Episode 15: Technology Fundamentals The Unsexy Core of Success
What you’ll learn about in this episode
What you’ll learn about in this episode
Debt collection is being transformed through changes in technology, Regulation, the economy landscape and the manner that people are interacting with customer service channels. Does Digital Collection open pathways to an improved experience, and better results?
In this episode we’ll dive into these questions with Tim Collins, a recognized and capable people leader with broad experience in driving organizational growth using technology to improve the consumer experience. Key takeaways include:
- Steps you can take to enhance the customer experience starting with your website
- Looking at Build vs Buy
- How things are shifting in the way we communicate
- Meeting the customer where they are and where they want to connect
- The mindset pivot required to understand digital transformation
- Identifying where email and or sms text are the most effective.
Guest: Tim Collins
As the Chief Customer Officer Tim is responsible to ensure that consumers worldwide have the best debt collection experience possible.
Before joining Indebted, he worked at TrueAccord, Corp. as their Chief Compliance Officer to rapidly scale their Audit, Compliance, and Legal Departments. Prior to TrueAccord, Tim worked for Convergent Outsourcing as their General Counsel and Chief Ethics & Compliance Officer tasked with leading the Audit, Compliance, IT Security, Legal, and Training Departments. His previous position was Director of Compliance for Hyundai Capital America, in charge of designing and implementing HCA’s corporate governance and compliance programs. He is serving on the ACA Innovation Committee, past Chair for the ACA Federal Affairs Committee Chairperson, a past Chair of the ACA International MAP Committee, and past president of the Association of Corporate Counsel-San Diego Chapter.
LinkedIn: Personal: Tim Collins
Lex Patterson 0:11
kindred force media
Hi, everybody. I’m Lex Patterson, and you’re listening to fair debt. My podcast about things overlooked and misunderstood in the debt collection space. In this episode, we’re going to break down digital collections with industry veteran Tim Collins. Settle in as we explore technology fundamentals in a new and different way. We’ll answer questions about where it works, where it doesn’t, and how to begin to pivot that’s coming to debt resolution of tomorrow.
Tim Collins 0:57
Hey, Tim, welcome to the podcast. Thanks, Lex. Great to be here. Really appreciate it. Yeah. Where does the podcast find you today? Well, I’m out in Anaheim Hills, California have been here for last two years, it seems and some change now. But hopefully getting back on the road here pretty quick. Yeah, I hope so. Yeah, that we were just talking about that COVID thing, but are you going to Rmi? Are you going to be there? I will be absolutely. I’ll be speaking on cryptocurrency blockchain. So nice. Well, maybe we can talk a little bit about that before we’re done. That’s, that’s an interesting one. Yeah, I want to hear some of that.
I don’t give any tips on where you should be putting your money .
Lex Patterson 1:45
Well, you know, you’ve done so many of these. You’ve been on many of these types of engagements. I’m sure people recognize you. But let’s shake it up a bit here off to start by maybe telling our listeners something about you. That maybe they don’t know about you. I’d like maybe like a little unknown fact about Tim, what would that be? Wow, way to put me on the spot. Lex
Tim Collins 2:11
I see how this podcast is gonna go. It’s gonna be super exciting.
Yeah, a couple things. You know, for me, I moved 13 times before I was 17 years old. Wow. So moved quite a bit. Dad was in the Navy to start. And then his specialty was really manufacturing engineer where you had to, he told you where the machines were on the line. So it was every time you had to retool, or a new plant was getting built or something along those lines. So that was usually six months, at most. And so we were we were always moving along. someplace. So Wow. Yeah,
Lex Patterson 2:46
yeah. Yeah. That shaped your life, I’m sure. Quite quite a bit. Yeah. Okay. Well, that’s interesting. And I mean, that kind of leads into, really, it’s a good lead into the next part, because, you know, you’ve been, you’ve been at this a long time, in the debt collection space is what I’m talking about. And and I’ve done so many different things in your career to, you know, litigating debt buying. I think you were even on the creditor side for a while if I’m not mistaken. And and then you made a leap into this new and innovative technology space. Like true accord, you were with them for a little while and now indebted. Right. And so it seems that you’ve shifted your focus is this creative process, which I guess, like I say, leads back to you were you you had to you had to be uncomfortable a lot when you were a kid, you know, so I guess you’re used to this type of thing. But I want you to tell that story about what drew you to these roles, and maybe share some of the eye opening experiences you’ve had along the way you’ve learned on the journey? And also, maybe some of the surprises that may have hit you, as you’ve traveled along that journey.
Tim Collins 3:58
Yeah, absolutely. It’s, you know, coming up on 29 years of journey in so, you know, it’s hard. It’s hard to believe I I definitely don’t feel it yet. But some days, some days do. Yeah, for me, my first experience in this was, you know, I trained to be a lawyer. And when I when I graduated law school, back in Detroit, there weren’t a lot of legal jobs. So I actually took a job, basically, as a court runner, and I was a lawyer, and they started to use me as a lawyer except my logic, you know, my license and everything. So, but it was in debt collection. And interestingly enough, it was on the commercial side of the space. So it was a lot of breach of contract work, which really boils down to somebody not paying somebody and they had a small business that was on the consumer side, consumer focused. And so during the day, I would do commercial work. And at night, I’d be, you know, on the consumer side, calling consumers, you know, occasionally we would have trials or court hearings or things along those lines, but I started working on a file at a very, very young age and in that firm, there was about 35 lawyers, and we covered the state of Michigan,
you know, Norther n and upper peninsula, right. So the, the the min and the upper. And so
it was really interesting about that experience was to watch how the explosion from because commercial was where you made your money back then.
But today, it’s on the consumer side, you can still make good money on the commercial side, don’t get me wrong, it’s bigger paths a little bit longer, probably needs a little bit more of a legal stream, but the commercial side to watch it explode. And eventually it eclipsed what we were doing in commercial revenue, which was which, which was amazing to see. Because we’re, you know, we weren’t set up to be able to do that and sell to the
Lex Patterson 5:44
consumer, you watch the consumer side explode that yes, good part of that.
Tim Collins 5:48
Because, you know, we had the SNL failure in there for some of those, you know, listeners that are gonna remember that, and debt started to be sold like it hadn’t been sold before. Okay. And that really sort of exploded, we still had, you know, the creditors, telco was exploding because everybody had a phone. And, you know, there was hundreds of dollars to collect on those old bag phones.
And all that stuff with the crank on the side, as I’ve tried
Barbara can you, plugged me through. And
it wasn’t that bad, but it was pretty good. Felt pretty close. But it was just interesting to watch that evolution in a law firm. And then I left that law firm to go to another law firm. And interestingly enough, they were doing more revenue. With, we had 35 lawyers at the first firm at the second firm, we had three and even doing more revenue. And the biggest difference was they were one focused only on consumer. And number two is they were they were technologically driven. So when you came there, you had to have a pager, which everybody had, you had to have a car phone was a requirement. And so they gave you one, but their system was computer system. And in the old days, we used to use, you know, index cards, right?
