My Recap of the Denver ACA Conference 2016 and Comic Con 2016

The 2016 ACA conference in Denver was refreshing, to say the least. It was apparent from the moment I arrived that this was going to be a different conference. Not only was it an educational event full of enthusiasm, but the week also coincided with Comic-Con and Denver gay pride week. The city was lively with activities and fun events, creating many memorable moments.

Even though the Costumes from Comic Con were very distracting, (not to mention FUN), my biggest takeaway from the ACA conference, is that the industry is alive again.

27674227832_85dde03242_bOver the last few years, with all of the compliance issues and a decline in placements, the industry has experienced a theme of doom and gloom. This year, Denver’s conference reflected an optimism and upbeat attitude towards the future. Companies were anxious to find solutions that would stimulate growth and a bright future for industry leaders.

Compliance, which was the main topic over the last few years at ACA, DBA, and NARCA, was a secondary topic, rather than the primary focus. It seems the industry has gotten used to dealing with the compliance issues of today’s collection environment and are now looking for ways to perform business at a higher level that still produce acceptable profit margins.

The decision-makers I met with were looking for technological and operational improvements for their collection agencies or law firms, rather than just moaning and complaining about the increase in regulation. It appears the mourning period is over, and now we are ready to morph into a new life. Companies are focused on opportunities for automation, process flow improvements, more profitable vendors, and advances in technology opportunities that can improve their bottom line.

Vendors like Vo Apps have been around for many years and are now getting traction as the industry is ready to try something new.

There was a lot of buzz at the conference regarding the merger of Columbia Ultimate and Ontario Systems. The two vendors set up booths next to each other and took advantage of all the questions and interest regarding the recent merger acquisition. I expect it to take a year or before we will fully understand the direction of the new company.

There was a smaller number of vendors in the exhibit hall, but that has been a trend at each of the conferences in the last three years. Several new vendors to the industry were represented, and a few from the old guard were noticeably missing. Based on the vendor selection custom programming, contact management, data append, and software development made up the bulk of the service providers.

Overall, I believe the industry has turned the corner and is looking forward instead of backwards or just looking down at their feet. Even though the industry is very challenged by compliance and a lack of placements, it appears that providers who are forward thinking will lead the industry for many years to come.

To learn more about my thoughts or recommendations going forward, or if you just want Comic-Con photos, please give me a call at 904-687-1687 X 111.

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Everyone Has a Smart Phone Why Don’t You Have a Smart Collection Strategy to Match?

Max McKeown famously said, “Adaptability is the powerful difference between adapting to cope and adapting to win.”

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The debt collection industry has found itself facing increased regulations as the industry adapts to new laws and legal precedent regarding collection practices. These changes have led to exploding compliance budgets, as companies scramble to meet ever-changing standards. Strategy changes within your company must match new compliance requirements, enabling your company to rise to the top of this dynamic industry.

One of the more difficult regulations that have evolved revolves around contacting debtors on their cell phones, TCPA. As more consumers ditch landlines, and nearly 2/3rds of adults rely on smartphones for both personal and business contacts, accessing this communication channel has become a high priority.

What you need is a smart strategy that will work with all of your consumer’s smartphones. 

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The best strategy a company can incorporate is enticing customers to “opt-in” to email and text messaging. By communicating with the consumer via their smartphone, you will have higher contact rates and stronger results. I recommend that my clients use every opportunity to get the consumer’s permission for both cell phone and email messages. The successful implement of this strategy requires the company to add verbiage to all current communication methods, providing the customer with ample opportunity to approve additional channels. With every phone conversation and every collection letter sent, additional contact methods should be requested. Even hold music, and payment site visits can promote the benefits of opting in by providing a pathway for the consumer to sign up for your Smartphone strategy.

Once the customer has accepted communication through their Smart Phone, we can create a strategy around both texting and emails that drive the consumer to self-cure at your payment site or drive a compliant inbound call.

These are the smartest strategies to adopt because they remain fully compliant and offer the lowest cost per transaction.

