Personalisation is all around us—whether it’s Netflix’s homepage, Spotify’s weekly recommendations, or YouTube’s algorithmically-devised watchlist. Nowadays, consumers are handed personalised experiences everywhere they go.
But the power of personalisation goes far beyond simply selling products or keeping us hooked on social media platforms. Personalisation carries a number of benefits when it comes to collections. Done well, and it transforms repayment rates, improves the customer experience, and ultimately increases your earnings.
Let’s explore the value of tailored messaging and personalisation, why they’re so important for debt collection, the results that you can expect, and how to devise a personalised outreach strategy in four simple steps.
The personalisation imperative
We all like to be treated as individuals. Everybody has a different story, different opinions, different preferences, and different values. As such, one-size-fits-all approaches—whether it’s marketing outreach, product listings, or collections messages—often miss the mark.
Personalisation can be as little as including someone’s name in an email or as large as tailoring your entire messaging strategy around an individual’s preferences (think Netflix). Modern consumers have come to expect a personalised experience in everything that they do. Companies that recognise this—and keep up their end of the bargain—reap the rewards.
According to SmarterHQ, 72% of consumers state that they only engage with personalised messaging. What’s more, millennial brand loyalty has been reported to increase by 28% if they receive personalised messaging.
Tailored messaging makes individuals feel like a company is making a genuine effort to understand and accommodate unique individual factors into the relationship with the customer. You’re not simply one of a number, another customer to walk through the door or visit the website. Instead, you’re you—and the company will make a special effort to tailor your experience according to what you like, want, and need.
Personalisation in collections
Companies personalise so that they can attract and retain customers. The results, as discussed above, are clear and evident for all to see. So why do so many lenders fail to personalise when it comes to collections?
Personalisation can take a variety of forms when it comes to debt collection: communications (using someone’s name and messaging styles that they like), channels (speaking to them on the channels they prefer), or repayment plans (offering a variety of options to suit an individual’s circumstances).
This is especially important when it comes to communications. Debt collection is a sensitive subject. Some people might feel embarrassed and bury their head in the sand. Others might simply push it to the back of their mind and make it tomorrow’s problem. As such, you need to communicate in ways that are aligned with the individual debtor’s personal preferences.
Every individual is different. Arranging for someone to repay you is a delicate subject—after all, money matters always are!. This means that you need to get your approach spot on. Above all, personalisation means acting like a human, to a human. Use their name. Show empathy. Listen to their circumstances and offer potential solutions. Hold their hand through the process—don’t shove them through the door.
If you get this right, the payoffs are large. ICICI bank, implemented a personalised collections approach (powered by advanced business intelligence and analytics) to achieve a 50% increase in debt collection while using 80% less manpower. The results will obviously vary depending on the specifics of your approach and your past-due customers themselves. That being said, there’s certainly a strong business case for embracing personalised, tailored outreach strategies.
Generic versus personalised messaging
Let’s take a look at two emails, one of which is generic and the other of which is tailored according to the recipient in question. Which would resonate more with you as a consumer? Which do you think would ultimately be more successful?
We are writing to you because the payment of [enter amount] for account number [enter details] is now [number of days] days overdue.
Please find a copy of the invoice enclosed. Unless payment is made by [enter date], we will be left with no option other than to take legal action to recover the money you owe.
To prevent legal action, please contact us within 14 days of receiving this letter to discuss paying the amount you owe.
Dear [first name],
Our records indicate that your repayment of (enter amount) is now (indicate number) days overdue.
If you have already submitted payment, please disregard this notice. If you’d like to discuss potential repayment plans or advise us of a change in your circumstances, please contact our customer service team at (enter email address).
In the event that you have not paid this outstanding debt, we would appreciate receiving your remittance or being advised of your repayment plans as soon as possible.
To repay, simply enter your credit card details at (add link) or send a bank transfer to (add details)
4 steps to devising the perfect personalisation strategy
- Analyse all available customer data
Personalisation requires knowing each individual customer in granular detail: their purchasing behaviour, their repayment history, their preferences and their values. How do you find out all this information? By analysing your customer data.
- Segment your past-due customers into groups
Segment individual past-due customers into like-minded groups (in other words, with others who broadly share their same characteristics and preferences). This will allow you to easily send out tailored messages to large segments instead of creating strategies for each individual themselves.
- A/B test
You likely won’t get your strategy right the first time around, even if you’ve analysed your customer data in detail before creating different consumer segments. This is okay. The trick is to A/B test different personalisation options to see which work and which miss the mark. For example, you might find that messages that include the sentence “Based on your previous repayment history, we recommend you follow X repayment plan” is actually too personal, making past-due customers anxious as to how much you know about them.
- Iterate and improve
As the results keep on pouring in, and you learn more and more about your consumers, keep on adapting and evolving your approach. Consumer preferences change quickly—so make sure you don’t fall behind.
Profit from personalisation
Modern consumers expect personalised experience and, as such, one-size-fits-all collection strategies are increasingly unsuccessful. Provide your past-due customers with tailored messaging and offers to increase your repayment rates and improve customer loyalty. If you get it right, the benefits will be enormous.
Want to learn more about how to devise the ultimate personalisation strategy? Keep an eye out for our upcoming best practices in debt collection webinar series. Alternatively, sign up for our newsletter to receive ongoing industry updates and analysis.
Jan is one of the first members of the receeve team, and has become an expert on the fintech industry, particularly digitising collections and accounts receivable processes. He is a talented multi-disciplinary professional with immense drive to bring modern technologies and processes into financial services.