Lex Patterson 7:00
ledger card, yeah, the ledger cards? Absolutely. Yeah,
Tim Collins 7:03
it went right, that leap in technology way back then to be in the whole computer, my wife and I go, where’s all the files, and they had already had stuff electronic, it was already set up, they had already started scanning documents, which was very cost prohibitive back then, and they were using fax machines to do it. Because it was a cheaper scanner, you could scan it to create a file. Yeah, sure. Yeah. So. So they figured out that they didn’t want paper, they were so advanced that they refuse to take payments, if you tried to walk in and take all the payments had to be mailed in. And they had a very simple website to be able to use, which didn’t get a lot of payments at that time. But it was all customers, you know, calling in or sending in checks. And so yeah, stacks of checks would just come in would just be amazing to see. So that was the first real taste of, of technology. And the full force multiplier. It really is. Yeah, that if you bring in technology can do some things that really accelerate growth, increase efficiency and effectiveness. Yeah, yeah. And so from there, I went to a debt buyer. I was West capital when I got there, which was then acquired by Midland cap, Midland, credit management, and now encore capital in the, you know, publicly traded and big company that it is today. And so I got to be able to go there. And see from the agency side of the business, they didn’t have a litigation stream at that time. And one of the reasons I was brought in was to be able to help them build that litigation stream. So here’s, here’s a big agent, here’s a, here’s a big debt buyer, there was only doing agency work internal. And outsourcing wasn’t very sophisticated at the time, but that just grew legal. So there has to be a legal channel, you have to have it for subset of customers. And so up until that that piece, but really to watch how they use data. This is before machine learning. This is way before you were looking at just raw data and doing analytics and things like how many times do you call a phone number before you stop calling it? In the old days? Nobody thought that way? Really up? Just keep calling until the answer? Yeah, right. Yeah, they did the analysis that said, you know, after X number of phone calls, it is a waste of time, a complete waste of time to keep calling. And so that created some efficiencies. So now you’re not just dialing a bunch of phone numbers in a matter or worse yet, dialing phone numbers are gonna lead to litigation. Right. And gray suits? Yeah, yeah. Yeah, absolutely. So I was there for, you know, just over three years, almost four years, and I got an opportunity to go become a general counsel, which my mentor at the time was the General Counsel at Encore. Her name was Robin Pruitt. And I said so, so prepare me for this GC role. And she said, Tim, it’s like being on the top of Mount Everest. And I’m like waiting for the punch line. She goes totally naked. I’m like, Okay, there’s gotta be something she goes, the good news is, if you’re good at your job in about a year, you’ll have a loincloth. What am I doing? She goes, everybody’s gonna be coming to you for answers. And there’s going to be, you know, it’s a whole different experience of being in a law firm, you know, to being part of a legal team in house to now be in the top person. And so she goes, if anything, creates some pause, and some space to think, and really think about it. So had that transition from debt buyer now into an agency when that, and that, that served me very, very well. It’s like, we don’t need to make fast decisions. But we do need to make decisions and not making a decision is a decision. Right? And so applying that was able to grow, I was there nine years, I was able to grow that business, I think, you know, well over 600 collectors, we’re 135 collectors and I came on board well over 600 After I left in the in the revenue and going through the clients change, because remember, this is pre CFPB. But but it’s but it’s coming down, and then yeah, it goes up, and now they’re covering debt collection, but you don’t have examinations or any of that stuff yet. And we saw a lot of agencies just decided to close up shop, you know, sort of that fear of, well, I’m gonna have to hire a bunch of compliance people, it’s gonna eat into my profits. And, you know, that’s not what we want to do. It’s not the business we want to be in. So we saw our first real consolidation. Yeah, of agencies during that time. So
fast forward from there, I got an opportunity to kind of see where the puck was going. Right. It’s a Wayne Gretzky, you never went to where the puck was, he only got that thing was going. And, you know, where was going with compliance? So I actually took a step back, right, I was the top person General Counsel, you know, had staff, you know, 600 employees significant revenue, to take a step back, and I became director of compliance. At Hyundai, capital, America, which is my creditor experience, RV was, you know, as ready for a change, I wanted to see what it was like on that creditor experience. You know, I wanted to try something different. And I really wanted to get into compliance, because I knew that’s what the CFPB was gonna force everybody to do. And so was able to set up their compliance program from an operational perspective. You know, I have the law degree, and I can read the statute, and lawyers do this. Well, and they tell you what the statute says. But then it’s like, how do you take that information and apply it to business in real life? And you have various lawyers, which are, well, if you want to avoid risk, don’t do this, this, this, this and this, and you realize, well, there’s nothing for us to do. Because we can’t do anything. Right. Right. Right. Yeah. And so it’s like it comes down to risk. And really understanding what that what those with those risks were in. So I was able to help build that risk based program there for them. So and had my first exposure to the CFPB. Because we were not regulated by the CFPB. But we were still covered by the Department of Justice. So the CFPB came in via the Department of Justice. So I get to go to Washington and, and meet the CFPB. And I’ll tell you one thing that really shocked me, because you asked about Yeah, yeah, yeah. The CFPB is made up of a bunch of human beings, just like all of us. Right. Wow. Cutting edge.
Lex Patterson 13:37
Back then. Right. Right. The
Tim Collins 13:39
crash it happened. We’ve come to the other side, there was corduroy was out there. Everybody saw him with a cape or something. You know, and, you know, the vision laser, visual laser eyes? Yeah, yeah, there was none of that these were just people trying to do their job, right, based on the information that I had. So I realized that in engaging in the regulatory environment, it’s it’s about building a relationship, just as it is in sales, just as it is in with your employees just with everything else. So I made it a point to be going out to DC at least once a quarter and sitting down with folks and made that part of what I call my practice. So I was very involved with the CFPB became, you know, a resource that they could go to, and I could tell them exactly how it is because they were just trying to figure this stuff out. Just like we were Yeah, you know, and so in, where was the risk? And how could they could protect consumers. And I don’t want to talk about politics about any of that other stuff, but it’s still at the end of the day, there’s just people in there trying to try to do the best job they can, and we can help them do that. Right. So that was a that was a tremendous learning for me. And so you’ll see that through the rest of my career because it provides an opportunity in the future. So after after Hyundai was there for three years, they changed CEOs every year, every three years. And so they brought in a new CEO who was less focused on compliance, and I’ve gotten what I needed. I thought that creditors had all their stuff together. Shocker, they do not. They’re just like everybody else. And so they needed their their areas of opportunity and that stuff and and I got a I got a tremendous opportunity to go over to converge in outsourcing. Michael Meyer was there is their CEO, I’d known him for years and, you know, a lunches leadership and really wanted to go work for him and his team. So came on board. It was fascinating came on board in September. And by October 31 Halloween day, on Halloween day, we got the notice from the CFPB that they were coming to do an examination. I mean, he could not have picked it up because people were accusing me of, you know, of leaving them, right. I could have gone. Listen, guys, I could be closer, because the auto industry wasn’t regulated that I can be closer to it. And here it is Halloween day one, they call us 1020. So so they call onto our floor, trying to see to try to get in touch. And they I was in the office that day and and I took that call and I know you guys can pick the better day and they go we thought it was kind of funny. Yeah, yeah. Here’s a Halloween day CFPB guide. So that was my first exposure. And in the midst were being acquired, you know. So shortly thereafter, we got an offer to be acquired. And we were going through that acquisition. And so it was there was a lot of stuff that was going on in the CPU was It was first contact, first official contact. And the thing that set me up lacks was that I already had relationships there at the CFPB. Yeah, different groups, you know, but it was still it was still people that have served in the CFPB. So that was tremendously helpful. We go through those exams go through another exam. And I’m actually sitting in Sacramento when coronaries, announcing the new FDCPA rule. Right. Yeah. Right. And who’s in the audience there, but Oh, hot, from two accord. And so we started having this conversation about technology and customer and mission and that kind of stuff. And, and I know no HOD before, I never met him face to face, but I would not have been in Sacramento if it weren’t for the CFPB being in Sacramento. Well, you know, to make this announcement, and that’s, you know, I didn’t know where Ohad was, you know, at the time, but he was in San Francisco, and so gave me a chance to bump into him and have a conversation and really had kind of been falling into record we all had, you know, but nobody was doing business the way that they were doing. And so go back to my you know, life at that convergent and got an opportunity to jump over and help do something. You know, that was more mission driven. Convergent, great company, strong ethics, great leadership, you know, solid foundation, you know, and I was able to build that help build that solid foundation. But I really wanted that mission driven in my life.
Lex Patterson 18:00
So when you say when you say mission driven, what are you talking about there? What, what, what was different about the mission with true accord? Right?