The Truth About Debt Collection Emails

Email vendors have become the used car salesman of the debt collection world. They are more focused on dated platforms and strong armed sales tactics to scare collection companies into buying their services, than providing meaningful solutions.

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Common tactics include convincing debt collection companies that you must send an encrypted email with a PDF of your collection letter to be compliant. They claim that you have privacy responsibilities that stop you from doing it any other way and the BEST delivery method they offer ensures the delivery of the email. These companies offer minimal reporting that confirms an email was delivered but shows no record of whether it was actually received or read. For example, if you send an email to John@debtors.com, who is to say it did not wind up in the consumer’s spam box? Most email vendors tell you this is all the reporting that is available.

Well, guess what? Most email platforms can only complete the above tasks because they have not invested in the newest available technology. It is easier to convince you nothing else is available than to update their platform to more useful technology.

The truth is that you can deliver emails to the consumer’s inbox. Dynamic reporting paradigms are available, but the service costs extra to vendors, so they avoid offering the additional services. Reporting can tell you when and where the email was delivered, read, opened, deleted, saved and much more. The technology available identifies if the consumer clicked a link and visited your payment site. We can track how long they were on your payment site and what the outcome was.

You can send emails with no consumer ID info or ID to the debt and not encrypt them! We can set up triggers in the email platform that send an email based on the consumer’s actions. Let’s say the consumer gets the email and clicks to the payment site and then authenticates himself. They view a monthly payment offer and then abandon the pay site without completing the transaction. We can set a trigger that sends them an email asking if he needs help paying or wants an agent to call?

With the use of Message Transfer Agents (MTAs) you can communicate via email, through a secure connection, authenticate the user, and provide repayment solutions to the debtor, through their preferred communication channels. This technology is available today, and SoftVu specializes in helping debt collection companies streamline collections in a cost effective way.

Email communication is the future of debt collections. Other vendors are way behind in their technology. But I have your back! Reduce your costs of collection and regain control of your collection strategies through today’s latest technology.

Call me for more info at 904-687-1687.

Resist Technology, Not On My Watch

This spring I decided to start exercising more. I want to get in better shape and remain healthy as long as possible. After all living a longer life is no benefit, if I’m sick all the time. Unfortunately, all this wanting, wishing, and determination to exercise more was not producing any real results.

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The trouble is meaningful activities already filled my days, and I was not able to achieve progress until I changed the way I saw exercise and made it a part of my daily routine.

New technology can be like adding exercise to your current busy schedule. You want the benefits, but it’s hard to embrace it. New technology means investing money in new programs and sometimes charting untested waters. You currently have a certain way of doing things in your business, and even if it isn’t really working for you, changing course takes effort and planning.

As a consultant, I find clients struggling to embrace new technology even though it will make their lives better and their businesses more profitable. Currently, the industry is undergoing a massive change towards electronic communication using text, emails, and the web. Consumers prefer to deal with debt repayment and even debt negotiation online, without the embarrassment of talking to a stranger about how far behind they are or their inability to pay the balance in full. Studies show the average consumer is more likely to pay a late bill online than from a cold call.

There is improved technology on the market that encompasses collection software, cloud vendors, and SaaS vendors. Automation is the NEW collection theme for leading edge collection agencies. Advancements allow agencies to accomplish more with less staff than traditional collection methods, which drive down costs and increase profitability. You can now drive inbound calls instead of focusing on outbound calls, using technology to respond to consumer needs.

New technology is the answer. 

Payment sites are available which can now authenticate consumers, negotiate for settlements, accept payments and gather information, 24/7. IVR, emails, texting, agent calls and letters must become an integrated strategy going forward. All of these features must tightly integrate with your system of record. So there is no way to resist technology in today’s new collection environment.

Embracing new technological advancements will reduce company costs, improve collection stattistics, and move you to the front of the industry, increasing demand for your services among results oriented lenders.

Call me for ways your company can embrace these new technologies and improve your bottom line at 904-687-1687.