, and by introducing machine-learning to that evaluation process, you can build systems that can support their own growth and improvement! 

The more data you have, the better you can collect, and the more you collect, the more data you have. The self-sustaining nature of machine learning is revolutionizing approaches to collections, but it isn’t as easy as it sounds. Building and continuing to maintain complex systems requires a talented team and a stable infrastructure that can support these processes at scale. 

Those that can properly build and manage these systems will be the driving forces in the future of the collections industry, so find your partner and learn what you can. Maybe these machines can teach the industry a thing or two. 

4 tips for improving your collections strategy this tax season

By on January 23rd, 2020 in Industry Insights

The 2020 tax season is getting started early this year! The IRS will begin accepting returns for the 2019 tax year as soon as January 27th, but what does this mean for your business? According to the National Retail Federation, in 2018 and 2019, 34% of consumers intended to use their tax refund to pay off debts. With over $142 billion distributed through refunds last year, that leaves us with somewhere around $48 billion dollars directed toward debt payments across the country.

With numbers like that, it’s no surprise that tax season is to debt repayment rates what the winter holiday season is to massive retail sales. Let’s take a look at how you can make good on collecting while it’s on your customers’ minds this season!

Provide flexible payment options

US consumers have racked up over $4 trillion in debt, and that total has been steadily increasing for years. For many consumers, paying off a debt in full or even in the amounts offered can seem insurmountable. This is especially true of consumers that have multiple debts to pay off. 

With a surplus of tax return money burning a hole in their pockets, they have an opportunity to begin to relieve some of their debt pressure. By providing consumers with more flexible payment options, they feel comfortable knowing that they are taking steps toward financial well-being without having to commit their entire refund to a single payment.

In fact, we’ve seen that 60% of consumers that start on a payment plan will pay in full, settle in full, or remain active on that plan once they’ve started it! Getting your foot in the door can make all the difference.

Make yourself accessible

Being able to offer new payment options to consumers is one thing, but getting a hold of them to discuss those options is an entirely different challenge. Traditional collections agencies continue to work on a call and collect system, and they are reaching fewer and fewer consumers. As the number of consumers interested in answering their phones continues to decline, businesses have to consider new contact channels.

Effectively contacting consumers in debt starts with meeting them where they are: online. Your consumers are filing their W-2s, adding up their assets, and managing their incoming returns through tax software and banking apps. By reaching consumers by email, SMS, or even push notifications, you can introduce your payment plan options where they can see it without the pressure of a call from an agent.

Personalize (and humanize) your communication

Great payment options that consumers can afford? Check.

Reaching consumers when and where they are? Check.

Now how do you work to get consumers to follow through if you don’t have an agent on the phone? When a company is selling a product or service, there is a clear distinction between sales and branding. As you ramp up your tax time collection strategy, consider the impact of building trust in your brand rather than pressing consumers to pay right then and there. 

Even the most compelling payment options on the market and the most stellar team of collectors in the industry can’t solve for the fact that your customers may have other debts that they are making a priority. But if they recognize your brand as the one they can communicate with, as the team that understands their struggle, as the team that’s willing to work with them, they’re more likely to pay. Not only that, they’re more likely to work with you again in the future!

Partner with the right team

Many businesses, especially smaller businesses, take responsibility for collecting outstanding balances on their own, but collections is a complex industry from both a tactical and legal perspective. Compliance can be a massive, tangled hurdle for even the most diligent teams to clear. By finding the right debt collection agency to partner with, you can save you and your team the time and resources that would be invested in recovering lost revenue (and navigating the 538 new pages of the CFPB’s collections rules) and focus on what you do best.

Tax season is on its way, and customers want to clean up their debts as much as you want to recover on their delinquent accounts. Providing a compassionate and accessible collections strategy can offer great results for both your company and the consumers you serve, and if you need some back up, make sure you find the right agency for you.

Still looking for a new collection strategy for tax season 2020? You can reach out to our team to get started today!

Tips for hiring a debt collection agency for your small business

By on January 16th, 2020 in Industry Insights

In any industry where money is exchanged, debt is an inevitability. For small businesses, even small transactions can add up quickly and late payments, delinquent accounts, and chargebacks can start to bury an otherwise thriving business. This is where a debt collection agency can help your business succeed. 

Recovering payments on otherwise lost accounts probably sounds great, but let’s do some research before you get started! Here are a few things to consider when you begin looking for a collection agency for your small business.

