Consumers may be financially healthy right now, but savings rates are dropping, household debt is soaring and, depending who you ask, a recession either looms or is already here. Getting your 2023 tax season collections strategy set now may give you the best opportunity to collect on past-due accounts in the next 12-24 months.
Here are three ways collections & recovery executives can prepare for the 2023 tax season:
1. Follow the macro trends
You can’t ignore inflation. Consumers are feeling a massive pinch when it comes to necessities like food and energy, and using their tax refund to pay a delinquent or charged off account might not be a top priority. Settlements or flexible payment plans may be the only way for consumers to cure their accounts, so plan to integrate those options into your tax time strategy now, says Matt Baltzer, Senior Director of Product Management at Experian.
It’s not just inflation, either. Real wage gains are down from the last two years, and as Ryan Boyle, Macroeconomist from North Trust advises, “people are falling behind.”
Consumers who are combating inflation and falling behind may not be willing to use their tax returns to pay past-due debt, especially as credit card spending is returning to its pre-pandemic levels, and defaults are ticking up.
2. Make it easy to pay
When consumers have less money to pay off their debt, and more debt to pay off, making it difficult for them to make payments is not an option. Collections strategy needs to reflect the way a consumer was acquired, and any online payment portal needs to be a one-stop-shop for the consumer to service their account, from making payments to requesting documents.
Frictionless engagement also means something different for every consumer. While we often default to “self-serve” as the pinnacle of frictionless engagement, a truly frictionless approach tailors outreach and inbound service to each consumer. Give consumers flexibility and meet them where they are.
Convenient payment options are only good if the consumer trusts those payment options, too. This means changing how you look at identity, providing options when it comes to authentication, and being transparent about the reason you need the information you’re requesting.
Tailoring the consumer experience and providing frictionless, easy, trustworthy ways to pay will make it easier for consumers who might have a little bit of extra money to choose to pay that delinquent account as opposed to another they might have elsewhere.
3. Invest in outbound call precision
It’s getting harder and harder to reach consumers, especially by telephone, but outbound calling is still a critical piece of a good collections strategy.
Focusing on contact precision, or calling the consumer on the best number to reach them at the time they are most likely to answer the phone, reduces the number of calls you or your third party vendors need to make, which reduces the cost to collect. It also improves customer experience, according to Jason Klotch, VP of Diversified Markets at TransUnion, because it reduces the number of times the consumer’s phone rings. Investing in technology now to increase the efficiency of your outbound dialing campaigns will be critical to reaching consumers when they have a little extra money in their pockets during tax time.
Tax time remains a critical time in collections & recovery, despite consumers getting smaller tax refunds. Taking advantage of consumers’ increase in liquid cash will take more work than it has in the past, but don’t miss out on it.
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