There’s always something a bit magical about ICXA. Over the past three years, I’ve had the privilege of judging and engaging with some of the best CX initiatives in the world. Many of these inspire fresh thinking about how we practice customer experience. Some raise the bar for excellence and innovation.
A few are game-changers that you’ll never forget. One of these is the German FinTech startup troy. At ICXA 2020, troy made a splash as the first-ever debt collection finalist. The team landed a bronze award in the category Business Change and Transformation – SME and made a lasting impression on their judging panels.
A year later, troy came back even stronger, this time taking gold awards in two categories: Best Digital Customer Experience – Financial Services and Customers at the Heart of Everything – Under 1,000 Employees.
How troy improves the debt collection process
Recently, Founder and CEO Philip Rürup made time to meet with me and share the story of troy’s remarkable CX success. Like many of the best startups, troy isn’t afraid to tackle the hard problems and shake up an entire industry. The founding team had spotted a missed opportunity to use customer experience insights to revolutionise debt collection. They then set out to make troy the world’s friendliest debt collector:
“Our approach to debt collection is thoroughly customer-centric, reflecting individual circumstances and preferences, which customers ultimately thank us for through paying quicker, more and even happily.”
By turning a typically negative customer experience into a positive, they helped their clients recover more debt while retaining more of the clients’ customers and increasing customer lifetime value (CLV). Even the company name, troy, is a play on the German phrase “treu bleiben” meaning “stay loyal”.
The brilliance of troy was in realising that the customer’s experience of debt collection could be optimised just like any other part of the customer journey. Rürup explains:
“We believe that debt collection processes are an integral part of the holistic customer journey. Therefore, our approach of data and tech-driven customer experience radically puts our clients’ customers at the heart of everything.”
What is the problem troy is solving?
Traditional debt collection methods can be unfriendly or even threatening. Customers who owe money are often treated as though they have no future economic value to the company. They can be pressured to pay without regard for their feelings or circumstances.
Research uncovered a major disconnect in the industry: customers reported that over 60% of missed payments occur for basic reasons like forgetting to pay or experiencing temporary cash bottlenecks, problems that are fairly simple to resolve. However, only 6% of debt collectors cited these reasons for failure to pay. As a result, their collection methods were misaligned with customer circumstances and lacked empathy.
Furthermore, debt collectors were rewarded only for collecting the payments and not for retaining the customer. As a result, they didn’t tend to act in a way that was likely to improve or preserve the customer relationship. The company set out to prove that they could outperform the incumbent collections agencies by treating customers with empathy and providing the tools to help customers meet their obligations successfully.
The omnichannel strategy that actually works
Troy’s cloud-based platform offers personalised multichannel engagement with intelligent automation to engage with customers when and as they prefer. Automated inbound and outbound calls reduce shame while offering helpful ways forward. These data-driven self-service processes allow customers to resolve simple cases quickly and easily while providing process transparency throughout.
For example, an omnichannel postbox displays all interactions between the customer and troy in chronological order, across digital and offline channels, updated in real-time. This guarantees a true omnichannel experience and provides a unique level of transparency. Since the collection processes often cause feelings of uncertainty or even anxiety, this is crucial for making troy’s debt collection a more positive experience for the customer. Rürup notes that this transparency goes both ways:
“Clients get access to our dialogue with each customer, down to each interaction as well. To them, debt collection has always been a black box. Now they can track how the excellent customer experience is delivered to the last detail.”
The optimal use of automation and self-service benefits troy’s case managers as well. With simple cases taken care of, they can offer empathetic assistance to customers in need with the help of real-time analysis and direction from the troy platform:
“While the conversation with a customer is ongoing, our platform provides AI-driven agent coaching and support, including suggestions for ‘Best Next Actions’. We’re able to monitor relevant drivers for healthy dialogue, such as balanced share of the conversation or the trigger of specific terminology and tonality.”
The benefits of intelligent automation
Troy has brought in a new era of augmented debt collection that is both high tech and high touch. Machine learning and intelligent automation underpinned with empathy and insight are used to address payment issues in a personalised way and help customers to get back on track.
As a result, troy has been able to outperform competitors on payment rates by up to 80% saving clients millions of euros annually in debt write-offs. And they do this while preserving the customer relationship, saving clients on new customer acquisitions costs (CAC).
On the back of troy’s successful launch and awards recognition, the company has secured Series A funding and has now begun a new phase of international expansion. The team continues to improve the platform with machine learning and data-driven insights to offer a globally consistent customer experience in compliance with local regulations and cultural preferences.
What to learn from troy
A key lesson from the story of troy is that very few services are really commodities. If clients perceive debt collection as commoditised (competing only on price) it means that the competitors have failed to differentiate themselves on quality or experience.
Troy was able to use customer insights to differentiate their brand by elevating both the service quality and the experience: first, by improving collection rates, reducing debt write-offs, reducing CAC. Second, by preserving the customer relationship for better retention, loyalty and CLV.
Customer experience is a superpower for those who know how to use it. troy has made the point emphatically by leveraging CX to uncover motivations, identify and respond to customer needs. All while creating effective solutions and generating value through win-win scenarios that please clients and customers alike.