1. Where can they collect?

Collections agencies can provide financial services to businesses ranging from those in their local area to companies across the country, but it’s important to validate that they can operate in your state! Local collectors may not have the licensing authority to collect across state lines. 

Larger collection agencies may also work across the country and even specialize in collecting certain types of debt for a given industry, such as point of sale transactions, credit card, rent to own products, loans, etc.

2. What industries do they serve?

The needs of B2C (business-to-consumer) businesses are dramatically different than those of primarily B2B (business-to-business) business lenders or tech start-ups. Collectors that specialize in specific verticals can ramp up and start collecting effectively, faster because of their familiarity with consumers in that space. Don’t be afraid to ask a collector for their experience working with other businesses like yours!

3. Are they legally compliant?

Beyond the local and state level access, federal regulations play a large part in a collector’s operational ability. Keep your business safe and verify that the company you’re interested in working with has a comprehensive compliance management system.

A proper system will be designed to be in compliance with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act as well as other state and federal regulations.  Also, ask what preparations the company has made for compliance with the upcoming Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s newly proposed rules.

When you begin your research into new agencies, consider visiting their Better Business Bureau page or looking through their Google Reviews. Consumers that have had particularly negative or even legally questionable experiences with the business may help you to recognize red flags before they become an issue for you and your team.

4. What is their pricing structure?

The price on any purchase for your business can make or break the decision to invest in a new product or service, and finding a debt collection agency at the right cost is no different. Most debt collection agencies will be priced in one of three ways: flat fee, contingency, or a hybrid model. 

  • A flat fee is a one-time service payment that coincides with signing a contract and will vary depending on the volume of accounts that are being collected on.
  • A contingency payment plan is a performance-based payment model where the collector only profits from the accounts they are able to collect on. Signing a contingency contract will typically outline the percentage that they will collect per account and may change from portfolio to portfolio. 
  • A hybrid model is often a custom solution that begins with a flat fee contract and expands out to accomodate more accounts if the collector is exceeding expectations. 

5. What communication channels are they using?

The debt collection industry is undergoing a massive change, and many collections agencies are struggling to adapt. Call-based collections has been the norm for decades, and a large percentage of debt collection agencies still rely on sending letters (91%) or making phone calls (89%) as their preferred contact channels. 

Unfortunately, these channels are no longer the ideal channels for consumers. Collection agencies that embrace digital channels (email, SMS messaging, etc.) are more likely to reach consumers when and where they like to communicate, and help to humanize the collections experience.

If you’re interested in learning more about the future of communication strategies in collections, you can read here!

Working with a debt collection agency may seem like a risk, but finding the right solution for your business can mean recovering revenue that would have otherwise been entirely lost. Just make sure that your new partner is the right one for your business. What other questions do you have about what it means to work with a collection agency? Let us know!

How do you effectively contact consumers in debt?

By on January 14th, 2020 in User Experience

According to the State of Collection 2019 report published by TransUnion and the Aite Group, “the challenge at the top of thought leaders’ minds [is] the increasing difficulty of connecting with consumers in a world where robocalls and scams run rampant.”

Consumers today are less and less likely to answer a call from a phone number that they do not recognize (only about 47% of calls are answered if the number isn’t saved), and the industry has to adjust if it wants to keep its head above water. 

One industry leader included in the survey said that “right-party contact has fallen off a cliff,” and for many debt collectors, the future feels bleak. In fact, three-quarters of those surveyed by TransUnion believe that upcoming regulatory changes from the CFPB will be difficult for them to implement into their business. 

This can all feel like a death knell for collections and recovery, but there is hope! Industry thought leaders believe that new communication channels and methods hold the future for the industry, and companies that are beginning the adoption process have already seen promising results!

A collection revolution

To get ahead of the curve, collection firms “are trying to understand people better and get the right data,” reports a third-party collections leader. Revolutions begin when the people rise up, or in this case, when they stop picking up. Looking at customer communication preferences, the world has largely gone digital, but “few [collections industry] respondents report their initial contact is attempted via email (3%).” 

So what are the new channels driving collections forward? How do you communicate with consumers more effectively as the age of call and collect fades? The importance of digital forms of communication can’t be overstated. 61% of agencies surveyed are already using email to communicate in some form with another 22% looking to add it to their strategy in the next two years. SMS & text messaging only has a 16% adoption rate with another 53% interested in further expanding. 