Tim Collins 18:11
Yes, yeah. Great, great question. So it comes back down to I think values, two philosophies that I’ve always, you know, they’ll live by the key one being, I always wanted to leave the place better than I found it, you know, so you go to a conference room and you put the chairs back when you’re done and make sure the whiteboards cleaned up, but go that extra step? You know, is there anything that’s needed in that room and that kind of stuffs that mentalities have been built into my core? You know, by my parents, it was always like, how can we make this industry better? Yeah. Right. And so every those one of those touch points, whether it’s debt buyer, creditor side, you know, agency, and now here is, you know, to a chord, which is mission driven, because they’re focused on the customer, customer being the consumer. I didn’t use the word debtor, the words not used. They use the word consumer. And so it’s treating people, everybody goes into the world. We’re all debtors, if you got a mortgage, you’re a debtor. Right, you got a car loan, you’re a debtor. Right? That just means you’re in debt, by definition. Yeah. But it’s a derogatory term. And so it was moving from that to say, like, we’re gonna be focusing on the customer. And the consumer, we use customer Now, interestingly enough, that indebted that’s why I keep going back to that, but we were using consumer at that time and focusing on the consumer, how do you communicate with them? How do they want to be communicated with what can we do to make that experience frictionless, those kinds of things, and that really became what that that focus was, it was my first experience with mission driven, and it’s become a part of my core because when you have a mission, you know, people will go to the ends of the earth when you have a job. They’ll work nine to five right? So in those early days, a true accord we were we were growing that company, you know tremendously revenue was doubling every year. You know, clients were tripling, you know, it was just in size and scope and, and stuff. So it was you had some 16 hour days, and nobody thought of it is really work. Yeah, it was really a great experience in a way to try to change this whole industry as a whole. Yeah. And sounding
Lex Patterson 20:20
mission driven. Yeah. And and when you and I talked before to one of the other things I guess this stood out to me is, and you touched on it there a little bit, but I want you to go more into it is the you mentioned debt being a derogatory term. And, you know, was there anything in that journey? Because when we were talking before, I think you mentioned something about the psychology of debt and understanding how that can affect people?
Tim Collins 20:47
Yes. Yeah. So you know, and it’s interesting now, from a global perspective, it’s, it’s all the same around the world, and I’ll come back to that piece. But for a lot of people debt become shame and shame driven. And the problem with that is, is it does some stuff in our brains, right? And we have, you know, there’s a great book out there on scarcity mind. And when you have a lot of debt, and you’re trying to make everything work, what ends up happening is you spend a lot of time spinning your brain on how am I going to make the payments? And that doesn’t leave a lot left over for other things. Like, okay, how do I create savings, or what’s the smartest thing to pay off, you know, most consumers in debt that they’re having debt collection calls, will pay the person that pays them, who calls them at the right time, not necessarily the right debt, which is the highest interest rate, or the one that can help you get it, you know, cheaper credits later on, there’s none of that thinking. It’s just about right time, right place, right communication channel, whatever it is. And so that’s one of the impacts of being in debt in a significant way, that definitely impacts the brain. And then, in some countries, you know, like, in I was noticing in Singapore, when I was reading their statutes there, you can use that to shame people, nobody wants to know that they’re in debt, Oh, listen, we all are. But in Singapore, you can send four people to somebody’s house. And they can all be wearing, you know, Pochard cards that say you’re in debt, and here’s your URL, and you’re not paying your bills and stuff. So, shame is a key key elements of it. And when we when we get into shame, so it’s that behavioral economics. And when we get into that, you know, some people will just they want to pay. But because of the shame, they don’t think they can, they don’t want to have a conversation, they want to be in control, if they do, and they know if they pick up a phone, they’re not going to be. So the digital strategy is not just because the technology is available in the reg F is signed off on it. But from a human perspective, if I feel like it can contain pain control, I have a better chance of actually resolving that or engaging in that or taking that first step. So there’s all this, you know, psychological stuff that goes on along with it. And that’s the way to be thinking about that. And that’s why focusing on that consumer, that customer is so important. And that’s why it was so important for me to get that insight. We, you know, we did and we spend so much time focusing on our clients, and we, and we look at how do we contact consumers when we want to contact them, which is when between the hours of 9am and 5pm, Monday through Friday, right? We’ll do before a little bit after but nobody wants to work those hours. And it’s difficult to get people to work those hours. So but what about when the customer wants? You know, yeah, and we’re, and, you know, for us, you know, indebted pivoting up to indebted now. Stay mission focused, you know, focus on the customer, and I get to build on the customer side. So I’m moved over, I still have compliance and operations, I mean, legal, and compliance. But now I have this operational element where it’s my core title is Chief Customer Officer, I am focused on the customer means we got to do a compliantly we got to do it legally. We want to do it in a way that’s impactful for you, you know that you’re able to engage. And if you ask my team, they will tell you, Tim standard is we are going to delight customers that are in depth delight. Yeah, because if we can delight them, then the CPB is not a problem. Right. Your clients are happy, because those customers are going to be you know, paying off their debts with you there. There’s not gonna be complaints, if anything, they might want to try to create a CFPB compliment line. I mean, where’s that lacks? We haven’t seen we see a complaint line but where’s the compliment line? Yeah, no, really, that’s, you know, a still something that’s missing at the CFPB. But that’s now that direction that hyper focused on on customer and that’s sort of that that journey that I’ve got there compressed, obviously from there. Yeah.
Lex Patterson 24:57
Yeah, I just really appreciate you telling that story, before we leave that topic and talking about indebted and that you were mentioning to about, you know, you touched on the delight and the the shift in in all of that. But you also mentioned about going to more of an open banking model to the Hammond so payments don’t bounce and all that. Tell us more about that.
Tim Collins 25:24
Yeah, that’s a great thank you like, because that’s that focuses on the customer. Right? Right. So if we have tools now that are open banking, you may have used them, I may have used them plaids, one of them out there, trust me is another, there’s all these companies out there that allow you to connect, not your bank account, so I don’t have to get out my, my you know, I don’t have to get on my check and put in my checking information, I just need to know my username and password for Chase has a great example. If I have that. Now, I can tie in my my banking information or my credit information or credit cards or any of that stuff. All in one fell swoop. Right? Okay, so let’s say you come out to and, and, and you you have a debt, and you want to pay it and you don’t have your debit card with your or your or your your credit card with you, you don’t have your checking information. As long as you have a user ID and password for whatever website you want to use whatever your bank is, boom, you’re automatically reduce the friction. The next piece that gives me is depending upon, you know, the terms of service and your acceptance and all that other stuff consent, you know, full disclosure, transparency breeds trust, right? You give us access, we can, we can see whether you have enough money in your account to run that transaction. So let’s say you have a $500 debt, and you’re paying it off and and you’ve got you know, $100 payment coming up on this Friday. And today’s Thursday, we can go out through open banking and say just is can can will this transaction pass yes or no? And when the old days, what do we do? We would call the customer up and say, Hey, will the money clear? If it was big enough? Now today, you can do it in an automated fashion? So if it’s Yes, no problem, it goes through the customer doesn’t know any different and there they go on with their business, they pay it off. Let’s say it’s now it’s a no, there’s a likelihood it’s not going to pass, save only got 90 bucks in there, we don’t know when your official pay date is. So we can figure it out. That’s more of a gig economy for you, then we could easily set up a system that sends you a text message, an email that says, hey, looks like this transaction is not going to run be able to clear we’re going to delay the payment three days. So we’re not going to run it on Monday, you know, on Friday, okay, we’re not gonna run it on Saturday or Sunday, we’re thinking about running it on Monday, give you a chance to get some money in there, maybe some money will be coming in or whatever we want to make sure stuff clears. Imagine what that experience is now like the customer? Yeah, that would be delightful. Here. I’ve got somebody who’s actually looking after me. Because if we if not, and I run that transaction, it bounces, it bounces they get charged an NSF fee. Right, not for me, but they get charged by their bank, you know? And then what do I have to do I have this transaction, which I told the client I ran. But now I didn’t run it, you know, cuz it I did run it, but it didn’t actually clears now I have an NSF. So I have to go and reconcile, where if I can eliminate all of that, you know, from a back office perspective, I don’t have to worry about reconciliation, though it’s, um, I’m going to tell my clients money or theirs when the money is actually there. And it actually clears and we ran that transaction. Yeah, that’s customer focused, right? That’s the lighting your customer. And it’s finding, it’s finding all of those opportunities. And there’s so many other, you know, pulling all of your accounts together in one easy platform. So you can figure stuff out, you know, and calculate, I want to put $20 here and $50 over here, and I want to pay all these off, versus I got a call every time to figure out it every time I call Oh, you want to talk to the chase counting to transfer you over to somebody else, and you start all over, that authenticates, and you’ve got that experience not delightful at all. That’s current experience to something like open banking. So, you know, thank you for bringing me back. That’s a way to like because some people may be in the audience thinking, what does he mean by the light? Yeah, that’s an example of where we can do that. Yeah.
