The purpose of any new technology should be to increase productivity through four vital disciplines:
Ease of Use
Unless technology moves the needle on all four fronts, it’s a distraction.
Efficiency: Does it allow you to perform an important function faster?
Effectiveness: Does it actually work? Does it have impact on your business? Just because you can dial 500,000 numbers in an afternoon does not necessarily mean you will collect more money. You need to line up the right accounts with the right agents at the right time.
Ease of Use: Does the technology easily integrate with your business flow, or do you find yourself creating a new work plan to work around the limitations of the technology? How is support? Expecting zero downtime from new technology is now acceptable and appropriate. Ease of Use also applies to capital. Does the technology tie up precious cash which creates opportunity cost in a highly fluid world?
Compliance: Does the technology have safeguards to prevent you from contractual or legal violations. Moreover, does it assist you in meeting compliance? That is now a reasonable expectation from your technology partners.
With record low liquidation rates, credit and collection organizations should be focused on technology that allows them to optimize the collection process. It’s a simple formula: send the right account to the right agent at the right time. However, hardware constraints make this more difficult than it sounds. Organizations need solutions flexible enough to allow them to implement tools like skills-based routing and scoring to approach collections more efficiently. Agencies must find ways to control who receives their highest value inbound calls, while at the same time scaling call volumes to maximize consumer contacts.
That’s why we’re seeing the industry at a technological tipping point because managers are rejecting hardware constraints and business-as-usual thinking. For the first time, the industry is shutting off hardware and transitioning to a hosted dialer that offers rapidly scalable inbound/outbound blending easily coupled with dynamic skills-based routing and scoring. They can now drive the right account to the right agent at the right time, at all times.
Can technology reduce my expenses?
The most expensive line item in any collection center by far is the agents. Making your agents productive (and getting more bang for your labor bucks) will protect margins. Agents typically cost 25 cents to 30 cents or more per minute, and if they are less productive than they can be or if operations run inefficiently, you are burning cash. Consider, as examples, the agents spend manual dialing or processing answering machines—it will cost your firm as much as a dollar when an agent leaves a message verses under at most a nickel with hosted technology. There are agencies who are watching their letter costs carefully while leaving thousands of $1.00 per message manual messages.
Another way to look at lowering costs is to weigh the total cost of ownership of technology. In the dialer realm where we compete, agencies often place too much emphasis on their long distance rate. It’s important but pales in comparison to the upfront cost, licenses fees, T1 contracts, ongoing maintenance and support, upgrade costs, and short call penalties from carriers. Couple this with consumers who are increasingly difficult to contact and you also see cashed burned as agent talk times drop year after year.
Watching the headline long distance rate, which is almost always understated, while unproductive agents languish at $.30 to $.40 per minute is problematic. It’s like Covey’s managers climbing the wrong ladder. First Things First.
This economy has forced consumers to take a more pay-as-you go approach with debt settlement. Hosted technology with no upfront costs allows the collection industry to similarly adapt.
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