While there is power in alternative forms of communication, at the end of the day whether you’re using email, text, direct drop voicemails, or messages tucked inside candy wrappers to communicate with customers, the tool is only as effective as its ability to reach the consumer at the right place and the right time.

Moving into a digital future

With the start of a new decade, it makes more sense than ever before to shift toward a digital collection strategy to properly contact consumers in debt. One of the most difficult hurdles of integrating a digital approach for collections isn’t simply starting to send emails or text messages, it is integrating these digital channels at scale for hundreds to thousands of consumers.

This means that the solution to effectively contacting consumers as collections continues to evolve comes from a combination of understanding performance data, navigating the complexities of email deliverability, and learning to recognize and adapt to consumer preferences.

It’s no wonder that so many companies feel unprepared for the coming changes at a systemic level. Getting started and preparing for change with the right collector today can mean your collections strategy continues to grow for years to come.

Ready to go digital? Let our team know!

A new decade for debt collection

By on January 8th, 2020 in Industry Insights

A new year often marks the time for resolutions and major change. Goals are set. Budgets are ready to go. Product roadmaps start to unfold. For us, change and growth don’t just start and stop in January. TrueAccord is working to be better every day, and this year is no different.

We know that the collections industry is changing quickly, and we’re ready to ride the wave. Check out what TrueAccord’s leadership has to say about the future of collections and what we expect to see in 2020 and beyond!

Ohad Samet, CEO

We’ve seen a recent growth of digital debt collections strategies for to the benefit of both collectors and consumers. As the industry jumps forward, what do you see as the biggest challenge facing teams in the collections space?

The collection industry has been fighting a losing battle against the demise of phone calls as a valid contact channel. Rule changes and consumer behavior are rendering phone calls obsolete, and we’ve started to see the result in consolidation and closures. This trend will accelerate in 2020, and the realization will come, whether in 2020 or subsequent years, that companies will need to adapt.

And what makes this change such a significant challenge to existing collectors? Could a traditional call-based agency simply start sending emails to consumers in debt?

This shift isn’t only a conceptual one; it has deep technological and operational implications. Operating digital channels at scale is a new challenge, completely different than calling using a dialer, and traditional providers will find it increasingly difficult to catch up at scale. 

Emails and text messages aren’t simply cheaper alternatives to letters—they are two-sided, complex media that require data and inference infrastructure that’s difficult to build and maintain, especially with thin margins. Clients will need to re-evaluate how they work with a narrowing landscape of skilled, at-scale providers who can handle this new world.

Sheila Monroe, COO

As Ohad mentioned, the collections industry has largely remained unchanged for years and relied heavily on call-based collecting as its primary contact channel, what will make the 2020s different?

Technology is advancing exponentially. When combined with the lightning speed of adapting consumer expectations and a regulatory landscape driven largely by consumer advocacy, leaders in this industry will anticipate and create the way forward. Those playing catch up, or missing the cues, will inevitably struggle to survive. 

Those that lead the charge in the 2020s will drive a focus on machine learning, AI, advanced analytics, and automation as the entire industry finds itself at a tipping point in this new decade.  

New technologies are often developed to address a specific problem. What is the main issue you feel these new technologies are working to solve? 

The digital revolution has already started. Much of the technology exists, and many creditors and collectors are experimenting with digital channels such as SMS and email. That said, being able to close the gap between consumer expectations and creditor or collector offerings represents a high hurdle for many in this space that more complex machine learning and AI can help to address.

Kelly Knepper-Stephens, VP of Legal & Compliance

Rapidly advancing technology is complex in and of itself, but collections is also a carefully regulated industry. The last major update to collections law was in 1977, long before most of today’s technology was even a possibility.

We’ve spoken before about how the CFPB’s NPRM has set out to make major changes to existing laws in order to incorporate new technologies into collections regulation. How will those updates shape the industry going forward into 2020?

The NPRM, which should have a final rule sometime this year, makes clear that “modern” forms of communication (email, text, and others) are methods by which agencies can use to communicate with consumers. Those agencies who haven’t invested in these technologies yet are all starting to broaden their communication tools now in order to prepare.

As we move into the new decade, innovative agencies will continue to build out ways to reach consumers based on their preferences, using tools we don’t even know about today. We might even see the reputation of the industry shift as these friendlier collection methods allow consumers the freedom to choose how best to communicate and resolve their debt.

