Treat debtors the same as clients and open up a world of opportunities
Tuesday night, 6.30 p.m. After a hard working day, I walked through the door of the home I have shared with my family for about twelve years. On the kitchen table lay an envelope with the logo of my mortgage provider. “That’s odd,” I thought, “I never get letters from them.” When I opened it I realised why I had never had letters from them before. I was in arrears with my mortgage – something that has never happened before.
My mortgage provider – who I had been loyal to for more than twelve years, always maintaining good communications with my advisor – wrote that I had received several letters and that if I did not pay them immediately the file would be passed to a debt collection agency. I had never received letters from them, so I did not appreciate this threatening tone. Why hadn’t they just rung me to ask what was going on? You can imagine how extremely surprised and unhappy I was. My advisor was always positive, and then suddenly I receive a threatening letter from the collections department. What happened to the friendly communication? And above all: where is the teamwork between my advisor and the credit management department?
Anyone thinking about customer satisfaction thinks about the departments within companies that have direct contact with the customer – face to face and digitally. That is their role, and companies like to invest in staff in departments such as customer care and account management. They are given training courses and tools to ensure that customer satisfaction is first-class. But as you can see from my experience in this case, the time has come for companies to realise that customer engagement is the responsibility of the entire organisation. And not just one department.
A Unique Selling Point
Organisations are finding it increasingly hard to stand out with regard to products, services, or prices. Competitors offer the same products or services and even the price is more or less the same. The only way organisations can really make a difference is in the customer experience they offer. Serving customers well and through the right channels can make you that little bit different. For many organisations things go incredibly well from first contact to sale, but as soon as the credit management department pops up, suddenly customer experience counts for nothing. It is time to invest in the credit management department as well.
From credit manager to relationship manager
This department does a lot more than just collections behind the scenes and is directly related to customer satisfaction and the reputation of the company. After all, every employee in this department has contact with its debtors, or as I prefer to call them: its customers. Indeed, debtors are still customers and as a business you want to see them leaving looking happy. However, these customers have landed at the credit management department because they are struggling with payment problems or arrears. It does not seem positive for you as an organisation, but you still want the customers to pay for the products or services you provided. However, you also want them to be satisfied and loyal so that they come back to you in the future. So as a credit manager it is very important to maintain a good relationship with the customer. Yet this is missing in my discussions with CFOs. They feel their objective is to keep the days sales outstanding (DSO) as low as possible, but in doing so they forget that at the same time there is a customer who wants to be helped. And to offset one negative experience you need at least twelve positive experiences.
Spot the opportunity
So it is essential to pay attention to a customer after they have placed an order and before payment is made. Often this is seen as a negative action, however it is really an opportunity to convey a sense of warmth to customers. Show what you stand for as an organisation and transform this experience into a positive one. After all, it is six times cheaper to keep an existing customer than to acquire a new one. And increasing customer satisfaction also has a positive influence on reducing the DSO.
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VP PARTNERS & ALLIANCES