Lex Patterson 29:17
Yeah. Well, I appreciate you sharing that story. You know, because I mean, there’s so many good things about that, you know, your journey, the things you learned some of the things that you surprised you with it, the psychology of debt, you know, and the knee and the need that we have to better understand that component in how we interact with the consumer with each other. You know, it’s just people helping people, which is such a big reason why I’ve got the podcast going, you know, it’s the whole gets the whole spirit of the Kindred force move, never tried to create here. So thank you for sharing that. Yeah. And what struck me and why I’m so excited about today, too, is you know, we’ve all heard a lot about digital strategy. Geez. And I thought, man, if there’s somebody that can help me break this down into ways that I believe maybe the audience will, it, maybe it’ll cause that shift, where and you mentioned it even in your lead, and you know, to pause for a minute or slow down and look at this a little bit differently. I thought, Tim, you know, you’re the guy, you know. So I’m just so excited. And when we spoke before, on a brainstorming call, you said something that kind of took me back. And I want to share that with the audience, you said, a lot of people are so focused on the newer, sexy technology, that it’s easy to take our eye off the ball in terms of fundamentals. So what do you mean by that?
Tim Collins 30:42
Yes. You know, we live in this world now, where there’s technologies coming out faster and faster. And a lot of stuff, as we’re seeing today is around machine learning. And artificial intelligence is a great example, which is a great tool. It’s super sexy, right? You know, but at the end of the day, it we need to be focusing on those fundamentals. And what are those fundamentals from the customer perspective? So even if we took a step back and said, Let’s just look at an email, right? We want to email customers, because that’s what customers want. And if you look at most agencies, they’re sending out emails. But you don’t have the ability to reply to that. It says you cannot reply to the email. Now the agencies that because the agencies want calls, they’re set up for calls. So they send out a bunch of emails, and they hope people will call them back. Text messaging does it even more effectively. So we send out text messages, nobody wants text messages coming back, they want inbound phone calls, and it can be very, very effective in driving inbound phone calls. But a fundamental shift in your thinking would be if we send out emails, do we need to talk to them? Can they go self serve? Could they reply back to us in an Email? Text messaging is in the same way? They would if we set it up on text, you know, it’s got to be legal and compliance, talk to your doctor, legal folks about that. But said, press, you know, reply, one, if you want to make a payment provide to if you want to do a dispute or something on so you give them the opportunity to actually engage with you. So it comes back to lakhs. We can, you can, you can send out emails, but if you don’t have a web portal, you know, that’s frictionless, easy to use, then you’re missing the boat. And that’s the fundamental piece. And it’s that shift in mentality from what do I need to drive inbound phone calls, which is what we’ve done. You know, since everybody had a landline, you know, credit exploded as soon as we got landlines. Why, because we could call people collect the money. Instead of having to go door to door huge shift, then we had an auto dial and all that other stuff. This is a fundamental shift that says, We don’t want people to call us. We want people to self serve. And the way to self serve, is to do it. Web portal website, something along those lines. Yeah. So
Lex Patterson 33:14
So here’s what I’m thinking, okay. And this is where we got to break it down, right. And so I’m a listener, right? And I’m thinking, Well, yeah, Tim, but I’ve got a website. I’ve got a website. And you know, I take I have a place online where I can take payments. What do you say to that? Break it down here for?
Tim Collins 33:35
Now? I say, that’s great. That’s a great start. Have you ever done a payment on them? And their response is No. Or that payment portal was not built by us. It’s somebody is off the shelf. And they may be not bashing on anybody, particularly, but I like it may be a letter vendor, that’s actually your payment portal, right? Why does that make sense? So I can understand why they’ve consolidated but until you’ve had that actual experience and gone through it until you have plus 50% of your payments coming on your payment portal. You’re not there yet. Right? Because there’s just so much friction. And one of the things I want to talk about is a prime example on a payment portal. When we go to log in, right, the customer gets there, they’re engaging, they want to pay, right, they’re excited. They got, they got the check, and they’ve got their information. They’re all ready to go. And on question number 12 for authentication right there like I’m done, because, you know, they don’t have that kind of time. So, authentication on a website needs to be much faster, much simpler, ask them for certain information and move along. And the really, really good agencies. This is a secret, because there’s some secret sauce here. They have guest payments. They have a guest payment option because they’re so excited and want you to give them information. So if you don’t have your website number which by the way, the only place you probably have your reference number is on a letter that you got, that you probably threw away or the dog ate, or you don’t even know where it’s at. So the first thing we’re asking you is, please send to your reference number, and it has to be the agency’s reference number, not the original creditors reference number, none of that stuff, not the hospital invoice, which you may have none of that if that agency’s reference number, right. So you have to have that information. Otherwise, you’re blocked. Or let’s say, you know, this is one of my favorites. It, let’s say it’s like the, you have to put in the last four years. So that’s fair. Right? Right. But if you look at your system, and there’s a bunch of accounts that don’t have a social in it, there is no way they’re gonna authenticate. So there’s no way that that customer wants to pay you, which remember, we talked about they want to be in control, we want to avoid that chain, that psychology, there’s no way they can even pay you. So now they’re completely blocked. But if you open up the guest payment channel, right, you can get enough information from the customer where they fill it in, so you can least figure out who it is. And you’re, they’re required to give you information. So you can contact them, just in case you can’t find them. So phone number information gives you a phone number, email, you know, you can ask for consent to send them a text, a confirmation text, great way to capture consent. Now you send them a confirmation text to make sure that that’s actually their phone number, confirm your email address something that we’re all used to, you build in all that stuff into that process. And now you’ve got guest payments turned on. Now you’ll see somewhere in the neighborhood, you know, based upon the numbers that I’ve seen so far 33 to 36% of the people will make a one time payment as a guest payment. And then they may even have the reference number they just know it is easier from a friction perspective, but then to be able to do it.
Lex Patterson 36:52
So So then here’s a question. While we’re on that, then. So let’s say you’ve got these 36% of the people making these guests payments. What about on the back end? Like is there a problem trying to line that up? Do you have any info on that or any experience with what that looks like?
Tim Collins 37:07
Yeah, I mean, if the customer gives you enough information, you can figure out a name and address or probably not helpful. Name is helpful for sure. But address not so much, you know, consumers and moving fast enough, maybe a zip code for some, you know, for for verification, but today’s technology, the you can pretty much figure out who somebody is based upon their phone number. Okay, how are you talking about what account to apply it to. So maybe you have to create that feeling needs to go to my Chase account, or whatever other accounts or whatever it may be. But most of the time, on the back end, you have enough data sets, I need three data sets. And I can pretty much lock you in and notice it. Let’s say I don’t, let’s say don’t have that capability. I have the communication channel, and you already paid me. It’s much better to have a conversation Customer Care conversation, where you can reach back out and say, Hey, we got your payment. But I really want to when you want to get to this apply to the right account. Can you provide me some additional information? Yeah, they gave me the ability to email them or text them, you could send that to them in a text. Yeah. So and yeah. So that conversation, you go from collections to customer care? So
Lex Patterson 38:15
yes, great. So let’s back up a bit. But even before that, though, okay, so a lot of people and this is the thing that I’ve seen, is I poked around a little bit with this, and with my experience in this, you know, realm to is. So you go you, you go to the you go to the website, and typically what’s happening is they’re directing them to their website that has the payment pieces, maybe right up in the right hand corner, make a payment, you know, you’re seeing stuff about trying to attract clients, you’re seeing, you know, who the agency is, or, you know, let’s talk for a minute about, you know, eliminating friction from that point. I think that’s just such a big piece to this, you know, rice, rice, things have changed so much because I read Tim somewhere that there’s something like, you have 12 seconds to try and capture that, yes, this this website, because we’re, we don’t read anymore. We scan or hitting a website, we say, Oh, is this gonna solve my problem? In 12 seconds? Where’s that? No, I can’t make payment. I’m out, you know, right. Talk about that.
Tim Collins 39:24
Yeah. You know, Lex, thanks for taking us even a step back. You know, because I’ve been so used to in the last six years being focused on customer and consumer, right, that that you forget, if you look, most agencies have one website. I don’t know why. It’s not like it’s $10 million to set up a website, right. We could spend what up on the during the middle of this podcast, and it can look pretty decent. Yeah, they have one website and it’s focused on their clients. So it comes in there and it’s like we collect better, we collect compliantly you know, we’ll get you more money. There’s a nice picture of the office and some cubes and everybody, you know, with their hands up and stuff. And so you’re right. A customer comes on board. And that’s the first thing they see. Right? And they’re like, Okay, well, how do I make a payment? And if you look, most of the time, whenever I talk to agencies, I go show me your, your, your payment portal, they still get back me up, how did you get there, and you go out in this beautiful site for clients, but in the upper right hand corner, it says make a payment. Right? Not the key piece.