Looking ahead

Consumer communication preferences are evolving, new channels are becoming available to collectors, and merging these shifts together will be the key to successful collections through the 2020s.

TrueAccord launches redesigned website

By on November 12th, 2019 in Company News

TrueAccord is redefining the collections experience. In order to grow as a company and continue to revolutionize the industry, we’ve redesigned our website to better reflect our dedication to a positive user experience!

Designing for the user

Being a leading modern debt collection solution means striving to provide a better experience for consumers in debt and creditors alike. The first step in this design process was revamping the website architecture to reflect our business growth, with industry and role-specific pages, as well as more details around our unique product and superior performance. 

Fig. 1: The new homepage (left) provides an immediate look into who we are, what we do, and (literally) illustrates our value propositions for everyone to see! 

If a user arrives on the site without any knowledge of AI or machine-learning, we still have to be able to explain what we’re capable of! This is why we’ve also included our awesome product showcase video below and directly on the homepage!

Designing for the future

We recognize that the collections industry is often cast in a negative light, and TrueAccord is here to create an empathy-driven collections experience. Right now, not everyone fully understands what that means. Having a platform for our brand’s voice and mission means we can more accurately and effectively reach creditors looking for a collections solution. 

With this improved website redesign, we can ensure that when a creditor is looking for a new collections strategy, they recognize that today’s customers expect a service that considers their experience. We know that the future is digital, and now we can share evidence of that with everyone! By proving that we’re worth listening to and making TrueAccord a collections authority, we will redefine the industry.

The impact of change

I had the chance to sit down and speak with Shannon Brown, TrueAccord’s Head of Design and lead designer on the website rebranding, and Vivian Chau, Senior Manager of Brand and Content Strategy, to discuss the intent behind the redesign, the power of future-proofing our strategy, and what’s next for TrueAccord’s image. 

How do you feel the new site will help us better serve our audiences?

Brown: The first thing, I think, is that we’re a digital-first, technology-driven company in an industry that isn’t always fluent in the language of technology.

Chau: Right, we knew that the website had to showcase what makes us a leading tech and customer-focused collections service, and the next step in drawing attention to that is having a website that helps potential clients learn about how collections fits into their revenue cycle management.

We still want to be able to showcase our modern collections approach and how we leverage machine-learning, but the heart of that is driven by customer empathy.

With dedicated sections on industry-specific information and more details highlighting our product performance, I’m excited to share and build upon TrueAccord’s new digital storefront.

Brown: We also worked closely with our sales and client services teams to understand questions our clients have and included a Solutions section to better address how TrueAccord can help businesses across different industries and roles. 

That leads to the next question, then: are there any features of the new site that you’re especially excited about?

Chau: Yes! I’m particularly excited to have our new website on a standalone Content Management System. Our content team will be able to add and optimize the website without having to ask for Engineering help which gives us a lot of flexibility. I see this project as a jumping off point for our marketing and brand initiatives, as our website, as should our brand, needs to continually evolve and change with the company as it grows. 

Brown: Speaking of growth: we’re working to attract top talent here, so I’m excited about our revamped careers page. It truly reflects the experience of working at TrueAccord and gives prospective employees more information about what it’s like here. Part of that TrueAccord experience is that we’re working to stand out in the industry.

Our new About Us section really highlights our commitment to empowering consumers and delivering great user experiences, and that our mission and company values tie everything together.

You both touched a bit on the impact that a clearly stated mission has on a company’s brand reputation. How did you go about the design process knowing with TrueAccord’s consumer-driven mission in mind?

Brown: We wanted to give consumers a space on the site. A lot of consumers receive an email from us and come to TrueAccord.com to see what we’re all about. The previous website spoke to our partners, but didn’t really give consumers information about how the TrueAccord experience can benefit them!

A big part of that was redirecting our focus to how our technology increases recovery rates and creates great consumer experiences instead of explaining the technology itself.

Chau: It was important too that we created something that was easy for everyone to understand. We still want to be able to showcase our modern collections approach and how we leverage machine-learning, but the heart of that is driven by customer empathy. The redesign articulates that and the hope is that it excites prospective clients and potential job candidates. 

TrueAccord is on a mission to change debt collection for good. With powerful tools in place, we continue to expand and grow and better showcase our product, highlight our performance, and demonstrate our values to clearly illustrate what sets us apart in the collections space.

Want to learn more about TrueAccord? Connect with our team!