With each major storm that moves through the U.S, I’ve thought about our customers, and how collection activity needs to be agile and sensitive enough to get it right and let customers know there’s a human decision maker behind the scenes, and we do care. In a prior role, my team was responsible for identifying storm-impacted zip codes, modifying our contact strategies (calls, emails, text, IM, etc.), sizing loss impacts, re-running forecasts and the like.
Every time an event occurred, we would go through the same process; asking each other the same series of questions. I bet the following sound familiar to many of you:
- When do we think the disaster will hit?
- Where do we think the disaster will hit?
- How badly will customers be impacted?
- What concessions do we make for late payments or for customers within days of charge-off?
- Should we proactively text or place messages on our online banking portal?
- Do we modify strategies at the state or zip code level?
- Which forms of contact do we withhold, and for how long?
I was always proud of the team’s ability to rally and execute flawlessly, but I was admittedly frustrated that every time felt like the first time. Don’t be alarmed; we certainly had a set of standards, but it was a lot of heavy lifting and felt clunky. The nature, size and scale of every event is different, so having a playbook isn’t always realistic. Often we would be so taxed by responding to a weather event that when it was over, no one wanted to look back at what we had just been through to document best practices, or game plan short cuts for the next time. We always meant to, but generally, we would add the post mortem to the long list of things to get to, and go back to our regularly scheduled programming.
The most important -- but difficult -- challenge was figuring out exactly which customers needed special care. We would do our best to identify zip codes from various lists and cross reference them against our delinquent customer portfolios in every product and treatment strategy. The lucky analyst who would get this assignment every time was truly a saint, doing it without complaint. But this didn’t keep us from expecting his day job to keep moving along at a normal pace and without error. Sounds unfair, but let’s be honest: This is how it typically works in the real world.
I always knew there was a better way, but for the reasons mentioned above, we never got around to finding out what it was.