How Collections Customer Conversations End Depends on How the Conversation Starts

by Cormac O'Neill | CEO| Webio

“Kids, just because I don’t care doesn’t mean I’m not listening.”

                                                                 Homer Simpson, Management Guru

In my experience, a conversation that starts badly will end badly. Did you ever get off on the wrong foot when someone said the wrong thing, perhaps to be funny? Maybe you were hangry (that’s hungry and now angry for those without kids). It doesn’t matter, with a quick turn of their shoulder you are now looking at that person's back as they walk away.  We started talking before we started listening.

This is also true when it comes to conversations about money. Let’s face it, most people do not like talking about money, especially money we owe!! As an entrepreneur, I’ve more experience here than I care to remember. I know what “balance shock” is, how it sends a physical shudder through your body, how your mind can start to reel. I’ve left that letter unopened on the kitchen table and switched to  Ostrich mode as a coping mechanism.  You’ll do anything to avoid having to have that conversation. I have learnt from my own experience and brought that learning into Webio. I’ve always responded better when I’ve been treated with a little bit of respect and empathy. I believe this to be true for most people. Our animal brains are evolved to be attuned to the “rattle in the bushes”, the danger in the air. We startle easily. Start the conversation well.

How much better would customer conversations go if it started with “Hi Cormac, how’s your day going, when would be a good time to talk about your account…?”  rather than “Dear Customer 90210, you owe us £2m, when are you going to pay up…...” (insert Goodfella’s voice over here). Perhaps you might add suggestions of times that they might like to pick between, or just allow them to pick their own time to have a conversation. What happens now is that you are respecting your customers time and make them feel empowered. It’s not all terrible, everything isn’t going to hell in a handbasket. I got this.

When you are not exactly filled with the joys of life, and maybe having a bad day, month, year, when I get the latter message, I’m much more likely to hit DELETE. Getting the tone right is bit of an art that is simultaneously becoming a bit of a science. We need to find the right words, in the right order, to create the right effect. Engagement. Interaction. Action.

Using Webio’s Conversational Middleware, we are enabling our customers to find the right tone at the right time. From simple A/B bot message testing to more sophisticated AI driven analysis, or Propensity-X as we like to call it, the effect that using different tones has on conversational engagement and outcomes can be measured and improved. It’s not rocket science, (well parts of it are), but striking the right tone at the right time can have a material impact on results.

Let me give you one example, one of our customers found that their response rates increased by 28% when a softer tone was use at an early stage of the customer’s conversational credit cycle. Not only did response rates go up but ultimately conversational outcomes were much more positive than had previously been. This is a significant impact and shows the power of “May I have” as opposed to “Give me”.

To end I’ll leave you with this thought, happy people become happy customers. In my opinion, there are few things more damaging to an individual’s well-being than financial worries. By beginning a conversation with a little empathy and respect, you can go some small way to positively impacting your customers' happiness index. I will sign off with more wise words from Management Guru, Homer Simpson:

"The problem in the world today is communication…. too much communication."

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