As a minimum, payment technology should create a path of least resistance for the consumer, as difficulty in settling an outstanding bill means organizations risk missing out on prompt payments.

The consumer must be able to move freely between the payment channels they choose. Just because a consumer receives an outstanding bill through the mail doesn't mean he wants to reply the same way. It may be more convenient to pay online, or contact the agency by phone to pay the bill or negotiate a payment plan.

The 2017 BillingTree ARM Industry Survey showed businesses agree with this. Technology adoption and offering a variety of payment channels continued to be top priorities. Automated payments, interactive voice response (IVR) and virtual debt negotiation were three of the most popular payment methods, with many agencies realizing the benefits these technologies can bring, including 24/7 payments and streamlining manual, time-consuming processes.

It is these three technologies that will really help collection agencies improve their bottom line, even as industry and consumer demands change in the future.

An automated payment plan is simple and user friendly, keeping payments on time and customers happy.

With automated payment plans, a notification is sent electronically to the consumer. When accepted, the notification will automatically trigger a payment which is instantly taken out of the client’s account for each billing cycle. Automated systems like these are affordable, smart and can even integrate with current payment systems, meaning agencies of all sizes can quickly reap the rewards.

Interactive Voice Response technology uses automated call scripts which allow the consumer to pay via touch-tone prompts, helping improve the consumer experience. Providing consumers with a simple automated method to pay a bill, whenever and however they want to, can significantly improve the chances of receiving a payment.

But IVR technology isn't just a great way to improve payment collections and enhance customer service. The technology also frees up time for accounts receivable staff to deal with more critical work that needs their attention.

If a consumer can’t settle their bill in full, then it might be time to negotiate. Virtual negotiation technology is enabling consumers to handle this privately, online and without the discomfort or embarrassment of face-to-face interaction, and again saving employee time.

A three-step process enables the consumer and the accounts receivable department to agree to a payment plan that works for both. The consumer is first notified of a minimum payment amount and maximum payment length. He can then either accept or make a counteroffer of how much he would like to pay back and for how long. The virtual negotiation system will then accept or reject the offer. If it's rejected, the consumer will receive a further counteroffer that he can either accept or reject or renegotiate the amount or length of time.

The integration of different payment collection technologies is a top priority for agencies, and technology solution providers will play a critical role in helping the ARM industry remain competitive and profitable in the future.