The primary purpose of a customer portal is self-pay, of course. You want your customers to make self-service payments (and we’ve talked before about why your self-service portal is under-performing and what you can do to fix it). But, your portal can do more. A lot more.
Maybe you’re happy with the performance of your portal from the perspective of payments. Now it's time to think about what else you can get from it.
Let’s talk about how you can turn your customer payment portal into a one-stop shop for customer service.
1. Account Level Basics
Eliminating customer phone calls, especially from non-payers, is the name of the game. So, providing customers account information via your portal should be a no-brainer. Your portal should show them their balance, payment history (minimally with your agency; preferably a full account history where possible), the account number, loan originator, and the applicable chain of title for their account. With the implementation of Reg F, you should also see an increase in your ability to provide balance breakdowns to customers, too. If you have to provide it in your letters, it also makes sense to provide it on your portal. The more data you can give to the customer in a readable format, the fewer calls you will receive about those generally easy to answer questions.
Another “basic” that doesn’t get enough attention: account documentation. We think it’s smart to include the ability to either request, or directly download, a number of account level documents, such as:
- Paid or settled in full confirmations
- Payoff requests for real estate transactions
- Statements or payment histories
Agents submit these requests regularly, so why not allow customers to self-serve?
2. Frequently Asked Questions
Your portal should also answer frequently asked questions. Monitor the questions your agents are answering on inbound calls. If you see a trend, add the question and answer to your portal’s FAQ. Also consider creating a pre-authentication FAQ that houses more general questions about the portal, your organization, and your services, and a post-authentication FAQ that answers account specific questions, like:
- Who owns this account?
- Why is this on my credit report?
- How can I dispute this?
If you’re going to provide a FAQ with specific questions, it's important to have specific answers, too. Take the time to talk to all involved departments to determine what should be included, and how the answers should be phrased. The idea is to avoid inbound calls, and providing a partial answer that requires the customer to call anyway will likely cause customer dissatisfaction. You should also consider making your FAQ (whether it’s broad or specific) searchable for customers.
Note: Of course, consult with your legal advisers about any specific language you add to your portal.
3. Inbound Information
You can give your customers a ton of information on your customer portal. But, what kind of information can you get from your customers?
It’s intuitive for customers to provide demographic updates like addresses or phone numbers on your portal. Pro-tip: using an address verification service will only allow the customer to enter real address information into your portal. Of course, we recommend scrubbing that information once you receive it, especially the phone numbers, to verify ownership, etc. Your customer portal is also an obvious mechanism to gather preference data, which can be used on an individual basis, or more broadly to determine your outbound contact strategies.
Beyond data that you need to build strategies, your portal could be an excellent opportunity for customers to upload documents or submit financial data. Collecting documents via your portal is easy and accessible for most customers, and might even make the lives of your back office employees easier. Instead of opening innumerable pieces of mail each day, your customer service team can access the documents, review them, and upload them wherever they are needed much more efficiently.
Examples of documents you could accept via your portal include:
- Proof of payment
- Fraud or dispute forms
- Financial forms like tax returns, pay stubs, or W2s
As far as financial information, whether you are using machine learning, a decision engine, or a human review to determine hardships or payment plan offers, having the information submitted clearly and concisely on your portal makes the job easier. A financial questionnaire could be key to creating a payment plan or settlement offer for your customers. This shouldn’t be a one-size fits all approach, though; we recommend tailoring the financial questions by client, and of course, discussing applicable regulations with your legal adviser.
During iA Strategy & Tech 2021, Dave Wasik of 2nd Order Solutions noted: digital collections are becoming table stakes in the industry. So, how can you set yourself apart? Making your payment portal a multifunctional, one-stop customer service portal might be the first step.
Erin Kerr is the Director of Content at insideARM and the chair of iA Strategy & Tech - a digital resource for collections strategy executives. She is a seasoned receivables management professional, with recent experience in digital strategy and a passion for crafting digital solutions for a better customer experience.