Exploiting the Efficiencies of Consumer Mobility in Accounts Receivable Management
Among the various facets of customer services, there is one that has always been most difficult for all types of businesses, and that has to do with managing the timely payments for goods and services. While most customer services involve satisfying various consumer needs, collecting payments – especially those that are in arrears – must also be done in an effective way that does not violate any of the regulations or state and federal laws that currently exist. But what if that weren’t the case? Let’s explore the benefits and gains that could be sown if – and when – regulations allow.
With the rapid consumer adoption of new smartphones and tablets, there are now new opportunities for supporting ongoing and late payment management through direct, more timely and efficient interactions with consumers. Most importantly, such consumer contacts and interactions can be flexibly controlled by the individual consumers to suit their personalized needs. Unfortunately, there are many different laws and regulations that were designed to protect legacy cellular users that make it both difficult and expensive to do the job of performing collections from customers through accounts receivable management or by independent collections companies. (For more information on this issue, read the white paper on “Payment Compliance – Same Rules, Different Game.”)
Mobile Customer Payment Management Benefits
The benefits of providing mobile self-services are significant, in that they not only will reduce the costs of supporting customer needs, but will also create greater consumer cooperation and satisfaction in fulfilling their financial obligations. In addition, self-services will not only generate greater contextual information about a customer’s current status, but will also enable consumers to quickly and flexibly access live assistance to discuss their financial situation constructively.
The basis for any consumer business interaction and relationship can now be reinforced through both mobile self-service applications, as well as timely access to live assistance for all of a customer’s business needs. That relationship can now include payment situations where a consumer must be notified in a timely and efficient way of any problem that has developed, along with convenient options for quickly resolving those issues.
It is important to differentiate enterprise Accounts Receivable Management (ARM), which should be viewed as a logical extension of customer services for business organizations, from commercial collections organizations that must deal with debtors, not their own customers. (See latest capabilities for Latitude Software® collections technology.) It is, however, ARM that will provide the most benefit to most business organizations, because it can help retain existing customers, while also facilitating customer payment management activity. It is also here that innovative contact center technology providers, like Interactive Intelligence, are supporting new personalized interactions for mobile customers.
The bottom line is that more convenient and easy access to up-to-date customer data, coupled with efficient and flexible communications, can improve the nature and costs of collecting on customer accounts that are in arrears.
The Challenge of Automating Payment Management With Mobile Consumers
There have always been several basic problems in interacting with consumers for business purposes, especially if they are mobile. These include:
- Automating timely contact consumer
Not knowing where a consumer is at the moment or what real-time communication constraints they have, makes it difficult to notify them of a time-sensitive situation. Calling a voice-only cell phone is very limited for informational access, and is also disruptive, and therefore usually restricted by various regulatory constraints.
- Personalizing the contact for the consumer’s current situation
It is important that any outbound notification be accurate about the current status of the consumer payment situation. Utilizing a personalized mobile device dramatically increases the chance of a “right party” contact.
- Simplifying a consumer’s response to any important automated notification
A consumer response can range from simple acknowledgement to wanting more information to wanting to perform a transaction to wanting to discuss the issue with a live person. Those kinds of choices need to be available to the consumer in order to bring faster closure and greater satisfaction in the customer experience.
- Provide easy and flexible access to appropriate live assistance, as required
At any point in a customer self-service interaction, there must always be the option for live assistance, if needed. Ideally, that will include capturing all contextual information about the consumer’s activity up to that point, so that assistance personnel will not have to question the consumer unnecessarily.
“Click-for-Assistance” Options in Mobile Self-service Applications
One of the benefits that mobile consumers now have with new smartphones is that the users can change communication modalities easily. In particular, switching from online, visual self-services to live assistance can be simple and seamless, since a multi-modal endpoint device can handle all types of voice or text interactions. This makes for a very cost-effective way of interacting with consumers for any business process, including payment management and collections.
Assistance options include any form of communications, such as:
- Text chat (IM)
- Voice connection
- Video connection
- Voice message
- Social post
For mobile users who will find it easier to speak than to type text, e.g., while walking or driving a car, the technology for voice-to-text options will allow a message to be created in voice, but delivered to the recipient in text.
One of the biggest frustrations that consumers find in dealing with call centers is that they have to wait in queue for the right person to talk to. This situation can be averted easily by providing a callback or “virtual queue” option, whereby mobile consumers can be called back ASAP or at a preferred time. Having a mobile smartphone increases the user’s accessibility significantly, and makes access to live assistance more flexible, efficient and convenient.
Security and Compliance Issues
Consumer access to secure web portals, where identity authentication is required, ensures that any online self-service access to information or transaction will be secure. This will require the user to have appropriate “mobile app” links for such services in general, but will also be most useful in payment services.
An alternative security measure may be to switch from online access via a web portal, to a “click-for-assistance” voice connection with a live agent for making secure payment.
Contact Center Payment Management Assistance
All self-service applications will need simple and direct access to knowledgeable agents who can offer assistance with the payment function or can negotiate a payment schedule. Mobile smartphones can support such capabilities more easily because they are multi-modal. With the new prospect of WebRTC technology that enables simpler voice and video connections through Web-based applications, the opportunities to provide such “click-for-assistance” options to smartphone users of “mobile apps” will increase significantly. What will also be needed, however, is integration of such connections with contact center inbound and outbound contact management routing.
Of particular importance for any business or service organization, however, is the ability to enable authorized and personalized automated outbound notifications from a business process application to specific consumer recipients. Under the label of “Communications Enabled Business Processing” (CEBP), such capabilities are only now becoming practical because of increased flexible accessibility to recipients through their mobile smartphones. This will not only be more efficient and effective for making timely contact with consumers, but will also significantly reduce traditional notification costs through mail or live outbound call attempts.
While mobile notifications can most effectively utilize various modes of asynchronous messaging (email, SMS texting), they can also exploit UC-enabled real-time connections, when authorized, including text chat and voice connections.
Any responses to outbound notifications that need to go to live assistance can also be directed to the same type of integrated live assistance access used for self-service applications discussed above. There may also be different “contextual” routing and priority queuing controls, since the contact was initiated by an automated business process, not the consumer.
A final and important implementation consideration is to move any new contact center functionality to a cloud-based platform, rather than to a legacy, premise-based system. This trend is already rapidly being adopted for traditional contact center functions in order to facilitate rapid, cost-efficient implementations, third-party management and support, and, most importantly, implementation and integration of new mobile customer service apps.
While existing laws and regulations governing collections are very stringent and tightly constrain accessing consumers via their mobile devices, the rapid and broad-based adoption of these devices will eventually force those regulations to change. At that time, your contact center must start supporting mobile, multi-modal consumers differently and more flexibly. The increased use of automated, self-services, and controls for mobile consumers provides the required functionality for interacting with consumers, while minimizing any activity that would be viewed as harassment. On the other hand, such automated facilities significantly reduce operational costs while expanding productivity and customer satisfaction.
For debt collection organizations, new contact center technologies are also available, although their relationship with debtors are not traditional “customer” relationships. See more information about what Interactive Intelligence’s Latitude Debt Collection software offers.
Because vast adoption of mobile communications technologies is inevitable, now is the time to start changing the old telephony ground rules that were initially designed to protect consumers from telemarketers. It’s time to start envisioning the benefits to both the customer and the product/service provider when consumers and organizations are both more accessible via mobile contacts. For this reason, business management in the ARM industry should continue supporting and educating lobbyists on the long list of reasons to remove unnecessary obstacles for supporting mobile customer services.
This paper is sponsored by Interactive Intelligence.