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Reputation Management and CRM in a Connected World

By Special Guest
Jim Zimmerman, VP of Information Technology, Waypoint Resource Group
January 13, 2017

When it comes to managing accounts receivable, there are two absolutes for any business – maintaining strong cash flow and staying in compliance with legal regulations. But what about the consumer experience? How a business treats its customers, regardless of their account status, goes a long way toward defining the business’ reputation. And, in today’s networked world, a disgruntled customer lashing out through social media can have a lasting impact on a company’s image.

For ARM professionals, negative interactions with credit customers are a common occupational hazard. Customers may not consider a successful resolution — paying back money — to be a positive experience. It doesn’t take much for unhappy customers to cause a stir. Sure, companies can recover from a few social media jabs. But, as Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

As an IT pro, I’m often asked if there’s a software solution to address the problem. In many cases, the answer is yes. But technology usually plays a supporting role, so if the right people, processes, and strategies aren’t in place, technology typically can’t save the day. In other words, there are few substitutes for proven business practices and sound judgment.

Training matters

Managing your company’s reputation starts at home. Your agents are responsible for recovering debt and adhering to regulations, and in that role they have a unique opportunity to build your brand. While revenue recovery and compliance are table stakes in an ARM setting, your team‘s interactions with customers can serve a broader mission. Leading companies have realized that focused training for collections agents plays a key role in debt recovery. A personal demeanor centered on collaborative problem-solving can translate not only into better resolution rates, but into better feelings about your brand. Training staff on active listening, patience, and compassion can help them act as the credit customers’ partners in stressful situations. By listening and empathizing, employees can work with customers to find solutions in which both the company and the customer win.

Responsiveness is key

In a connected society, customers value communication. And, typically, they want it now and through their preferred communication channel — which might be phone, email, text, or social media. That means businesses have to remain in-tune with customers and be prepared to respond quickly via that channel, including social media. To an impatient consumer, having to wait a day for an answer to an email or social media post can be as frustrating as not receiving a reply at all. And, annoyed consumers know how to take their story to the public — quickly. Minor complaints can turn into major headaches faster than you can say “customer service disaster.”

When dealing with social media complaints, respond in public on the same platform with sympathy, and try to take the conversation private, through tools such as direct messages. Offline, make sure your employees are trained in the importance of ethical behavior – it takes only one misguided contact center agent to put your brand reputation at risk.

Technology plays a role

Fortunately, we do have technology to help. Customer relationship management (CRM) software lets businesses track interactions with customers in whatever ways the customer prefers, and across varied channels. Social media monitoring software lets businesses keep a finger on the pulse of their customers, and respond quickly to issues. Automated self-service portals and chatbots let customers handle business on their own, without speaking to customer service personnel. And a mobile-centric approach lets the increasing number of consumers who prefer a smartphone platform take care of business wherever they are.

There are many ways for technology to add efficiencies. Businesses can consider the areas they need the most support in and investigate software options. Rest assured, if there’s a business process for working with customers, there’s a technology solution to help.

Stay aligned with your business partners

Finally, make sure your business partners, including any third-party vendors, share not only your commitment to compliance and revenue recovery, but also customer service. They should act as an extension of your brand, providing information and guidance for overwhelmed customers, and offer the same kind of compassionate assistance you provide yourself. Their actions reflect on your brand and reputation, and their professionalism and courtesy should enhance (or at least not diminish) your relationship with your customers.

Safeguarding your brand requires a combination of physical, practical, and personal measures to maintain positive customer relations. The hiring, provisioning, and training process, with its emphasis on compassion and ethics, may seem long and involved. But, done properly, the result is happy customers — and their feel-good stories can go viral too.

About the Author

Jim Zimmerman is Vice President of Information Technology for Waypoint Resource Group. He oversees Waypoint’s data center, infrastructure, software development, and all IT implementations. With 30 years of experience, Jim is known for executing IT strategies that help organizations realize efficiencies via the latest technology platforms. In his 15 years with Consultants to Government and Industry (CGI) prior to joining Waypoint, Jim gained experience deploying large business solutions in the public and private sectors for state and local governments, including federal contracting. His adherence to proven methodologies and customer service approaches ensures successful integration on projects of any size or complexity. Jim relies on these processes to build and maintain a solid service delivery while generating opportunities for scale and financial growth. 

Edited by Alicia Young

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