Let’s face it: the call center is changing, and changing fast. There has been a need for change: consumers have matured in the last few decades and are more aware of what they want. (And what they want isn’t cold calls at the dinner hour.) Technology has evolved and tripled the amount of channels through which companies can contact customers. Finally, a more demographically diverse U.S. population means understanding each group. Servicing and reaching out to them in ways that are likely to get the best response is important. Call it the “smart” call center to set it apart from the large, old-fashioned boiler rooms of decades ago.
At the same time, credit collections companies have been following a curiously similar path in recent decades. (In a recent article on Inside ARM, Mike Ginsberg points out how the two industries have grown up alongside one another with marked similarities.) Better technology, shifting demographics and higher volumes of work have demanded that credit collections companies morph with the times. In fact, the two industries – customer care and collections/accounts receivable) are so similar, that we’re starting to see the two operate side by side under the larger umbrella of business process outsourcing (BPO). Ginsberg notes that perhaps “side by side” is the wrong way to integrate CRM/call center and collections: they just might have a lot of offer one another.
“It is not coincidental that some of the largest ARM (News - Alert) companies have re-established themselves as broader business process outsourcing (BPO) service providers and some of the largest CRM companies have acquired their way into the ARM industry,” writes Ginsberg.
So why shouldn’t call center organizations looking to broaden their bottom line view accounts receivable management (ARM) as an opportunity? The answer is: it should. A number of companies we traditionally think of as call center companies – most notably NCO, Teleperformance (News - Alert), GC Services, Covergys and West – all operate sizable collections businesses as part of the mix as their service offerings.
It makes sense when you think about it. A company that “gets” outbound call center operations, customer relationship management (CRM) and inside sales is in an advantageous position to do the collections job, and do it well. (After all, the “warmer” the call, the more likely the agent is to collect a payment on a debt.) Call center outsourcers are accustomed to working with state and federal regulations (and there are a lot in the collections industry), recording their calls, manipulating large databases, training their agents to follow scripts and stay on point during calls and use outbound dialing technologies, something the collections industry relies upon heavily. In short, call centers already have the type of outbound skills and technologies in place to make a successful go at collections. And with consumer debt at current levels, the opportunities are hardly scarce.
And the final bonus? Well trained call center agents, who are essentially inside sales reps, are in the best position possible to not only recover debt, but to turn a call into a continuing business relationship by, for example, selling credit monitoring services once the debt is collected, or referring debtors to programs that will help them learn to manage their finances better.
For all these reasons, it’s likely that in the future we’ll continue to see a merging of call center and credit collections operations.
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Edited by Brooke Neuman