Offering consumers more extensive ways to shop and pay whenever, wherever and however has become a competitive advantage for retailers. So what can the accounts receivable management (ARM) Industry learn from the retailers clamoring to provide their customers with a perfect "omnichannel" experience?

For the ARM industry it's not just about people wanting to pay their bills through their preferred method, but, that people are more likely to pay their bills.

By omnichannel in the accounts receivable market we mean everything from ACH to card payments; agent, web, mobile and IVR - plus the growing use of virtual negotiation.

Adopting new technology and payment methods gives consumers more options to pay their bills, which in turn leads to more settlements. We have found that giving consumers more ways to pay

improves their client's customer experience and resulted in more settled payments and reduced delinquencies.

Simply offering a wide range of payment methods doesn't necessarily mean a company has found the Holy Grail. For an experience to be defined as truly "omnichannel," the consumer must be able to move freely between "channels" and payment methods. Just because a consumer receives a notification letter of an outstanding bill doesn't always mean they plan to call or reply via mail. It may be more convenient to pay online, or contact the agency’s IVR by phone to settle the outstanding account, or even negotiate a payment plan.

The Corporate Executive Board recently reported 88% of consumers are more likely to spend more because of low-effort interaction.  Similarly the less effort required by a consumer to pay a bill, the more likely they are to attempt to pay it.

For example, full service collections agency Diversified Consultants, Inc. (DCI) recently implemented Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology after it found it was missing 70 potential payment calls outside office hours every night.

DCI saw a swift return on investment after implementing IVR. The company significantly increased payments and saved the equivalent cost of eight agents. Agent time is now freed up to resolve more complex  issues and the IVR has improved overall customer service by lowering end user effort - consumers can now pay at their own convenience regardless of office hours.

Adopting new technologies such as Virtual Negotiation and IVR are cost-effective and offer agencies a considerable ROI. One thing is for sure; by simply offering consumers a single option to pay, such as agent assisted, agencies are limiting their chances of making a collection.

Dave Yohe is head of corporate marketing for BillingTree.

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