Debt collection: what role for digital?

The collection process is crucial in customer experience and a major challenge for companies. Thanks to digital technology, businesses can optimize interactions with debtor customers to preserve cash flow and loyalty. However, even if a customer owes them money, they are still a customer. This is why debt collection, just like purchasing or claiming, is an essential part of customer experience.

Today, the challenge is to take appropriate steps at this stage to maintain a good relationship with customers. There are multiple benefits of an efficient debt collection process: they allow you to reduce the rate of unpaid invoices, reinforce customer loyalty and improve brand image. In this context, digital has a key role to play on several levels.


Using data and speech analytics

Firstly, you need a complete platform for managing the dunning process. Based on algorithms, it addresses the issue of personalization. The vast majority of debtor customers either do not realise they have not paid or have a good reason for the delay.

Thanks to data and speech analytics, it is possible to know who these customers are and why they are in debt. Using this information, the managers in charge of contacting them can adopt the right approach. Speech analytics is a good way of finding out more about the customer’s profile. 

In particular, it allows feedback from the managers in charge of the file to be analyzed and provide answers to questions like: Why is the customer late or in default? How could this have been avoided? 

Customer Feedback Management, and the analysis of its data, also helps to obtain more information directly from the customer thanks to a very precise satisfaction survey: Why couldn’t you pay? Have you ever contacted the brand about this? Do you still trust the company?

These are all questions that allow the customer to explain their situation. Perhaps they are in debt simply because the direct debit date on the 1st of each month doesn’t work for them. In 70% of cases, a debtor customer leaves a comment and this is a real source of continuous improvement.


Multiplying interaction channels

Digitalization also helps to multiply your contact channels and, therefore, how you collect information: SMS, e-mail, web interfaces, IVR, and more. 

Some dunning processes do not necessarily require human intervention. A simple SMS sent at 8:30 in the morning – before a customer arrives at the office, for example – can be very effective. All they have to do is click on the link and proceed with the payment. 

This use of self-care tools allows debtor customers who prefer not to interact with the company to settle the payment quickly, independently and securely. 

For cases involving larger amounts, the intervention of a manager is often more appropriate. Video is a good way to humanize the relationship. By interacting with the customer, the advisor can show empathy and create a real attachment to the brand. 

As for co-browsing (assisted navigation via screen sharing), it proves to be very effective in explaining an invoice and, thus, unblocking a tricky situation.


Identifying the causes of outstanding debt

Twenty years ago, companies adopted a different approach when dealing with a debtor customer. Warnings or even threats have now given way to mediation, understanding and empathy. In the future, the challenge is to be proactive rather than reactive. 

How can we do this? By being able to identify the root causes of unpaid bills: process or tool defects, billing problems, payment methods, direct debit dates, etc. 

Digital technology should make it possible to analyze and more precisely understand the reasons why companies and their customers encounter these types of incidents.

Debt collection figures in the B2B sector:

  • 96% of companies were late with their payments in 2020
  • 25% of business failures are due to late payment or default
  • 9 out of 10 debtor companies are actually solvent
  • 25% of bankruptcy filings are due to non-payment


Sources: Forrester Consulting, Observatoire des délais de paiement 2020, Baromètre Figec2020. Fédération Nationale de l’Information d’Entreprise, de la Gestion des Créances et del’Enquête Civile

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