We recently had the opportunity to listen to a panel discussion on the value of online payment portals in today’s collection environment. Payment portals provide the following advantages:
- First, they are available 24×7. Unlike live agents, who are limited by law as to when they can be available to consumers, online portals are available all the time, so consumers can make payments at a time convenient for them, which may be in the evening after work or on a Sunday afternoon, not during regular business hours.
- Second, they are less intimidating, especially to the increasing number of consumers who are comfortable using the internet. Given the frustration people feel with automated call routers, the poor quality of voice connections, and the unpredictability of dealing with a live agent, just getting online and making the payment you want to make, when you want to make it, can be pretty appealing.
- Third, they are inexpensive and consistent. They don’t get paid salaries, they don’t get health benefits, they don’t take vacations, they don’t need to be trained, they don’t behave unpredictably, they don’t require managers … they just do what they are told to do without complaint.
BFrame was early to provide automated payment portals to our customers. We now have years of experience understanding what makes them effective. Broadly, we have found payment portals need to be:
Flexible. Different agencies have different strategies. Different consumers have different needs. A good payment portal needs to be adaptable.
Easy to use. The more complicated you make it for consumers to get access and do what they want to do, the more will give up in frustration.
Secure and compliant. Since you are taking payments and handling personally-identifying information, you need to be sure you aren’t risking an embarrassing, expensive data breach; nor are you opening yourself up to lawsuits from plaintiffs’ attorneys. For example, your portal should provide needed disclosures tailored to the consumer’s state and the age and type of debt, so you aren’t open to attacks for failure to comply with FDCPA or state regulations.
Sophisticated. A portal that just takes a payment is not going to be as effective as a portal that can handle payment plans and SIFs. More than half the payments coming through our portals are payment plans and SIFs, so if your portal can’t handle these payment types, you just cut its effectiveness in half.
Mobile-Friendly. More than half of the traffic to our portals is from mobile phones, so it is important that your portal is easy to use from a mobile device.
Does more than just take payments. Your agency likely employs people to handle mail, deal with consumer complaints, obtain or provide documentation, etc. Converting as much of this traffic as you can to automated self-service saves your agency money and time, making you more competitive.
Integrated with your core system. Many portals employ a clunky file upload/download integration method with the core system. Each night a file of all the accounts gets uploaded to the portal application and the following night any payments or other transactions get downloaded and imported into the core system. This process requires moving a lot of data around, with attendant delays, inaccuracies, and potential errors. Ideally, you want a portal that has direct access to your core system data, so at any time of the day, what the consumer sees is exactly what the agent sees.
Defends against plaintiff attorneys. Attorneys are running ads on Google advertising to your consumers that your agency is a scam and suggesting they can get money for the consumer by suing you. Adding reliable content to your portal about debt collection and your agency can improve your Google search rankings and alleviate consumer fears of being scammed.
Of course, the BFrame portal meets all these criteria! We have gotten a lot of positive feedback from our clients on the impact our portal has had on their business and how it compares to other solutions they have considered. The BFrame portal today is integrated with the core BFrame collection system, but we are beginning work to integrate our portal with other collection systems in use, so agencies can use our portal without having to convert their core collections platform.