Communication Channels The call center brings along with it a dilemma that touches on another critical issue for the debt recovery efforts known as customer sentiment. Even if your call center makes contact, the customer, who is probably at work, is unlikely to settle there and then. Modern consumers are more averse than ever to speaking on the phone, let alone willing to discuss a topic as tough and sensitive as debt. For most consumers, chatting, messaging and email are much less intimidating. The perceived threat of conflict is minimized, and if your customer feels less threatened then they are more likely to engage with you. Chatting – in the era of WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger – comes altogether more naturally than a phone call. One is compelled to think that providing modern communication methods might be what your organization needs to get impaired loans back on track. It is worthwhile therefore to provide multiple communication methods, which may suit customers not just relying on one or a few leaving out a group of customers. Self-Service Portals Talking of self Service Portals, perhaps no industry has embraced a self-service ethos quite like banking and the mobile loans providers. It’s quite rare, these days, for a customer to visit a branch. It is not necessary: most things you need can be done online, including loan applications. This trend toward self-service is not just confined to banking and lending related institutions. These days, in Kenya we are talking about ‘the self-service economy’ in sectors as diverse as retail, restaurants and software. It is a trend necessitated by consumers’ ever-increasing expectations around service. This has permeated in all if not most sectors of life. As these continue to grow and your bank’s employees are overstretched, self-service becomes the only answer. Lucky enough, a wealth of products and solutions exist to cater for this consumer trend not leaving out the debt recovery aspect. Debtors want to settle their debts quickly It is strange to see how far loan collec- tions and debt re- covery have lagged behind this shift to customer-first oper- ations. But things are beginning to change. Many financial insti- tutions are now turn- ing to technology to bring collections into the digital customer engagement area for ease of engagement. and satisfactorily and could simply be unaware of their options. The question for lenders is not how to make customers pay: it is how to make it easier for them to do so. The answer lies with self-service. Putting Customer Experience First On the surface, it seems a little odd to approach debt recovery from a customer experience perspective. If a customer has become delinquent, they are obviously not having a good experience. Customer experience should be central to every stage of the customer life cycle – including and especially one who is struggling to repay his/her debts. It is a time when your customer needs you the most. Providing the right tools and services for them to salvage their debts can easily blossom into a positive interaction. By utilizing apps and self- service technology, you can put customer experience on the front and center stage. Collection is not a place where you exile of banish bad customers. It is an after sales support service. A clunky, unfriendly experience could cost you a good, loyal client. After all, it costs five times as much to attract a new customer than to keep an existing one. Continuous Feedback The saying goes that if you do not ask, you do not get. Customer surveys are a simple but highly effective way to understand exactly what your customers want and what they think of your debt recovery and collections. The key here is asking your customers in a non-intimidating survey environment. The more private, the better. Consumers are more likely to provide honest feedback when they feel safe. Online surveys are the easiest way to create this atmosphere. After all: where’s more non-intimidating than your customer’s home? A well executed survey allows you to learn about what motivates your customers and what is important to them, and gather meaningful opinions, comments, and feedback. Conclusion Most experts in credit management know that Debt recovery can be a win- win situation for your customers and for you, the lending institution. Instead of punishing delinquent debtors, the process can help struggling customers, bringing them back on board. Thanks to technology, it is never been easier to do this. It has served this by aligning debt collection to consumer needs and Customer Service, debt recovery can be accessible, simple, intelligent and exciting. It is a vision of debt recovery that I am immensely excited to share. You and your organization could be a part of it, too. Wasilwa Miriongi is a certified Credit Professional currently working as the Managing Director, Del Creder Credit Management Limited. You can engage him on this or related matters via email at: WMiriongi@gmail.com.