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Helping customers to help themselves: How technology can help

Account manager using tablet with graphics icons. Print publication

17/08/2018

Justin Coley, Director explains how lenders and law firms can harness new technology and debt management solutions to offer an enhanced customer journey and improved lender/borrower relationships with reference to the Firm’s partnership with the Totemic Group.

To PayPlan and beyond…

Earlier this year Walker Morris announced its partnership with PayPlan. The idea was simple – by helping customers to manage their finances, find their way out of debt and take back control of their money and their lives, Walker Morris would also ensure a positive outcome for their lender clients.  Customer engagement would be improved and arrears cases would be handled as sensitively as possible and fully in line with lenders’ Treating Customers Fairly (TCF) objectives.  The result would be both an improved customer experience and an effective, efficient arms-length debt management and recovery solution.

But it doesn’t stop there. With demonstrable improvements already evident [1] the next step will be to harness new and exciting technological innovations to further improve the customer experience (which, in turn, will foster and build relationships).

Technology to help customers help themselves: Get ‘onboard’

With today’s proliferation of smartphones, tablets, apps and other mobile and digital devices, there is no doubt that customers are embracing technological advances.

  • One key area in which customers, lenders and law firms together can benefit from harnessing new technology is the onboarding process [2]. Walker Morris and PayPlan are now taking the next step and using Paylink Embark, a secure digital platform that can provide: a digital I&E that can be completed by the law firm or a customer wishing to self-serve; improved customer engagement across a variety of devices/media; time efficiencies; and accurate collection and collation of client details.

This new technology has seen 20% more customers engage in the I&E process, increasing the volume of customer rehabilitation outcomes and the application of appropriate forbearance measures.  It has also delivered a far more efficient process, particularly as customers can channel hop, self-serve or still complete traditionally over the phone.

Looking ahead, this technology can also be used to set up and track payment plan arrangements; complete further reviews; send alerts and documentation to customers; and to enable customers to make payments; and more. It can represent a ‘real time’ digital financial journey for the customer and offer convenience, confidence, flexibility and enhanced financial management and control on an ongoing basis.

From a lender’s perspective, this improved customer experience and increased engagement, along with the availability of touchpoint opportunities for targeted communications (including sophisticated signposting which can even enable lenders to identify and address areas of vulnerability or sensitivity) is a ‘win:win’. It is entirely compatible with TCF and can only help to build more positive relationships with customers in the future.

Embracing technology together

Perhaps in the debt management/recovery arena more than any other, customers of every age and socio-economic bracket are embracing the flexibility, convenience and impartiality that technological innovations can offer. Enabling people to get their finances under control in the comfort of their own home; with their documents and data to hand; at a time and via a medium that is convenient and comfortable for them, can be an attractive option for customers who are particularly vulnerable or anxious about dealing with banks and lawyers. This is therefore a key area in which technology can afford a valuable and important opportunity – helping customers to help themselves.

The advantages for customers are clear. So too are the advantages for lenders, who will benefit from happier and more solvent customers who have appreciated the non-judgmental, efficient and compliant experience that a digital debt management platform can offer.

The legal profession has traditionally resisted too much change and too much reliance on technology – probably through fear of the unknown. However, technological advances are inevitable and can be invaluable, in terms of efficiency/profitability and customer/client relationship management benefits.  Lawyers today must embrace the changes and opportunities that technology can afford or risk being seen as a product of the past, rather than as a professional partner for the future.

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[1] Through PayPlan’s digital referral form Walker Morris can quickly and securely pass consenting customers’ contact details and preferred method of communication to PayPlan. This is has so far resulted in up to 10 times more arrears customers engaging directly with free debt advice.
[2] ‘Onboarding’ is the process by which lenders collect and collate their customers’ details. In this context it includes the completion of income and expenditure forms and affordability assessments and facilitates the debt management/recovery process.

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