Technology and Service Harnessing the Best of Both
Apex Credit Management has invested and will continue to invest substantially in IT to enhance the effectiveness of its customer contact strategies, providing both inbound and
outbound opportunities at convenient times to suit people. This investment is a key plank in Apex’s holistic and strategic approach to helping customers to resolve past credit difficulties, by treating customers fairly and with dignity. Excellence in technology is very much tied to excellence in customer service and with the training and development of its 250 people, which will enable Apex to deliver on its commitment to lead the market by way of ethical credit management.
“We see technology as a facilitator to ensure customers working to free themselves of debt can both be contacted and contact us through a medium that suits them and at a time that suits them”. Notes COO Steve Mound, adding; “For some people the impersonal nature of technology suits their desire for privacy and by providing support tools online - for example customers can help themselves to develop their own repayment schedules – we provide people with options. At the same time we recognise that some people really value human interaction and the guidance that can be delivered one to one. In any event we have firmly established that smart technology can make a very positive contribution; ensuring that customers are given multiple opportunities to resolve their debt issues in a fair and dignified manner. On a compliance note, technology also helps us to measure our activities ensuring compliance with regulation and all best practice guidelines, providing real peace of mind to our clients in all market sectors that their brand is safe in our hands”
Making debt resolution accessible is a key step and technology is proving itself to be a growing facilitator. Many of those in debt fall into the ‘can’t pay’ category and by developing a range of access routes to create a repayment schedule that meets their circumstances many can release the burden of their debt issues; this can be achieved by talking things through, but this no longer needs to mean just person to person, the web has a growing role.
Developed specifically for Apex Credit Management the MyApex (https://myapex.apexcm.co.uk/) on-line debtor portal gives debtors the opportunity to manage their account 24/7, removing the indignity felt by some of discussing their personal circumstances over the telephone. The portal is designed to be bright, welcoming and engaging - providing customers with the opportunity to make a card payment; make an offer of payment; set up a direct debit; manage their finances with the budget calculator; whilst also offering links to many approved money advice centres. MyApex is promoted on the back of letters sent to debtors and also through the inbound IVR, SMS and e-mail campaigns. An early user of the system was a customer who had to date remained un-contactable, despite all best endeavours. Without any spoken word the customer made a significant payment on-line and signed up to a regular repayment pattern fully justifying the faith in this new technology. This is a pattern now repeated frequently, helping both debtor and creditor at the same time.
Speech analytics has been another area of major investment. The Nexidia speech analytics tool in Apex works in conjunction with our Noble predictive dialler to put real
science into call activity and measurement. The system downloads all call recordings over night and creates an indexed library which allows phonetic search to retrieve any
individual call that fall into patterns or buckets that we predetermine. The tool features an intelligent reporting suite through which the business can:-
- track agent adherence to call structure;
- correlate payments received with specific call drivers in order to maximise call effectiveness;
- measure talk time analysis and silent time.
Forensic search capability then enables ad-hoc searches of particular words or phrases and a time-saving feature that allows users to go to the exact point of the call where the searched word/phrase appears, invaluable in resolving disputes quickly and amicably; or to check past conversations and arrangement agreements.
This functionality allows the Nexidia system to support the business in complying with regulation by ensuring that each agent is dealing with customers respectfully and appropriately. This ensures both the reputation of Apex Credit Management and the reputation of the client on whose behalf Apex are working is protected underpinning Apex’s absolute commitment to ethical credit management.
The Noble dialler is a valuable tool and is used for more than just telephoning – the dialler operates as a multi-channel contact system and along with its dialling capability it allows SMS broadcasting, interactive voice management (IVM) and e-mail.
- SMS - The SMS module enables text messaging to be undertaken, built around profiled customer listings so that targeted highly appropriate messages can be sent. The results have been impressive and can quickly demonstrate to new debtors that Apex is here to help.
- IVM - The IVM allows agentless outbound campaigns to be undertaken sorting the Right Party Contact’s from the Wrong Party Contact’s and passing these back into the call centre for a live agent to handle.
- E-mail - The outbound e-mail module has introduced a cost effective alternative to letters & the multi-channel contact system provides Apex with a competitive advantage allowing costs to be reduced.
Blended and predictive dialling allows the business to maximise the productivity of the 150 agent licences whilst delivering 100% call recording. Outbound dialling is fully compliant with all OFCOM guidelines and configurable recycle rules allow the business to ensure compliance with OFT & TCF guidelines as well.
The Dialler has a complete reporting suite giving historical data on agent and campaign effectiveness and an easy to use Graphical User Interface allows for real-time monitoring, agent coaching, silent listening and call barging at the click of a button (Call barging adds a user to a call that is in progress silently to facilitate training and or deal with a difficult or abusive call).
The inbound Interactive Voice Response helps to route inbound traffic to the relevant area as well as offering a fully automated 24/7 card payment facility allowing callers to ‘self-serve’ their account – the results of which have been quite staggering!
In addition to all of these customer contact strategies – Apex has invested huge amounts in data processes in order to ensure an intelligent approach to credit management. The business has built a platform which relies on an extensive data warehouse and which is integrated within core systems and overlaid with SAS analysis tools. Establishing a customer’s propensity to repay by combining and modelling past behaviour with current available data then drives an appropriate contact strategy. This maximises contact and thereby efficiency which is the key to profitability in the sector.
Steve reflects; “We deal with large volumes of debt at different points in the collections and recoveries cycle and profit imperatives require us to clearly understand the costs of our inputs in relation to income derived. Ours is a volume business which at the same time requires a granular approach to ensure that our efforts to collect debt recognise the individual circumstances of the people whose lives we touch. We need to ensure that we maximise collections whilst ensuring that we both control costs and adopt an approach that treats customers fairly”.
In summary, technology is proving itself to be a major facilitator; increasing customers contact choice; ensuring compliance; increasing productivity and delivering enhanced bottom line results. In addition to championing ethical credit management, Apex is proud that its approach to debt management is one that delivers world class results by maintaining long term customer engagement; as Steve concludes; “We know that many of the people we work with cannot quickly and easily resolve their debt situation. Technology is a key tool in helping us to develop long term relationships wherein customers can maintain a consistent repayment level. The lifetime value of customers under our management is significantly enhanced as a result and technology is key to our strategy”.