As COVID-19 sent health shockwaves across the globe, communications service providers were praised for their ability to support businesses and consumers as they reverted to work-from-home policies almost overnight. However, CSPs have not been immune to the economic impacts of the pandemic.
A poll that Mobileum conducted in June at the Virtual WeMeet User conference found that 30% of respondents said accounts receivable increased by at least 10%. Part of ongoing efforts to support businesses and consumers, government regulators have urged service providers, including CSPs, to provide additional flexibility in their collections processes to accommodate customers that are facing financial hardship. As countries continue to battle against second waves and further outbreaks, how to effectively manage collections will become front and center.
Mobileum’s Paulo Sargento recently sat down with Ana Oliveira, Director of Operations and Support Design at du, Manisha Shetty, Collections Support Manager at du, and Englantina Konomi, Payment Collection Team Leader at Vodafone Albania. During the Virtual WeMeet 2020 panel, they shared their advice on how the collections department can best meet the challenge of the ‘new normal’:
- Launch proactive campaigns to at-risk customers: COVID-19 restrictions will have a harsher impact on some industries, types of businesses, and consumers than others. Even customer segments, such as resident vs non-resident customers, can pose a different layer of risk to collections. Collections teams can proactively launch campaigns to these segments in order to reduce their risk.
- Personalize your collections strategy to the individual’s circumstance: The impact of COVID-19 will lead to customers that have never experienced financial hardship to suddenly come to the attention of the collections department. However, it is important that these customers be treated differently from customers who have a debt history that pre-dates COVID-19. For collections to do this, it’s important for collections teams to review the customer’s history and based on the individual circumstances they can recommend relevant optimal payment plans and risk management strategies.
- Provide added flexibility for these unprecedented times: The ability to negotiate effectively will not only support your customers’ predicament but will also contribute to customer loyalty and satisfaction and a higher commitment to repayment agreements. For example, you could offer business customers a provision that allowed them to keep their services and defer payment for a certain period until they are able to restart their operations. For consumers, examples could include changes to the quality of service, bandwidth limits, or pricing. By enabling the customer to have dynamic options and be part of the solution decision-making will also contribute to a positive outcome.
COVID-19 has highlighted the need for collections departments to be agile and fast when it comes to meeting the challenges of collections in the wake of a global pandemic. The panel agreed that to reduce risk and minimize accounts receivable during these tough economic times, collections teams need a flexible, automated debt collection system that can help quickly solve these new challenges. This is because business rules are very complex and tied to many systems. Therefore, any process changes need to be analyzed properly to ensure that they are not implemented incorrectly, which may inadvertently impact the customer experience and lead to financial loss. “Those collections departments that have an automated system with flexible business rules, which can be easily plugged in, will have the upper hand in this situation because they will be able to handle the business need,” Manisha Shetty, from du, commented.