The big takeaway from mid-July’s ACA International’s Convention & Expo 2019 is the need to get ready for new rules from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) that will affect how the debt collections industry can use text, email and voicemail to communicate with consumers.
It certainly was the overriding topic of conversation at our booth, during our presentation on the Innovations Stage showcasing our cloud solutions for managing omnichannel communications and payments, and from just about every speaker and panel.
Many regulations and laws for collections communications are extremely out of date, so a more modern approach that accommodates electronic interactions is necessary despite some industry concern that new digital rules will be paired with limits on the number of allowable weekly collection telephone calls.
The pending CFPB rule changes reflect how more consumers want to communicate with businesses these days. In fact, opening up digital channels could be just the opportunity the industry needs since it’s already seeing what ACA speaker Tim Haag, president of State Collection Service Inc., said is “the slow death of outbound calling.” Another strike against the traditional use of collections phone calls, he said: Emerging mobile phone technology that can stop a phone from ringing unless the number is in the user’s contact directory.
Most Americans now have text-ready and email-ready phones, with 81% owning smartphones in 2019, according to Pew Research Center. That’s up from 35% eight years ago. Additionally, many no longer maintain land lines in favor of using their smartphone as their primary means of voice and digital communication.
Texting works: Numerous reports have found 95% to 98% of text messages are read within minutes. Smartphones are increasingly the device people use for email, too: Clients of Adestra’s email marketing software in March 2019 found that 61.9% of email opens occurred on mobile phones, 9.8% on desktop and 28.3% in a webmail client.
There are ways to get ready for this big digital opportunity:
- Update your onboarding processes and train your staff so they know how to correctly interact with customers in this digital age. That includes asking for email addresses and cell phone numbers and securing permission from consumers to contact them using these channels, starting with the first communication.
- For consumers who already have opted in to email or text, start building that relationship with them now by asking if they want receipts emailed or payment reminders texted to them. That will pave the way for more regular communication once the rules are finalized and implemented.
- Consider including a link to a PDF document in a text. Since text messages are limited to 160 characters and must allow for abbreviations that are defined, notice that the communication is from a debt collector and that text/data rates may apply along with clear opt-out instructions for future texts, you’ll need to provide a full statement view via link with other required information. Nordis Technologies’ Expresso® customer communications management platform, with its ability to develop and send both paper and digital communications along with its bill presentment capabilities, can deliver on this option.
- Make sure your payment portal is robust by offering flexible payment plans when appropriate via a self-service model. Consumers want to be able to pay when and how they choose, including setting up payment plans and automatic deductions from ACH and debit and credit cards. Our ExpressoPay® platform makes it easy to provide those omnichannel payment choices.
Also, talk to younger employees about how they like to communicate, not only to catch up with current trends but to anticipate future trends and technologies. We all need to be on top of how consumers will want to “talk” five or 10 years from now.
Connect with us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about how we can help you meet the communications preferences of today’s consumers.
About the Author
Bryan joined Nordis Technologies in 2016 to manage and grow the company’s already-large vacation ownership client base. He also is responsible for business development and market expansion in the healthcare and financial services markets. Before joining Nordis, Bryan spent more than 21 years with Interval International, a leading global provider of vacation ownership services. Bryan graduated from Northwestern University with a bachelor of science in political science.
Bryan Ten Broek
Vice President, Business Development