Here at Lowell we wanted to improve the way we supported our customers. We had a range of departments across Collections, the Contact Centre, Customer Services, Resource and Planning and Recoveries – but ultimately, we knew that they were all working towards the same goal: to engage with customers to collect debt in a fair way. So why not bring together all of these functions into one team and reap the benefits of an integrated approach?
Our UK Director of Customer Engagement, Robert Taylor, was tasked with delivering this integration and in this article he shares his key takeaways of why the new approach was adopted and what advice he would give other businesses facing similar challenges.
Why did you create a new Customer Engagement Centre?
Lowell is here to engage with our customers to achieve the best outcomes. It’s a simple statement but it’s also a huge responsibility. Lowell is positioned at the forefront of ethical debt collection so this new joined up approach will help us to become even more customer centric and ensure we do the right things for them, every time.
We recognised that in the old structure, whilst each team had the right intentions, sometimes decisions were being made in isolation and we were missing the bigger picture. By sharing the same goals we can make sure that everything we do is aligned and the impact of every process change, or decision taken, is fully understood.
What are the main benefits you’ve seen so far?By creating the Customer Engagement centre we’ve brought together expertise from multiple disciplines - Collections, Contact Centre, Customer Services, Resource and Planning and Recoveries. Creating one team with a united vision ensures we are all going in the same direction. This is vital to ensure we keep the customer at the heart of everything we do.
From a customer’s perspective we expect their journey with us to be better in terms of consistently high quality interactions and more effective communications strategies that are powered by deeper insight. We also want it to be as easy as possible to communicate with us and to put our customers in control as much as possible.
Achieving the right outcome for our customers is a critical success factor. By knowing more about our customers, and sharing this more effectively across the team, we can assess the right approach for them. This could include offering breathing space, helping with a dispute or complaint, setting an appropriate payment plan or referring them to free debt advice. The more we understand the customer’s situation, the more effectively we’ll be able to help them. This new structure provides greater levels of insight and also allows us to deliver more effective, tailored communication strategies.
For our colleagues our increased focus on training, coaching and feedback will help them to improve and provide higher levels of job satisfaction. Our ‘one team’ ethos also provides a broader customer engagement career path and the opportunity to experience different aspects of helping and guiding our customers towards financial well-being. To ensure the highest levels of performance we continually train and coach our colleagues and use very effective tools, such as Rant & Rave, to provide real-time feedback on an individual basis.
From an operational perspective the fact that we are now a coherent team means that we are able to more quickly understand what is working well and what isn’t. The organisational barriers that used to exist have now been replaced by a single team that learns fast and acts decisively. This agility will benefit both our customers and our business.
Finally, it helps us evolve and prepare for the future. Having everyone in one team means we have a clearer focus and a vision that is clearly understood. The whole team is aware of what we are trying to achieve and where we are heading. Each team member understands the role that they each play and their personal objectives are fully aligned to the team’s goals.
What advice would you give other operational teams facing similar challenges?
There are 4 key pieces of advice that I’d like to share:
- Make sure that your vision is clear and is shared by everybody – you can’t afford to have members of the team not heading in the same direction as it is counter-productive and inefficient, and most importantly, you won’t deliver the best customer experience.
- Be obsessed with customer centricity – make sure that every decision you take is made with the customer in mind, even if it sometime creates short term operational issues. These can be overcome and ultimately the customer will benefit.
- Try to learn quickly and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. No organisation gets everything right first time so try to engender a culture of positivity even when things aren’t always going according to plan.
- Make sure you don’t underestimate the time and effort it takes to bring your colleagues along with you on the journey. For some people change can be worrying and frustrating so it’s important that they understand where the team is heading and what their role is.