Lex Patterson 40:30
Yeah. So is that a client payment is that
Tim Collins 40:33
they don’t even they don’t even know. So if you can easily look at your abandonment rates, the majority of our the majority of our business is not coming from websites for client. That’s not how you that’s going to be building relationships, doing demos, you know, having meetings at you know, conferences, and that kind of stuff. That’s how you’re going to get it that made they go may go onto your website, to see something but they should have their own commercial online. So build a separate website, where the reasons you want to do this too, is because in the website world, people never take stuff off their website, they just keep adding more and more onto it to eventually become so slow to load. So if your website takes 12 seconds to load, that customer is done. And I would tell you that 12 seconds is a luxury, it’s probably somewhere around three, three and a half seconds. If it takes longer than that, in this highly distracted world. Yeah, people are just going to move on. And so you missed out on that opportunity. So
Lex Patterson 41:28
yeah, so yeah, so the key point here really is landing pages really. So we want to we want to tailor that experience to be what the audience that we’re directing to that particular space, to serve them the very best we can the most frictionless efficient way. So same thing on the clients really to, you know, you want to have a place where the clients don’t have to wade through a bunch of stuff that isn’t relevant to them, you know, heights. And through landing pages, you know, you can have one site, but they all kind of could interweave in different ways. And some of them won’t even connect those pages won’t even connect but a landing pages is really, I think, where it’s at when it comes to that. Right. So that was kind of the key point with that. Yeah,
Tim Collins 42:10
yeah, absolutely. It’s where do you get your money from? And some people will say, Well, I always get it from our clients, and I go, not unless the customer pays us. So if you’ve got a if you’ve got a website, right, it needs to be mobile first. Not even mobile ready, we’re past that standard. Now, I don’t know about you, but don’t tell I’m really on computers for work, but anything, personal stuff, it’s all being done by a mobile device. So and it needs to be come driven, you have to be able to hold it in one hand, and to drive with your thumb. So if you’re going to have a website, one website, then you need to have two buttons on that front page. Customers,
Lex Patterson 42:47
they need to be big bucks. For the mobile, you know, yeah.
Tim Collins 42:52
Mobile apps, if you’re if you’re going to go down that path does evil, I would say be radical. Radical here is create a completely different site for the customer. Yeah, because if your client site gets bulky, because you’re putting white papers out there, and pictures and stuff, that’s great that the clients will mind as much, but you want to be you want to be watching every single time something changes on your website, you want to be testing it at least monthly to be able to say, is this thing loading under four seconds? If not, you’re missing out on revenue. And that’s what it means to be the focus on the on the customer. So but most of it is lost in its last, you know, in the client gauge. So thanks for
Lex Patterson 43:33
Yeah, so we’re kind of, we’re kind of talking and I want to go beyond payments here in just a minute. But I want to kind of recap. So we’re talking about, you know, making this experience. So it’s more of a of an inbound Well, I wouldn’t even say it’s inbound, it’s meeting them where they want to meet you. Right. And I think when we talked before, Tim, you had mentioned some statistics around the number of calls, outbound calls, either well, either outbound or inbound, I guess, calls that agents are making. So you know, this digital idea, then kind of encapsulate that maybe in that’s what I’m trying to, you know, because I think there’s a lot of confusion about this. What is this? Right? What’s the strategy here? How do I know if Digital’s gonna work for me?
Tim Collins 44:18
Right? Great question. The you know, the way we always think about it in the past was what you know, right party contacts, average handle times you know, inbound from outbound made to be inbound in all that kind of stuff. And that still is at its core, but you’re looking at it from a little bit different perspective. He needed to start looking, you know, adding on different metrics like self serve, channels, the choice, you know, all the other steps, you can dive down deeper into the data. You know, as an example, that indebted we’re 90. We’re about 99.9% email. That’s our main communication channel. We make zero outbound phone calls unless you’re asking As to call you back, we have 96% of the people in our that come to our platform self serve. Right? So they can make their payments, they can, you know, follow up on accounts, they can do some of those things that’s they’re allowed to self serve. Right. And so we’ve since we’re not, you know, sending out 99.9% emails, we get 50% of the people that are engaging with us are responding to us via email. Remember, that’s only 4%. Right? Or they’re, they’re actually contacting us driving some sort of inbound is 44%. Half of that group is going to be it’s going to be emails, because that’s the channel we chose to email. And then why do we choose Email emails expected? You know, it’s used to it’s built, people want to say set up the financial stuff to begin with, you know, so that’s the norm. But we do like text messaging, where is where we text message, way more effective. The United States, it’s difficult to text message with TCPA mainly be around clients and capturing replication and stuff. But but so 90, you know that 96% 50% of them are responding to us via email about 45% are responding to us via web chat. That means they’re on our website, right? And they want to engage with us and there’s chat in our chat is not bot our chat is live. So we’re we’re an agency, that’s 20 477 days a week. Because we’re global, we have to be right. So we have agents that are on licensed and pretty much every jurisdiction where you’re allowed to that are there to answer web chats, answer emails, answer text messages, you can text us, you can send a text or 800 number and it will come through, right because we know that some people are just going to text because they don’t want to do anything else. So we respond back, we do not make outbound phone calls. But I’ll tell you this, the number of people who call us is less than 3%. So what that should tell the audience is, nobody wants a phone call. The phone number is on all of our communication. Every single email we go out to it’s prominently displayed on the website. It’s there, they don’t want to talk on the phone. So if it’s numbers that’s small, it’s like, Okay, we have to meet them where they want to be met.
Lex Patterson 47:19
Yeah. Okay. So a couple questions there one, email versus text, and you mentioned the problems around text. But do you think with the new ruling, regulation F, do you think you think that’s going to open some of the doors there at all, either with either one of those texts or email? What’s your thoughts on that,
Tim Collins 47:38
Tim? Why we just did a webinar, where we asked the audience and 84% came back, so they’re already using email. So I think there’s a significant number of people that are using email, how they’re using it is they using it for cost savings or communication tool or tool to drive people to a website self serve, that’s open for engagement, I would probably say most are trying to use it as a cost saver. More sophisticated ones are trying to use it as a tool for engagement. 74% of the participants wanted to expand the use of SMS text messaging, in 2022. So there’s this huge desire to go there. Right, and REG F is clear about it, they say, Look, if you want to see harbor from third party disclosure, you know, if you’re going to text, scrub, scrub those make sure those numbers are still good, valid numbers. But that’s not the elephant in the room. Right? The big elephant in the room with with text messaging is the TCPA. And there’s still a lot of litigation, you know, as it relates to that in that space, especially as relates to text. So what really needs to happen is come back and capture that consent, make it easy for those customers to text you. Right? Put a shortcode on your website, you know, say hey, Texas if you want questions or whatever, and then you can capture consent, you know, in that process and confirm phone numbers and do all that other stuff that you can do. And now you’ve got consent, and that opens up that door. Plus it tells you that’s the way they want to communicate. So go communicate with them the way they want it to communicate their texting with you. Yeah. So okay,
Lex Patterson 49:12
so, so let’s say, yeah, you piqued my interest here, you know, and I’ve been looking at this anyway, but I’m a little bit afraid, you know, because I’ve got this revenue stream going and I’ve got these accounts, and how do I know if email and, and digital is right for me? And I guess more specifically to break this down even further is should we be looking at the type of debt type of accounts like walk us through the types of accounts that are maybe more more of a candidate for the digital strategy and the ones that maybe aren’t?
