Sophia is frantic. It is 16:45 on a Tuesday and she has an onsite customer account review the following morning. For the last two hours, she has been diligently running debt reports, exporting them to Excel, and adding her review notes. She has collated all the overdue invoices, converted them into PDF (as they don’t print properly if you sent them directly to the printer from the accounting system), and sent them to the printer. Her husband has just rung to let her know he is running late (leaves on the tracks again) and that she will need to pick up the dog from the vet.
She is due out the office door at 16:57 as her youngest finishes football practice at 17:15 and her oldest starts swimming at 17:45. Sophia checks the printer … it still has not started printing as it is out of paper! She goes to the stationery cupboard to get more paper but there is just an empty paper box. She races up to the next floor, ‘borrows’ some paper from the HR department, races down the stairs and reloads the printer.
Sophia checks her watch. It is 16:52, so she is still on track as she just needs 3 minutes to shut down her laptop, change her shoes, and pick up the invoices from the printer. She goes to shut down her laptop and sees the dreaded “Windows is updating. Please do not power off or unplug your machine. Installing update 1 of 6”. Just as well that she has factored in 2 spare minutes into her schedule! Laptop shuts down, trainers on, handbag in one hand, keys in the other, she races down the stairs, and jumps in the car. ‘Dammit!’, she exclaims out loud. The invoices are still sitting in the printer. The mobile phone says it is 16:59 but luckily the car clock has 16:56 – so she still has time to run upstairs to get the invoices!
Does this sound all too familiar? Modern life has become extremely busy – most family units have all parent(s) working, society’s expectation of what ‘good parenting’ looks like has increased, and many organisations are trying to do more with less. We have all read articles on work-life balance but for many people the number of activities that need to be juggled is increasing. The media says that we need life coaches but for those who are close to drowning in the daily grind then maybe a lifeboat is more appropriate.
The good news is that there is a new lifeguard on the block. One that can simplify your work-life and ensure that you can keep your head above water. That lifeguard is Mobile Technology.The media says we need life coaches; for those drowning in the daily grind a lifeboat is more appropriate. Simplify your work life with #Mobile Technology!! Click To Tweet
A Brief Recap
In last month’s article, we explored the 3 Technologies That Will Provide A Much-Needed Makeover To The Debt Collection Process. These technologies were Mobile Technology, Artificial Intelligence, and Blockchain Technology.
The conclusion of the article was that
“Although some of the above technologies feel relatively new they are starting to be adopted by many industries. In particular, labour-intensive processes are becoming automated, customers are expecting more transparency and security, and most people now expect to be able to work on the go. We believe that a combination of these technologies will be key in transforming the collection of debt …”
The importance of mobile technology on the debt collection process is also supported by a recent article that cited ‘Debt Collection Apps’ as one of the top 3 emerging trends impacting the debt collection software market.
In the remainder of this article, we take a ‘deep dive’ into the impact of mobile technology on the collection of debt. Initially, we explore what is ‘mobile technology’ as there have been a number of advances in this area. The article then examines the impact that the technology has on the collection of debt.
What is Mobile Technology?
In the recent past (10 – 15 years ago) the term ‘mobile technology’ was easy to understand. Back then it referred to mobile phones (e.g. Nokia, Blackberry, etc) which around 10 years ago morphed into smartphones (e.g. iPhone, Android phones). Oddly, we have almost come a full circle as we have dropped the term ‘smart’ and reverted back to the term mobile phone or even just ‘phone’ – how often do you just provide your mobile number when asked for your phone number? That is, we rarely think in terms of ‘smartphones’ due to their dominance in the marketplace in first world societies. In a 2017 Deloitte survey, it was found that 85% of the UK population (41 million people) now either own or have access to a smartphone. Further, it was found that 55-75-year-old ‘silver swipers’ were the fastest-growing adopters of smartphones.
However, in recent times (<5 years) the term mobile technology has expanded to include both new hardware (e.g. smartwatches, wearable devices, etc) and new software (e.g. mobile apps, chatbots, virtual assistants, etc). The following is a summary of some of the key mobile technologies that are making an impact on the business landscape:
From a hardware perspective, this article focuses on the impact of mobile phones or tablets on the debt collection process. That is, although a smartwatch is useful to count your 10,000 steps or receive push notifications the small user interface limits its usefulness from a debt collection perspective. In contrast, the suitability of the software technology is driven by the use case. For example, a debt collector may want to use a mobile app on a mobile phone or tablet to both display and update data. However, a debtor (particularly if the debtor is a consumer) may prefer the convenience of using a chatbot to ‘discuss’ their outstanding debt.
