Problem Debt and the ‘No-Contact’ Challenge
Is there an alternative to traditional third party Debt Collection Agencies (DCA) for consumers with debts who do not engage with their lenders or suppliers – especially those with problem debt or who are vulnerable? How do we ensure collections processes support these consumers when ‘no contact’ makes it hard to identify them? And what about those consumers who simply don’t want to talk with their lender or supplier?
These were the questions addressed by Sigma when developing its unique “Reach:Out” service, designed to firstly engage with hard to reach consumers with debts; and then help them find a way through whatever challenges each individual might be facing (be that money, health or mental wellbeing) so they are better able to manage all their debts.
A New Way to Reach:Out
Sigma is best known for its award winning outsourced contact centre services. Through partnerships with many leading utility and financial services organisations – operating as a seamless extension to in house consumer service, collections and special care / vulnerability teams – Sigma has amassed significant experience supporting consumers with problem debt. So for Sigma, in the height of the Covid-19 outbreak with unprecedented numbers of people struggling financially, it made absolute sense to launch this revolutionary new service to help businesses better engage with and support their consumers with problem debt.
In a break from white-label services Sigma launched an entirely new brand – “Reach:Out” – specifically so it could articulate the impartial and confidential nature of its service to consumers. Furthermore, by removing ‘collections’ from the conversation and replacing it with an unwavering mission to genuinely improve outcomes for consumers (guided by a customer-centric Charter) Reach:Out is able to proactively engage with consumers who may not have engaged with their lender or suppliers efforts to contact them or are struggling to face their issues head on.
Finding the Right Path
When speaking with consumers it is no surprise that Pathfinders (Reach:Out’s name for their passionate people who take pride in helping people) often find a combination of challenges. Pathfinders help consumers’ access relevant sources of free support and advice – including a wide range of charities and carefully selected strategic partnerships that cater for a wide spectrum of needs – resulting in really positive outcomes for consumers, and some incredibly grateful people with many expressing how delighted they are with the support received from their Pathfinder.
This is excellent news for the consumer as it often means they increase their income or reduce their outgoings and are better able (and more willing) to address their debts. For those businesses who include Reach:Out in their engagement strategies this approach helps promote the support they can offer to consumers, resolve debts and establish sustainable payment arrangements – avoiding the need to escalate to DCA. Moreover, businesses invariably “feel like this is the right thing to do” and this approach helps improve their relationship directly with their consumer.
Reach:Out’s Partnership with StepChange
Last week one of the UKs leading debt advice Charities, StepChange, championed Debt Awareness Week with the theme being to help those with problem debt take #TheFirstStep. With this theme being central to Reach:Out’s mission, too, it is with great pleasure we announce Reach:Out’s partnership with StepChange.
These are unprecedented times with more people than ever experiencing problem debt, many of whom have never struggled before and aren’t aware of the free support available to them. It is widely accepted how confusing, scary or embarrassing it can be for many people in debt to take those first steps. Now, through its partnership with StepChange, it is easier than ever for Reach:Out to help consumers take #TheFirstStep towards resolving their money worries.
Where Pathfinders identify problem debts they have a range of channels in order to make it as easy as possible for the consumer to transition from Reach:Out to StepChange. Pathfinders also help the consumer prepare for debt advice as well as understand the benefits. All this increases the likelihood that consumers will engage with much needed debt advice. Where explicit consent is given, difficult disclosures can be shared directly with StepChange saving time and the emotional impact of having to repeat themselves.
Helping People Take #TheFirstStep
David Murphy, Partnerships, Sales & Solutions Director for Reach:Out commented:
“Through Reach:Out we’re able to get through to those people where our clients’ haven’t been able to – and through a really good conversation (very much one human to another) identify those with problem debts or other vulnerabilities and needs. It’s great to be working with StepChange so that more of those with problem debts can get free, impartial debt advice from a respected charity that will help make a real difference to their lives”.
Vanessa Northam, Head of Strategic Partnerships, at StepChange commented:
“There are a myriad of reasons why people put off getting debt advice – some fear they’ll be judged, others procrastinate in the hope things will improve, many simply aren’t aware that free, impartial debt advice is available and ultimately struggle on their own. Reach:Out’s recognition of the need to engage with people will really help ensure they know that support is available, how it can improve their lives and how to get it. This service from Reach:Out is a welcome enhancement to the customer journey and will help more customers with problem debt take #TheFirstStep”.