Tim Collins 49:44
Yes, absolutely. I think, you know, the more complex issue is, it’s still right for humans, right. So some of that could be you know, around house federal debt, I would say auto deficiency is probably the one that pops to mind. Because for a lot of consumers, their car’s gone. Right? And now you’re, now you’re emailing about a debt. So that looks like a scam. You know, it’s because every time I get I mean, I get calls all the time to extend my warranty, you know, on a, on a car I haven’t had for years. So, but there’s GAP insurance, and there’s, you know, understanding what happened at the sale, and why do they still owe. So there’s a lot of touch points that have to happen when you have something like an auto deficiency, it could be the same with hospital, which, especially if you that, that’s just a go in for a cold, or something along those lines, but you’ve had major massive, you know, surgery or something very significant. And there’s, you know, who’s this doctor, and you don’t even know who all the players are, and now you’re getting billed by them, right. So that can be I need to understand, so where the more complex it is, the more difficult it is, at this time. To do it digitally by itself, doesn’t mean you can layer digital in there, that just the expectation is you’re gonna have to have on the backend, ready for phone calls, they’re gonna come in so on, especially on all the deficiencies that is not necessarily ripe, just to be able to do an email response, how do you explain GAP Insurance? Or deficiency balance? Just an email alone? You know, it’s nuanced. And that’s really where those agents, so agents aren’t going away.
Lex Patterson 51:23
Okay, so, so complexities one key, how about balance, I mean, are you or even different, I mean, you touched on a little bit of type of debt, you know, maybe different types of medical, but his balance play into this as it is economy of scale there a little bit talk about that,
Tim Collins 51:38
I mean, it can, it really comes back down to the creditor. So we look at customer engagement all day long, that’s what we care about, right? So, so much so that we have the we can take a $5 payment, or five pounds, or five Australian dollars, or five Canadian lumens, whatever that is, we’ve added set that low not because we make money off of that transaction, but because it’s driving engagement. So when you get the smaller balances, almost have to be digital, because you can make phone calls and send letters on them. So it’s right to take stuff, you know, we used to be in the old days, nobody corrected a balance under 100 bucks. You know, and that was a long time ago, when you know, you’re hoping to combine it with a bunch of other accounts, like in the medical bunch of co pays, you know, a bunch of other stuff, you put it all together, and then you know, you’ve got something to work with, you know, today in the digital environment, you know, with the price of an email, you can collect on anything, you know, $50 $25, you know, simple parking tickets, whatever that may be is now right for collection, that is easier. The higher balance stuff, the mortgage stuff, again, there adds a level of complexity. But it really comes down to with the credit rollout. So they will allow a certain payment amount in the lower that payment amount is the better you may have somebody on there who you know, owes $10,000 and wants to pay $25 a month. People like that’s just you can’t do that in the digital world. You can because you take the $25 because it’s engagement. And now you see okay, did the debt $25 Clear? Right? Is there now many times that it clear, okay, they’ve done three solid payments on 25 bucks a month, let’s move them up. And you have content that’s digitally ready to go to be able to help them move them up in content that says, hey, if you just paid $50 a month, you’ll pay it off in half the time and in money is money, right? So whether you’re collecting $100,000 off of 10,000 accounts, right, or $100,000 off of 100 accounts is the same amount of money. And so that’s what that digital allows you to do. So it’s but but if creditors want, Hey, it’s $10,000 I have to have a minimum of 1000. That’s much more difficult. That’s gonna be a harder sell to be able to do.
Lex Patterson 53:57
Okay, yeah. Okay. So one other question that went through my mind there too, in this whole digital thing. And this is just maybe a question. I don’t know if you have thoughts on this, but it occurred to me because I hear. So I want to go beyond payments. So when when I say that, I mean, you know, so I’m looking at this in terms of it’s hard to attract people to be collectors in the industry right now. That’s one of the hard things that’s going on. So we’re talking about fundamentals again, and I’m thinking about especially those small agencies that are trying to compete and so they’re going okay, we’ve talked about online payments, I got an idea about this, I can simplify some things on making this more frictionless and, and using a better approach to a landing page and, and making a payment easier and all that stuff. What about going beyond the payment and adding things like payment histories, disputes? The request to maybe get more information Should about the debt, you know, all of that stuff. In your experience, does that add friction back into the process? Or is that where it could go? Like, I guess it’s more and maybe maybe it’s already there. I know some, some people do some of that stuff. Just according to Tim, what do you what are your thoughts on that? Do you have any thoughts are? Yeah, stats or anything on that, that comes back to that. I know that one. I know that’s coming out of left field a little bit
Tim Collins 55:27
easier, he comes back to what we talked about earlier, if 3% of the people are calling you, right? You know, inbound in a digital world, that digital environment, you and they’re calling you, for one reason. That’s a failure on your ability to help themselves search. So 4%, for us is not the end all, I want to drive that number down to 1% or less, and find a way to do because I think that’s about the number of people that should be calling you or engaging with you, because they can’t find what they need. Okay, so I am not giving them the right content in an email, text message. They’re not finding the right information on the website. If they are, it’s not easy to find, you know, and there’s too much friction, the websites taking too long to load or something along those lines. So I. So next, it is very, very important to not just think of a payment portal as a as a website as a payment portal, thinking of it as an engagement portal. So how can you get that? Because, you know, what Google wants, and what everybody wants on a on a website is, is you to stay on their website for as long as possible engagement, right, which hopefully will then result in payment. And so how can you make that website more engaging mobile first, you know, engaging so that they’ll stay there. And so what are their needs? So as an example, if let’s just 23% of consumers are going to dispute, right? So they’re going to dispute by letter by email, or by phone call, when you call them speeding this debt, especially by phone call, probably even higher, if you looked at it by channel, I can’t go into some specific stats there. But it’s definitely higher. The people who are calling you it’s, it’s to complain, it’s, it’s so they’re frustrated, right? So there’s potentially a dispute. What if you could take that channel and have them do the whole dispute process? So now drop them onto a web portal, and your client requires these five pieces of information, which is what your agent has to type in? At 15 bucks an hour, you know, plus commission, yeah. And not on the phone, trying to close on deals. Now you can automate that whole process, the customer goes up to the portal, they’re now engaged. And they can file their dispute, which goes into an automatic form, and the back client gets notified. It’s beautiful. Yeah, yeah, that’s version one. You know, we’re looking at client comes here, and they want to see their documents before they pay. Their documents should be right there. So going to clients and saying, Yes, send us over that, you know, CSV file that you’ve been sending to us. But also send us the documents. And we want to tie those two together. So now that customer can self serve, because we’ve seen, you know, customers where you provide them the documentation, and you never talk to them, again, about just over 30% will pay on their own. Now imagine if you layered on top of that, hey, you got your documents? You know, do you have any questions and do a follow up in the channel that they choose, you can probably see those disputes where people thought was never going to be money, it was just people that don’t want to pay. Now, that’s not necessarily the case. You know, they don’t want to pay by phone, they don’t they want the documents before they will pay. They want to understand they’ve got some questions, you can answer that stuff. And you can see plus 70% that could easily be paying you they’re not paying you now. Yeah. And you can do it in a way that doesn’t. It adds some software costs and storage costs, but you don’t have to add people to do it. Yeah, we don’t have to do this process where once a week, I download all of our disputes to our client, and we get all the documentation and I bring it back and I I printed off, and I put it in an envelope, and I send it off to a customer. We don’t have to do any of that more. And that’s what really we need to be thinking about in this industry is like how do I put the customer in charge and make them fill out the form? Which the CFPB is putting the model notice, right? Yeah, by the way. And then once they fill out that form, you catch that information, you walk them down that engagement path. That’s called the customer journey, right? That customer experience. And that’s what we want to do in the more engaging keep on the website. So you should give him the ability to update their contact information doesn’t mean you automatically ingest it. It means you verify. It can be stones you got a new address, we’re going to verify it and once we verify what did your system, oh, you got a new email address. We just sent you an email, confirm that email address back, get a new phone number we sent you a text put in the five digit code, write all the things that we do today for E commerce already right needs to happen in this space. And customers will do it right they’ll absolutely do right and now you’ve got a really really good information because they’re giving it to you right you don’t even have to ask him for We missed out on that most people are focused on payment portals. They require blood type, shoe size. Before you can even put it up, you can even put in a payment information.
Lex Patterson 1:00:11
Yeah. Okay, something else. Here’s a here’s another key point to this, I want you to just touch on because I know it’s a big part we haven’t got there yet is the analytics of all this. Okay, so with digital, you know, and if we back up when we think about traditional math methods with phone in the snail mail and all that, you know. So, talk a little bit about the the ability with the analytics on, for instance, email, text would be another one, I think, probably I don’t know if it’s got quite as much built in there yet as email does. But just the ability to track make decisions, you know, the analytic part of all this that you can gain with digital, Tim, is, I guess, where I’m going with that.