Impact of Mobile Technology on the Collection of Debt
As a debt collector are you faced with the work scenario that was described at the start of the article on a regular (but hopefully not daily) basis? Your organisation may have invested in an accounting system that has removed or reduced some of the manual tasks. So, no more tracking outstanding debt on spreadsheets, performing manual mail merges to generate collection letters or writing follow up tasks on post-it notes. However, you still spend a lot of time preparing for onsite account reviews or find yourself logging in during the evening to write up the notes from a phone call you had while you were travelling.
In last month’s article, it was stated that “… in the last five years, there has been a significant shift in the technology landscape which if harnessed, could transform the collections process. The likes of mobile apps … have been embraced by various industry sectors to make processes more effective and efficient”. The following are some examples where mobile technology could improve the day-to-day activities of the debt collector.
Mobile Apps Allow You to Work Anywhere
Debt collection mobile apps allow employees to work anywhere and anytime as debt collection related information can be exposed to mobile phones and tablets. Imagine being able to arrange an onsite account review, spend the rest of the day working on other accounts, and then just picking up your work tablet as you make your way out the door at the end of the day. A collection app will allow you to securely have access to customer account and transaction information on a real-time basis. So, no need to prepare consolidated spreadsheets or re-print invoices prior to your meeting. Even better you can update your collector notes or assign follow up tasks straight after the meeting (while sitting in the car park, train station, or even waiting for your child’s swimming to finish).
This sounds great! However, we all know that 3G/4G/5G connectivity can be patchy as you travel around the country (despite what the adverts from the telecommunication companies say). This does not present an issue as mobile apps have the ability to both cache and re-synch data. So, the night before you go to a customer meeting it would be possible to download the information you require locally to your mobile device. That way, if you lose internet connectivity you can still have access to the previous night’s information (which is no worse than if you had printed out the documents the day before). Further, information that you capture on the mobile app can be synched back to your accounting system next time you are online.
Mobile Apps Provide Access to Real-Time Information
If collection staff have accurate, real-time information at their fingertips then it is likely that will be more efficient and productive. A debt collection app can be designed to ensure that key information is easily accessible by the debt collector. There should be no need to extract and manipulate information from your accounting system – a debt collection app will provide a 360-degree view of your customer in a user-friendly interface. Further, as the information is ‘real-time’ it is possible to respond to any ad-hoc questions that a customer may have. That is, a collector can use a mobile device to share key information with their customers in face-to-face meetings. No more shuffling through paper printouts or waiting to boot up your laptop to look at a spreadsheet!
Customer Data is More Secure
It is common practice to print out debt collection information when working remotely from the office. Whether that is a set of customer account notes to review on the train, copies of invoices to discuss with the customer, or a copy of the key contact information. Although the paper copies are convenient to use they are far from secure. What happens if you forget your bag on the train or accidentally leave your notes in a customer’s meeting room? Do you really want your customer to know what is written in your internal collection notes?Sick of printing out invoices prior to a customer account review? Use a #DebtCollection #Mobile App to securely and conveniently access customer info on the go! Click To Tweet
Access to the information in the mobile app can be secured using passwords that comply with your organisation’s security policy. Even better, they may have the ability to provide you with ‘single sign-on’ so you can use the same password that you use for the rest of your systems. Further, any information that is stored on the mobile app for offline use can be encrypted using strong encryption algorithms. In addition, there are software solutions available that allow either the mobile app or the entire mobile device to be remotely ‘wiped’ if the device is lost
Debt Collection Via Payment Apps
The use of a mobile banking apps or payment apps can assist when collecting outstanding debts from consumers. There is no need to visit the bank, log onto a website, or ‘put the cheque in the mail’ as consumers can make payments from their mobile devices.
Messaging Is The New Form of Communication
There is now a generation of debtors where ‘messaging’ is a more common method of communication than using a phone to make a voice call or sending an email. If you are chasing debt from a generation that is mobile-centric then it is likely that you will need to contact them using more modern forms of communication.
At the start of the article, we described a work scenario that is (unfortunately) all too common in today’s hectic lifestyle. At times the demands of both work and life mean that you feel like you are treading water or even worse starting to drown. The good news is that there is a new lifeguard on the block. Organisations can implement mobile technology in order to simplify and improve their employees’ workday. In the case of the debt collector, it allows secure and convenient access to real-time customer information from any location. So, what are you waiting for? Why not try dipping your toe into the mobile technology ocean. You never know – you may find the water is crystal clear and enjoy the swim!!