I currently work in a negotiations department for a mid sized debt settlement company. We have roughly 2,500 clients who are active. We have been on a massive push recently to get all of our clients settlements once they have made 3 payments. We have reached the point where more than 80% of our total client base is involved in paying a settlement or has paid a settlement in the last 30 days. I have been in the business since 2005 and this is the best work I have ever seen.
My question is this. How do you keep a client engaged enough to keep them in the program?
We understand that life shows up and emergencies happen but it seems like more and more clients are just throwing in the towel. For January 2012 I can attest to more than 10 customers who cancelled for no reason. All of them in the middle of a settlement. 3 out of the 10 were paying on settlements that were for less that 20% of the balance.
We try to re-engage them. Remind them that the goal is to get out of debt. Show them the honest work we have done. We have even started a program whereas we voluntarily ask our past graduates to talk with other clients in the program if they feel they need re-assurance. It has had great results but has not fully bridged the gap as we would like.
My initial thought process was more “TOUCHES” with the clients. Shorter response times. More settlement offers. Add in a little technology and the clients would be more engaged and be more interested in settling that last account or the rest of their accounts. I am flat wrong.
Last year I saw a YouTube video of “The Honey Badger” by Randall, last week I seen a Pistachio commercial with the Honey Badger(reference video to understand), high level view it appears that some Consumers just “DON’T CARE”. I care. My negotiators care. We all care. Why are some clients like Honey Badgers? Not trying to be funny but a little comedy seems to go a long way in these instances.
Steve, Any reply, thoughts, ideas, community discussion or even a “Yes your right, some people don’t care.” is appreciated.
I Do Care
Dear I Do Care,
Thank you so much for your observations and questions. Let me offer my advice and hopefully we can get a conversation going in the comments with others as well. I had to go hunt down that video you mentioned. How funny.
Let me preface my statements by saying there is just a segment of the population that will drop for no clear or apparent reason, no matter ho good of a job you do. That needs to be factored into your business model.
Without knowing what specific reason your particular clients dropped I can only offer some general advice.
Times are tough and the longer a full resolution of the debt takes, the more the stress and pressure of the situation builds on the client. After a certain period of time many will reach an emotional tipping point where it just feels like it does not matter any more. They want the pain to go away, NOW!
Quite frankly, settlement is best for people that otherwise would have been a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. For the rest that would have qualified for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which 70%+ of filers do, the bankruptcy result is swift and relatively inexpensive.
In just one day a consumer can file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, stop lawsuits and stop debt collectors quickly. Their debt will be discharged in a few months and the entire process will be in the $2,000 range. The credit can be easily rebuilt.
While many people will walk out of the bankruptcy office feeling low, there is also a tremendous benefit knowing the mess is over.
I would guess that the primary reason people seek your services is because they want intervention to quickly deal with the problem with a desire to avoid bankruptcy. And I would also safely guess that people that come to you with cash on hand to settle quickly, don’t drop.
If someone has been sitting in a settlement program for more than a few months and is getting collection calls, letters, threats of lawsuits and their stress level is not abated much or it’s increasing, then the drops are not all that unexpected at all.
The amount of touches as you’ve observed is not the answer. I know people that have limited touch setups and those that are in front of the client on almost a daily basis.
If anything was a deciding factor I’d have to say it would be speed of response, quality of response, and professionalism of your staff. Those are important factors you can control and should.