Along with highlighting company successes since new chief executive officer Edgars “Edz” Sturans took control last September, BillingTree also explained the potential benefits of leveraging “omnichannel” platforms.
BillingTree head of corporate marketing Dave Yohe said the “omnichannel” bandwagon is gaining steam because the term is a buzzword and is spreading throughout the business world.
“It often applied to the consumer-driven retail industry as a method of improving sales through a more seamless, cross-channel shopping experience,” Yohe said. “See it on the Web; buy it on the mobile; collect it in the store.”
Yohe pointed out that the retail sector is seeing a swell in new payment methods such as Apple Pay, Bitcoin and Google Wallet, meaning consumers are faced with a wide variety of ways to pay for their goods. He added that offering their customers more extensive ways to shop and pay whenever, wherever and however has become a competitive advantage for retailers.
So what can the payment collection industry learn from the retailers clamoring to provide their customers with a perfect 'omnichannel' experience?
“For those taking payments it's not just about people wanting to pay their bills through their preferred method, but, that people are more likely to pay their bills,” Yohe said.
Value of Omnichannel for Accounts Receivables
By omnichannel in the accounts receivable market, BillingTree indicated that term mean everything from ACH to card payments; agent, Web, mobile and IVR — plus the growing use of virtual negotiation.
Yohe insisted that adopting new technology and payment methods can give consumers more options to pay their bills, which in turn leads to more vehicle installment contracts staying current.
In the debt world, BillingTree is seeing more settlements arriving because of this technology.
BillingTree found that one of its ARM industry clients, National Recovery Solutions (NRS), saw a 15-percent increase in settled payments and reduced delinquencies by 40-percent after implementing virtual negotiator technology.
But turning back to auto finance, how might omnichannel technology provide assistance? Yohe explained how by using NRS as an example.
“Consumers could log in and see their billing information,” Yohe said. “For each consumer, the technology automatically individualized repayment terms in real-time, allowing them to negotiate a payment plan to suit their situation. The agentless technology runs 24/7, so consumers don't have to explain their need for any payment terms with a live agent.
“The key takeaway here is that NRS gave consumers more ways to pay. This improved their client’s customer experience and resulted in more settled payments and reduced delinquencies,” he added.
Multichannel Doesn't Mean Omnichannel
BillingTree emphasized that simply offering a wide range of payment methods doesn't necessarily mean a company has found the Holy Grail. The company explained that for an experience to be defined as truly 'omnichannel', the consumer must be able to move freely between ‘channels’ and payment methods.
“Just because a consumer receives a notification letter of an outstanding bill doesn't always mean they plan to call or reply via mail,” Yohe said. “It may be more convenient to pay online, or contact the agency’s IVR by phone to settle the outstanding account, or even negotiate a payment plan.”
Turning back to its client example, BillingTree indicated that NRS realized it needed to promote the availability of its new online virtual negotiation across other channels. NRS accomplished this task by including the website link in all paper communication with consumer and enhanced its website to make visitors more aware of the range of payment options available to them.
“It ticked all the boxes for good customer service while using technology to improve its settlements and reduce delinquencies,” Yohe said.
Lower the Effort; Increase the Payment
BillingTree pointed out that the Corporate Executive Board recently reported 88 percent of consumers are more likely to spend more because of low-effort interaction.
Yohe added that similarly the less effort required by a consumer to pay a bill, the more likely they are to attempt to pay it.
“At BillingTree, we’ve seen how reducing end user effort can increase payments,” he said.
Full service collections agency Diversified Consultants, Inc. (DCI) recently implemented Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology after it found it was missing 70 potential payment calls outside office hours every night.
“DCI saw a swift return on investment after implementing IVR,” Yohe said. “The company significantly increased payments and saved the equivalent cost of eight agents. Agent time is now freed up to resolve more complex issues and the IVR has improved overall customer service by lowering end user effort
“Consumers can now pay at their own convenience regardless of office hours,” he went on to say.
BillingTree stressed that its clients find that adopting new technologies such as virtual negotiation and IVR are cost-effective and offer agencies a considerable ROI.
“One thing is for sure,” Yohe said. “by simply offering consumers a single option to pay, such as agent assisted, agencies are limiting their chances of making a collection.”
BillingTree Delivers Growth, Technology, Added Value During first Six Months Under Sturans
In other company news, BillingTree highlighted that the firm experienced continued growth during the past six months and throughout 2014 as the company welcomed new clients and further expanded its payment offerings across the ARM, auto finance, credit union and healthcare industries. The cross-industry growth came during a period of leadership transition at BillingTree following the August appointment of new chief executive officer Edgars “Edz” Sturans.
BillingTree also saw increased adoption of new payment technologies as customers looked to enhance their existing payment processing by integrating solutions such as interactive voice response, virtual negotiation and data feed technology.
Alongside expanding product adoption, BillingTree during the fourth quarter announced a new strategic partnership with DealerClick offering their auto finance customers access to a wider suite of payment solutions.
Under the guidance of Sturans, BillingTree continued enhancing its customer-first program to ensure even greater levels of customer service and support. Advancements included:
— New support webpage
— Expanded communications
— Complementary customer access to Compliance Coach and Compliance Central
Plus the company will again be covering costs of the annual NACHA Rulebooks for ACH processing customers.
BillingTree also ran a series of webinars to share information regarding payment processing technology and services, including advice on how to remain compliant under the ever-increasing scrutiny of regulatory bodies such as the Consumer Financial Protection bureau.
BillingTree's commitment to industry best practice continued with the December addition of the 2014 assessment in line with the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Security Rule. This product is geared to compliment the completion of the examination on Statement on Standards for Attestation Engagements (SSAE) No. 16 and PCI Compliance certifications achieved earlier in the year.
“It’s been a busy and successful six months since joining the BillingTree team and I am pleased to have begun my tenure by adding even more value for our clients — while developing and increasing the adoption of new payment technology,” Sturans said.
“The culture at BillingTree plays a vital role in helping our customers grow and we’ve got many more exciting innovations in development that are coming in 2015,” he continued.
As well as steering the company through a successful leadership transition, Sturans continued to emphasize BillingTree's long-standing tradition of working with local charities. Charitable work includes support for:
• Florence Crittenton’s Teaming Up For Girls Luncheon.
• Season for Sharing, the annual holiday campaign of The Arizona Republic, azcentral.com and 12 News, which is a donor-advised fund of the Arizona Community Foundation.
• St. Mary’s Food Bank and Feed My Starving Children as BillingTree employees continue the long-standing company volunteering policy, supplying three paid office-hours per month per staff for charitable causes. This employer-paid volunteer time includes support totaling around 1,800 man-hours per year.
• Phoenix Children’s Hospital: A donation, event sponsorships and volunteer hours continue to help the young patients at the hospital.