Sharing Know-how in Debt Management Services

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In a switching economy, it’s never been more important to build and retain strong customer relationships. So when payments fall short, how do you ensure the best business results without compromising the customer experience?

In this article, Seán MacMahon discusses the importance of focusing on the customer and building trust in Abtran’s approach to delivering debt management services.

Seán is a fellow and former president of the Irish Institute of Credit Management, (IICM) and has over twenty years experience in the credit and collections industry. At Abtran, Seán is responsible for managing the credit and collections function and leading teams to achieve the best business outcomes for our clients while delivering the best service experience for their customers.

Importance of Trust
People are at the centre of how any organisation grows and succeeds as a business. And while the majority of customers will pay on time, there will always be some that find themselves in difficulty or fall behind. Setting up a dedicated debt management and collections function is a complex task. For many organisations, the time and investment required to resource the right people, embed the right processes and acquire the right technology can be cost prohibitive.

When clients partner with Abtran, not only are they looking for a provider with the required skillsets, technology and experience in their sector, they’re looking for a partner they can trust, to achieve the best outcomes for their business by delivering the very best service experience possible.

Putting the Right Conditions in Place
When we onboard a new client at Abtran, it’s important to put the right conditions in place from the get-go. This process begins with sitting down with the client to firstly understand their requirements and then aligning around their business goals and objectives from a People, Process and Technology perspective. It’s during the planning stage that policy collaboration is agreed, specialist team skillsets and exceptions handling structures are identified together with clarity and alignment around any complex business processes.

Throughout the initial planning stage, we align very closely with the client to design and document the debt management collections framework together with an agreed set of key performance and risk indicators. Here, the Compliance & Internal Audit team is onboarded early to ensure the right controls are put in place across the end-to-end collections framework.

A Data Driven Approach
When embarking on any customer contact strategy, it’s important to begin with a data driven, customer focused approach. When it comes to debt management, our approach is no different.

During the planning stage, it’s important to spend time considering which customers are most likely to respond to contact activity, over what time period and via what contact channels?

At Abtran, we help clients to identify the best areas to focus their debt management efforts through segmenting and profiling their customer data against a wide set of variables and in a data compliant way. This step is fundamental to developing a dynamic, compliant and highly targeted contact strategy as well as tailored and customer focused chase paths.

Right Contact, Right Channel
Having the right mix of channels available can make it easy for the customer to pay while improving collection rates. In our experience, when it comes to settling late payments, many customers today prefer to self-serve instead of interacting with a Field Representative or Customer Service Advisor.

At Abtran, focusing on the customer goes to having the right mix of channels and automated credit cycle events. For instance, a customer might firstly receive an SMS, then a letter, followed up by a phone interaction or field visit. The compliant use of outbound dialer technology also helps to make the right contact and at the right time for optimal results. Moreover, the capability to present that single view of the customer is crucial to ensuring the customer experiences that easy, seamless, end-to-end service journey, regardless of contact channel.

Be Compliant
Data Protection and the area of Credit Collections and Debt Management is highly regulated so it’s imperative to comply with data legislation and fair debt collection regulations. Additionally, with the introduction of the GDPR in May of this year, it’s essential to ensure all training, processes and security around customer data is compliant and regularly tested. One of the benefits of partnering Abtran is that we process all customer data in the most secure and efficient way possible and have been successfully accredited to ISO 27001, ISO 9001 and PCI DSS standards.

Specialist Skillsets & Performance Measures
Many organisations assume that Debt Management can simply form an extension of the existing Customer Operations team. However, it’s important to recognise that engaging customers in early, middle or late stage debt requires additional training, skillsets and specialist support. Moreover, it can often mean instilling a different set of behaviours and performance culture into the Debt Management Operation. While a Customer Service or Sales representative might be trained and incentivised to focus on making a sale or resolving a customer’s query, helping customers to resolve late payments and unpaid debt requires specialist skillsets and a more outcome-led approach.

For instance at Abtran, our Front Office Collection Teams are trained on debt negotiation skills, conversational skills and best practice engagement styles such as open and closed questioning as well as the development of advanced empathy and listening techniques. That’s because helping a customer to resolve a payment is about earning the trust of that customer while helping them to resolve the payment in the easiest and most understanding way possible.

Investing in these highly specialised skillsets and techniques is particularly important when it comes to interacting with Vulnerable or Special Needs customers. In the ever-changing regulatory landscape, it’s important to consistently support your team with regular training updates on new policy, legislation and best practice customer training materials.

Anticipate Changing Customer Needs
Customer needs and expectations are constantly changing so it’s important to remain abreast of changing behaviours and contact preferences. Leveraging analytics and reporting should serve to continuously inform your customer contact strategy. Abtran has a deep heritage in delivering service and managing change and we routinely supplement our analytics capability by leveraging Customer Journey mapping expertise to ensure continuous, customer-focused and compliant business improvement.

Focus on the Customer for Success
Investing in the right people, compliant processes and technologies can go a long way to achieving the best collection results for your business without compromising the customer experience. In our experience, empowering teams to build strong customer relationships based on trust can lead to better results and more satisfied customers who have a more loyal and connected relationship with your brand.

More about Seán
Bringing over 20 years’ industry experience, Seán is responsible for the credit and collections function within Abtran’s Customer Operation. His responsibilities include developing a credit and collections management strategy and capability, adding value and learnings across operations and working with clients’ needs and required outcomes. Seán is an Executive Member of the Association of International Credit Directors and Professionals as well as a fellow and former president of the Irish Institute of Credit Management and a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Credit Management, (CICM).

Find Out More
Abtran delivers end-to-end debt management and credit and collections services on behalf of clients operating in highly regulated sectors. Our approach is about building trust while achieving better results for your business and a better service experience for your customers. Whether you’re a small or growing business to a large multi-national organisation, we have the experience and know-how to manage your early, middle and late stage collections across domestic and commercial markets. To find out more about our debt management and credit and collection services, visit management or email the team at