Great opportunities for agencies to get into the telecom market remain. The continued growth of telecommunications providers combined with loosely defined regulation in the industry has introduced a noteworthy amount of debt. Fierce competition among providers to retain customers can be costly and will likely lead to a write-off when the customer becomes uncooperative with the provider. Industry competition also makes it easier, and often more economical, for customers to switch providers. For the provider, excellent customer service and availability to the newest offerings in the industry will often result in customer loyalty, even when competing providers are offering lower priced entry packages. In cases like this, customers will pay to keep the service. However, this concept of loyalty doesn’t serve the agency well. Can agencies create something that entices telecom consumers to pay?
The answer is yes – at least in my opinion. An agency-sponsored rewards program can make a big difference. Programs like this are becoming very popular, especially in the telecom space and even before accounts are placed into the collection process. For example, Verizon Wireless has a rewards program labeled “Smart Rewards.” This program rewards customers with points for simply remaining a customer and maintaining an excellent payment history. The points do not expire and can be redeemed for discount shopping on items like apparel, tech gadgets, gift cards, travel and auctions. An agency-sponsored rewards program could share similarities with the Verizon Wireless program, but there must be a different structure because the customer is in collections and based on how agencies operate. Let’s look at how an agency might implement a rewards program and how it can be configured as a technology driven process.
Your Rewards Program
Agencies are well aware consumers come up with all sorts of excuses to stall the collection process. What I am suggesting is a rewards program could make the consumer want to pay. Whether the program accumulates points or offers a one-time prize, it can be configured and managed directly within the collection software. A custom field can be added at the consumer level and displayed directly on the representative screen. The field should be read-only and essentially function as a “ticker.” This way it cannot be manually adjusted by the representative working with the consumer and it is easy to see when an update/new reward/point accumulation event takes place. As the consumer is worked, obvious events like making a payment, scheduling a payment plan, or a settlement can offer maximum rewards. (Events like these should be configured in workflow to automatically apply or update the rewards). There are other events to engage the consumer throughout the collection process as well. I will call these “touching” events. The idea is not only to contact the consumer but keep them engaged until the debt is satisfied. Customer touching events can include each occasion a payment is made on time for the promised amount, providing consent to receive email or text communication, confirming or updating contact information, or responding to a survey from the agency. Ensure the consumer is being rewarded for events like these as well.
Promote the Program
A rewards program is not beneficial if the consumer is not aware of it. On any phone conversation, the representative should be explaining the rewards program to the consumer and informing them of their current “level” or “status” in the program. Other methods of informing the consumer should include a clear indicator on manual or automated letters and updates via email or text. These types of reminders can be programmed in the collection software directly at the workflow level or as a sub-event when specific actions or updates are made on the consumer record.
There can be any number of rewards programs like what I have detailed. What was described are only a few examples of how such a program might be configured. Agency owners know their business and know their consumers. Be creative with your programs and don’t be afraid to experiment. It is also imperative to know when to quit. Some consumers cannot be persuaded so do not attempt to offer anything and everything. Lastly, a rewards program can be named in a variety of ways. The term “rewards” is not necessary. Some agencies may find it beneficial to utilize terms like “loyalty,” “allegiance,” “good standing” and so on. Competition is accelerating at the telco provider level and we can only expect it increase among agencies as well. A rewards program could offer your agency a slight edge on the competition.
Sam Edens has been with Emprise Technologies since 2006 and is currently serving as Vice President. Prior to his time with Emprise, Sam designed and developed performance and flow management software for UPS.