From self-isolation to job loss, and most importantly, the tragic loss of family members and friends, COVID-19 has affected every individual in some way; not one person is exempt from the perils of this economic and physical state of emergency. With new restrictions hitting the headlines daily regarding debt collection, and the historical negative perception of debt collectors, many regulators called for a stop in collections activity. However, this may actually cause more stress for people impacted by financial difficulties caused by COVID-19.
While it’s much easier and more immediate to focus on the negatives that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic, believe it or not there are positives to reflect on as well. In fact, many industries have been stepping up to the plate and displaying their true colors, including the collections industry. In light of the pandemic, the public has realized that both the combination of their skills and experience working with stressed and worried consumers, has prepared collectors for work both during and after the pandemic.
Right now, people who have never before faced financial debt have suddenly been confronted head-on with financial uncertainty. They need the expertise and guidance of collectors who prioritize providing assistance and knowledge. Collectors are uniquely positioned to provide support to individuals impacted by COVID including individualized payment plans, account satisfaction, hardship accommodations and additional relief mechanisms, continuing to help even after the dust of COVID begins to settle.
So, how will the ways in which we collect change post-COVID?
If there's one thing that this pandemic has proven, it is the ever-growing importance and need for updated technology in the industry, including omni-channel collection strategies. Access to self-service options such as 24/7 agents, chatbots, and online payment portals is paving the way for the future of debt recovery. Although these technologies have been changing the communication preferences of customers for years now, COVID-19 has only accelerated the desire for convenience. Overall, customers prefer convenience and technologically advanced transactions over in-person human interactions.
However, the use of technology isn’t just useful for debtors. It has also proven to be helpful to agencies and their clients, allowing them to track collection activities using analytics and statistics. After COVID, it is expected that clients are likely to be more involved in the collection process, placing greater expectations and a stronger reliance on their agencies.
While customers will continue to choose technology over all else, in-person communication is still critical to the collection process. The need for genuine human connection has never been greater. Now more than ever it is important for agents to have the ability to listen and understand the concerns of consumers. Agencies are urged to use this time to train collectors in advanced listening and communication skills. In fact, agencies that neglect the adoption of updated practices and technological advancements will be left behind. The new normal for collection has already begun, and agencies willing to adapt to the emerging needs in technology and human connection are going to be on the front lines for this new era of debt recovery.