Tim Collins 1:00:56
Yeah, I mean, the digital is built for data. So every platform that you’re probably using in the digital environment, say you’re sending out emails, most likely, you’ll use a system like Twilio, or which has SendGrid. And from the second, you load the email to the second it goes out, and you can watch everything that happens. Like if I mail you a letter, I have no idea if you ever get it, I do know if you don’t get it, because it comes back to me. Right? I never know, if you actually get it with an email, I can tell if it got delivered. And that’s so it actually made it into the mailbox, because they were for a while there, people were bashing, you know, the Postal Service and they can’t even deliver mail. Right, but we know it got to you. And we can help you opened it and click on a link, we can tell you the link. And if you click on that link, and you go to a web page, we can kind of watch you walk through that customer journey. And that’s data points all the time that we that we can get. And email addresses can change very, very quickly because they’re their email. But most consumers don’t change email addresses. And companies like Google, Yahoo, they don’t reuse an email address, like you could for a phone number. So if you’ve got somebody whose email address and they set up that account, more than likely, that is still their email. So
Lex Patterson 1:02:14
but yeah, and then, you know, that leads me to also just to mention, you know, when you’re thinking buy versus build, there’s a lot that goes into, you know, spam, the blocking of certain email addresses, if you’re masking email out of a certain address, I know they can get labeled as Sam, you know, so there’s a lot of reason to maybe think about a built solution there as opposed to try and building it yourself. Because there’s a lot of behind the scenes technology with that as well. So,
Tim Collins 1:02:46
right. I mean, it’s even, it’s even further than that, it’s like, if you’re going to do email, you really want to talk to somebody who understands email, deliverability, get that expertise, there’s whole companies that will do that, like are a lot of agencies that I talked to her, they know, we’re doing email, and I go, So walk me through it, I’m super excited, you’re using email, that’s awesome. They all we take our letters, and we PDF them. And then we put a password on it. And then we attach it to an email and off it goes. That’s not good. Yeah. You’re saving money, but you’re not necessarily, you know, getting the full value out of that digital strategy. And that really requires expertise. You know, and, and today, you can buy it very, very cheap. It’s like, in the old days, when we first set up cloud, cloud was very expensive, because it was so difficult to set up. You know, AWS came in and said, we’ll make this very easy, we’re just going to make it a product and use a whole team that can help you do whatever you want to do. And we’re not going to charge you for it. Because they make their money off of the storage, you know, this how much how much stuff, they want to make it easier for you to put stuff up there. Right? This like, it’s like, you want to make it so simple, that they’re going to use more of it. That’s why That’s why Apple on his phone or Android, you know, they make it so easy to take pictures, take as many pictures as you want just go crazy. And it was stored in one storage fills up, we can sell you a new phone and put it up into a cloud for you. And we can do it really. And it’s just 995 a month. It’s 10 bucks, you know, and so that’s really that, that that mentality, and you can buy those services out there for email or text messaging, and I highly recommend it get your toe in the water. Even, you know, we didn’t touch on too much by machine learning and artificial intelligence and that, yeah, don’t build it. Don’t build. It’s too expensive. It takes too long. If there’s so much requirements, is it right? If you’ve got millions of dollars, that 2,000,001 and a half $2 million, and you want to go build it because you’re bored, go do it. But otherwise, go go get the help that you that you can buy out there today. For people who have have been doing, it’s still a little bit of expensive. And if you don’t have a web portal that allows customers to do multiple things, you’re you’ve got the, you’ve got the cart in front of the horse, and we got to get things around.
Lex Patterson 1:05:12
Yeah. So I was reading this trend union study called the transition to the next normal. It was a study that commissioned in 2021, where they talked with over 150/3 party, debt collection agencies, and some 12 or so thought leaders. And one stat that jumped out at me in this study was that 71% of agencies reporting that processing of a payment by a live agent, is still the most frequently used method. And online portals came in second. And I was wondering, do you think that’s a result of maybe adoption rate on these verses? It’s gotta be right. I mean, you know, just maybe, maybe a lot of the smaller agencies haven’t adopted the right portal. Or maybe I guess the other thing is, is they’ve got that that archaic, a little bit, you know, with a payment clear up in the right hand corner. And if they really looked at their bounce rate, and how many people you’ve been hitting, or maybe they’re not directing them correctly to that. I mean, I guess those are thoughts on that, I just that that stat kind of jumped out at me when I saw it.
Tim Collins 1:06:17
Yeah, it’s different. So one of the things we talked to, you really want to look at that, that online self serve presence, right, because there’s even customers that you can talk to on the phone that don’t feel comfortable giving you information. And, and if you have the ability to send them a text, it puts them right on a portal, right on their payment on their phone, which they’ve already got their wallet on their phone, they’ve already got credit card saved in their, you know, in their browser, it’s much faster, you know, we use, we use a company called trata. In very early on, when we started running transactions, we watched a woman come in and do a payment transaction in 14 seconds. Wow. 14 seconds. And so one of the metrics that I’m driving my team, which is still gonna collect the revenue, but I want to see that website, you know, usage continue to go up. So yeah, we got 96% itself serve. But how do we continue to be able to drive that down as it relates to payments, we still take payments and other means, you know, but we want to drive all payments to that PCI certified compliance not us process. And how can we how can we do that guest payments, like where we started with a while ago is just one of those things. But if you’re not looking at that, you’re you’re missing the boat, because most likely that’s that’s driven by because that’s the easiest way for the customer to make a payment. And that’s that’s a sad stats, the data by phone because it is your most expensive payment. Right? Do you have a collector who’s sitting there making commission? And is getting an hourly wage versus having that customer be able to go out to self serve and people, you know, always argue with me, but Tim, they can upsell. And I’m like, yeah, they can upsell, but the upselling enough to cover the huge expense, I got an office, not an office anymore, it was from home, but I got computers, I’ve got expenses, I’ve got healthcare, I’ve got all that stuff. You factor all that in, I’m not sure that they’re upselling. enough to cover somebody who’s self serving, right? So even if somebody is making $100 100, they want to make a $50 payment, and the collector can get them to 150. I’m not sure it’s enough to cover all of those costs. When you think about it. Plus, you then have a strategy says, Hey, they’ve made a $50 payment. Now let’s see if we can help them from that using electronic method. Hey, congratulations on your three, three payments, successful payments. So
Lex Patterson 1:08:42
yeah, which is another thing that popped into my mind as you were talking there, too, is the the number of accounts that an agent can work on that. That’s got to be do you have numbers on that? Yeah, yeah. For ideas on that I do.
