Next generation collections systems

March 5, 2009 by Jeff Bernstein

Part two

Improved collector productivity and cash flow is the concept of doing more work with existing staff or doing the same amount of work with fewer human resources. In its most simplistic form, the associated metric is the number of cases worked per employee in a given amount of time. While the definition of cases worked can be open to interpretation, the most common qualifier is that an action from a pre-defined list must be executed and documented for each account.

When leveraging modern technology to achieve these results, the first objective is to channel the accounts that benefit the most from human intervention. Real-time segmentation that considers the most current status of the case is a key feature in new systems that ensure accounts are placed in the right place at the right time. This makes certain that accounts find their way to the most appropriate skill level so that less experienced staff are not overwhelmed and more experienced staff are not tasked with easier activities that distract them from solving more complex situations.

Context-sensitive screens and menus can further improve the productivity gains when collectors are working accounts. When collectors have the data they need to perform a task or make a decision without having to sift through irrelevant information, handling time is significantly reduced. Refreshing the screens and menus in real time as an account status changes is another key feature in today’s technology that ensures the appropriate information is always presented to the collector.

Real-time scripting
Real-time scripting that is capable of being updated along with the changing situation is another productivity contributor, as is user-friendly screens. Not only is handling time further reduced, but gains can be found in significantly shorter training time for new staff members. Enabling the business users to change screen content, scripting, menus and visual aids on the fly is a powerful benefit of next generation collections systems. The ability to support champion / challenger testing for any visual or screen content changes further enables the organization to test and validate work stream improvements. In addition to the benefits mentioned above, advanced scripting and on-line help can significantly assist an organization to adhere to legal and compliance requirements.

Real-time segmentation
Real-time segmentation, coupled with context sensitive screens that refresh as the account situation changes (even in the midst of a negotiation) facilitate more effective negotiations. This lets collectors send more appropriate and relevant messaging to customers. Further improvements can be attributed to enabling a holistic view of the customer relationship and the relevance and effectiveness will be more consistent across the organization. The net effect is collecting more dollars per negotiation from the same population of customers that will be contacted in a faster manner.

Real-time segmentation of accounts also provides the added benefit of keeping accounts in an active status and as a result makes your collections work stream more efficient. Not being dependent upon a batch process to update and route accounts ensures that each case is always in the right place at the right time and never in a holding pattern awaiting a transfer between work queues or departments. As a result, the organization will see more efficient case handling and a faster collection of debt.

Improved productivity and real-time dashboarding
Improved productivity reporting and real-time dashboarding enable line managers to provide appropriate feedback to collectors to make certain that Key Performance Indicators (KPI) goals are met on a regular basis. The resources in need of coaching or training can be identified before the substandard performance significantly reduces team objectives and collectors that excel can be provided with timely and accurate positive reinforcement.

Gains in productivity
When migrating to modern technology, it is very common that organizations experience at least a 20 percent gain in productivity improvement initially. This equates to the possibility of 20 fewer headcount in a team of 100 to handle the same workload. Alternatively, the existing team could handle 20 percent more accounts with approximately the same average results per account. Assuming a fully loaded cost of $50,000 a year per headcount, a 20 percent productivity boost in this example would roughly translate to a million dollars annually in financial benefit. When considering the additional benefit of reduced cost of training, this number will be even higher.

Thanks for coming back. My next two blogs will provide additional details on the benefits of next generation collections systems including reduced operational and overhead costs and improved change management process.

Stay tuned!