It was already in my head to talk about the evolution of the credit and collections industry (mostly focusing on texting and emailing consumers), and then Paul Nazareth (www.twitter.com/uinvitedu) recommended to me the book, Ctrl Alt Delete - Reboot Your Business, by Mitch Joel, which leads right into what I wanted to talk about, and then some. So let's start with the basics -- the consumer.
Enter The Consumer
While our real clients are the creditors, we deal in our industry with consumers -- lots, and lots of consumers. They are a key component of credit and collections.
One of the huge changes in social media is that consumers now have a direct voice to companies they deal with, and to others about the companies they deal with. And no industry is more a target of consumer opinion than consumers who have been subjected to late-stage credit cycle letters, calls, and collection agencies.
A quick Google search of any collection agency will bring up a Google Places page, often with a handful of consumer reviews -- permanent, easily left, reviews of how consumers felt after dealing with that company. A single individual consumer can now affect a brand's reputation in a real way, for years.
The bottom line is that if you want to deal with consumers and have a positive response by the growing online social community, you have to do something for them. You have to give them something of value. You have to respond to the individual consumer when they feel wronged, or have a question -- if you don't, you garner resentment, and negative feedback.
Imagine, if you will, how many consumers pay their bills each and every day ... hundreds of thousands of people in Canada, paying through online banking, paying over the telephone by credit card, mailing cheques, or even with an old-fashioned Western Union Quick Collect Money Transfer. What sort of impression are we leaving on these people, as they pay their accounts, or after they have paid their accounts?
To "win", you need to give these consumers something of value. Not an easy task, in our industry.
In this book, Mitch discusses thinking about direct relationships by rebooting your perspective, going from looking at things from the business viewpoint, to looking at things from the consumer viewpoint -- and realizing how people really do things, rather than how businesses want them to do things.
So, that means responding to emails, tweets, Facebook posts, and other social media channels (because ignoring them is a bad idea -- look at this example in the US with Cirro Energy). It also means building channels for consumers to deal with your company -- does your company have a Facebook page? Can you be reached online through your website? Realize that you have to participate in the new, social, online world -- if you aren't part of the conversation, they'll still be talking about your company, without you.
I highly recommend you read Mitch Joel's book, Ctrl Alt Delete - Reboot Your Business. It is filled with excellent ideas and real life examples of how companies are thriving in a changing business world. As the prelude of the book says, as it talks about Marco Ament of Instapaper -- "if a multimillion-dollar business can be developed and managed with one with a laptop in an apartment, what happens to your business and your job as this rapid innovation and digitization continues to ripple through every industry?"
If you would like to have a conversation about how we, the credit, collections, and finance professionals can adapt to reboot our industry, and how to engage with consumers on a direct basis, I'd be very interested in chatting with you and sharing ideas. My direct line at Kingston Data and Credit is 226-946-1730.
Blair DeMarco-WettlauferKingston Data and Credit