Tim Collins 1:08:56
So phone calls, unless you have somebody who’s like schizophrenic and can have multiple voices. And where two headsets with a phone call, you can only engage with one customer at a time with web chat as an example, which you got to remember is about 45% of what we’re seeing as inbound is web chat. Okay, we have agents, three to five web chats at a time. Right. And our really good agents are running seven web chats at a time. Because a lot a lot of it is canned response. It’s looking for information, which again, we capture because to me, that’s a failure. You’ve reached out to us you didn’t get the information you needed in order to do what you wanted to do. So one and done is very, very important. So
Lex Patterson 1:09:47
yeah, yeah, and I’m trying to think of the name of the service but there are services out there that can capture those conversations and try and script responses to you know, they hear a certain word and they put a certain verbiage out that could then you’d have to approve it, of course, but then hit that and push the button and it would push that out there. So you can use some machine learning and AI with with that too, I’m sure. And maybe that’s where it’s headed in the future. You’re kind of smiling. So it’s probably something that’s on the roadmap. I’m thinking maybe, but yeah, it’s
Tim Collins 1:10:21
already happening. Right? So right now you’re touching the machine. So emails are coming in, you see the same response? Most of us all have canned responses and allows for quicker, emails a little bit longer, right? Because it’s, you have to read it, get some context, but you can then figure out the response. That response, the computer is already reading their response, and then making a suggestion on that response. Yeah, it’s not writing it from scratch, it does have that capability. But what it’s doing is it’s selecting from our canned responses, the ones that we’ve used in the past. Now the agent goes from looking at that, to looking at the canned responses, you know, that’s a fits in if it does, it selects Yes. And then the system becomes smarter and smarter. So you get to that, you know, where it’s doing a 92 to 95% of the time, correct? Then you turn it on. So right now all of those conversations that look like that, get turned on occasionally, you’re going to get one that’s going to be messed up, but that will pop up again, somewhere else. Somebody goes, question mark, question mark, I don’t know what you’re saying. The teaching the machine today, we’re teaching your team to be able to respond back. But there’s companies like success KPI, which announced today they raised 33 million. I don’t know if you saw that. Phenomenal bootstrap company. Phenomenal. We use them to scan every single one of our inbound emails, text messages, web chat, phone calls, and they pull all that data in and we’re doing QA, right, we have to do the quality assurance and the scorecards are automatic. So every call, every email is is automatically scored, which is great. That’s going back office, then then if there’s training meeting, that automatically happens, because that goes to the agent says, Hey, you forgot the mini Miranda here. On this call, just reminder, let you know that sort of thing. We can notify our clients proactively, they’ve got those kind of requirements. But now you’re able to look at that data all in one, right in one spot, you can dive down to just one show me emails, and then you can say, Okay, we need to write a canned response because our agents are having to write this response out. And so now you start to create that now you give that to the machine and it starts all over again. So it becomes this cycle. So you should be thinking about it is you want to be able to double your business and your agents stay the same. Same number of agents doubled the business next time doubled the business. And the agent say the same tell you three times bigger than you ever been. And you haven’t added one agent. But that self serve continues to go up. Imagine that kind of profitability that you would then have you’re talking gross margins where we’re not talking, hey, I made seven or 8%. And everybody’s, you know, excited about that. You’re talking about real, real profits and real sophistication. And it’s systematically done. So from a compliance perspective, I don’t have to worry about Tim having a bad day on Monday and typing into something appropriately, the system’s responding to it. And that’s, that’s the wheel that we’re in and just gets a disk becomes faster and faster at the machine. One thing that it’s not the next thing, and it’s on to the next and the next and then those people are just you’re working on edge cases, as we call it. Yeah, yeah. Yes. On those customers that we’ve never seen before that are asking us something that we’ve never heard of before, or it’s more difficult to answer.
Lex Patterson 1:13:37
Yeah. That’s great, fascinating stuff. I guess, you know, is there anything I just have to ask the question, is there anything we didn’t touch on with digital and trying to educate? I mean, because I think we’ve really looked at this from a little few different perspectives. We’re just trying to kind of peel this onion back and seeing is there any, anything that we didn’t touch on? I mean, we kind of went into a little bit, and you did there at the end to on the machine learning and AI and training the machines and those types of things. But is there anything else you can think of that, that we didn’t touch on that they should know, before we leave that topic?
Tim Collins 1:14:15
I just think I will reiterate. So I think we’ve covered it? Well, I think I would just reiterate that it’s really about that customer experience. Right? So come back and start with that, and have the experience your customers are having. Right? So So the really good agencies will make all their people collect. Why do they do that? Because we want people to understand where the money comes from, and the effort that it requires and what that experience is like and then help generate maybe opportunities for new ways of doing it differently. We need to do the same on the customer side. You need to be able to go out and say send me an email or send me a letter, and then I need to call in and be that person and have what that experience is like and be thinking the whole time is Is there a way that I can make this better? Put yourself in those customers shoes, and you will set yourself up for future success as it relates? Yeah.
Lex Patterson 1:15:07
Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Thank you. Well, that was all awesome. I appreciate you, Tim, you know, for stepping through helping us peel that onion. I definitely think you’ve still got the loincloth there.
Tim Collins 1:15:25
It’s cold. It was cold that first year.
Lex Patterson 1:15:27
Yeah. I’m telling you. Yeah, some good stuff there. Um, I guess I’ve got a question for you. Is there anything? Like? Is there anything on your radar? Anything that’s keeping you up at night? What are some things what maybe before we just sign off here? Any any topics that are key, you think in 2022? Like what’s what do you think’s gonna separate the what do you think’s gonna separate the herd here, I guess would be?
Tim Collins 1:15:56
Well, I think we’re really going to see is a difference driven by clients. We’re starting to see agencies out there that now want to do these things. And clients are telling them no. And so that’s interesting. And we’re seeing it on the FinTech space, right? We’ve seen this explosion in what’s called the FinTech and post FinTech sits up on top of a bank, could be the Bank of Missouri, which is a good one. But they make it easier to sign up for an account. They do, you know, know your customer faster and easier. Because they’re using the latest technology, they’re not, you don’t have to go to a bank to open up a system. So clients are driving what we’re going to be able to do. And if you’ve got clients that are, that are the old school, this is the way we’re doing, they’re not letting you do email. They’re not letting you look at text messaging, those kind of things, that’s a should be a scary spot for you if you’re an agency, right? Because that’s going to limit you, it’s going to put you on this path of, you’re not keeping up with the latest amount of technology, you need to get those companies you need any agency out there should have a FinTech company that is pushing them hard to be able to do stuff compliantly. But doing it in a digital fashion, you know, focusing on customer protecting relationship. Because Because my fear is, you know, when we saw, you know, everything was driven by steam. Now, when I was dating myself, these massive companies that were built around steam, and they had all the belts and everything they were, they ran all the machines, and then electricity came on. And what happened is, most of these companies vanished overnight. Because once you got electricity, you could put a small machine on anywhere in the plant onto the reserve electricity. The old companies tried to take electricity and put a to a belt system. They tried to keep the same structure that they had. And they tried to just put us put them out, put electric motor there instead of steam. This is a great upgrade. And it was don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t taking it to that next level. Yeah. You know what I mean? And same with us it was it was agencies who refused to use autodialers. Gone. Right, the agencies that don’t have websites, gone, are going, right. Yeah. And and so clients that don’t allow us to use some of this new technology are going to antiquated and make us irrelevant in the future is no, it almost becomes a skunkworks where it’s like, I’m going to set up another entity where we are doing digital, and it’s only digital, we only have digital clients that are in there. A different mentality. We’re not trying to drive inbound phone calls, and, and all that other stuff. And so I think that the explosion of FinTech and the kind of the money that you’re seeing in this space, and how fast it’s moving, is because of the internet, right? And these companies building these libraries up, here’s how you do a transaction with being a bank and all that stuff. So that’s going to continue to accelerate. And when you start layering on things like blockchain, right, which is some say, could be as big as the internet. And I’m not talking a cryptocurrency that’s in Iraq, right? I’m talking about the underlying technology. That’s the ledger technology that there what that kind of load, you know, that’s what’s coming. And we need to be able to have the clients and let us do what we need to do. And if not, they’re not going to be clients long, because they’re not going to be around people are like, Well, how is JP Morgan Chase going to be gone? I don’t know. But if they don’t upgrade and get off. As for 100 bucks, or a mainframe, or whatever, there’s going to be somebody else who’s going to come in and kind of set it up faster. Yep. And they may always be there, but they won’t. It’s like Sears welcome reward, right? They lingered for a long time. Even Kodak still lingering $18 billion. Now you can buy him I think for 160 million. Yeah. So it’s like okay, we got some cash. laying around let’s blitz by Kodak. Yeah, yeah, that’s what’s happening. That’s the environment that we’re in right now. It’s, it’s nothing new. So if you want to know what’s going to happen, just go back and look at history. Look at steam to electricity. Look at the Internet, you know, mobile, mobile first is this, we’re just in this continued evolution of what we do as humans, which, which is we evolve and push to that next limit. And then we see these early adopters, then massive explosion of acceptance, and experiment with some of the new stuff. But if it makes you nervous, then get the basics, get that get that web portal set up so that your customer could self serve and, and give you a five star review. You know, on Google. So
Lex Patterson 1:20:48
yeah, we’ll wrap on that, dude. Thank you. That was so good. I appreciate I appreciate you coming on. Appreciate your friendship, Tim. So we’ll, we’ll call it a wrap today, and we’ll see you next time.
Tim Collins 1:21:02
Thanks, Alex. It’s been awesome. And it’s been great just because that kender force, that kindred spirit, if you will, and I can nap I can definitely feel that with you. So thank you for doing what you do. getting the message out there given the speakers that are out there and keep it up and like to come back some time.
Lex Patterson 1:21:23
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