Three out of four consumers call for payment holiday extension as deadline looms

A new survey from digital payments expert, PayPoint, sees 75% of respondents calling for the Government’s payment holiday deadline to be extended to match or exceed the furlough scheme. The support scheme allowing consumers to take payment holidays from credit repayments has helped countless families manage the financial impact of COVID-19. However, the scheme comes to an end on 31st March, withdrawing essential support for families who may face redundancy or unemployment when furlough ends.

“While rates of infection are falling and things are beginning to look more positive for the health of the UK population, we have a very long way to go before the economy recovers,” Danny Vant, Client Services Director at PayPoint commented.

“Sadly, the long-term impact of the pandemic means we are likely to see more businesses struggle, and fail, and more people could lose their jobs in the coming months as a result. Ending the payment holiday scheme now will hit struggling families at just the wrong time. The Government must consider extending its vital support to avoid pushing more people into post-COVID poverty.”

PayPoint’s survey of 500 people saw 3 out of 4 people believe the deadline should be extended until 31st October, in line with the furlough scheme. 32% of respondents want to see it extended even further to help people manage their finances once the furlough scheme ends and redundancy and potential unemployment fears allayed.

Two in three respondents believe lenders should change their future approach to collections, offering greater flexibility and moving away from fixed-term and fixed payment date commitments. Almost one in three would like lenders to be given the authority to make their own assessment on extending payment holidays for those in financial difficulty.

PayPoint’s PayByLink solution is already helping businesses collect with care. Available through digital payment solution, MultiPay, PayByLink allows businesses to collect due or arrears payments without damaging the customer relationship, by engaging with them sensitively and responsibly. Businesses can communicate with customers by SMS or email to remind them of upcoming payments due or to offer options that start the customer on a journey to repayment, whilst being flexible and sensitive. PayByLink not only increases the effectiveness of customer communication but also the likelihood of collecting full or part payment.

Danny Vant continued: “One of the key life lessons we have all learnt in the past 12 months is the importance of working together and supporting each other. Now that things are beginning to head towards something resembling ‘normal’, it is vital that we do not forget that lesson. Now is the time for the credit industry to support our consumer and business partners effectively and flexibly. The Government scheme should not end now, when so many consumers still need that vital support, but solutions such as PayByLink can bridge the gap by allowing businesses to provide customers with the payment flexibility they need, responsibly and with care.”

Debt collection body urges Minister for Financial Inclusion to combat problem debt

The Government and the Money Advice and Pension Service (MaPS) are being urged to promote early engagement between customers and creditors as the most effective route to resolving problem debt.

Not only can early engagement prevent a customer from falling into serious debt in the first place, but it will also support the debt advice sector in being able to target its activities towards those who really need it.

This is the advice contained in a letter sent by Chris Leslie, the Chief Executive of the Credit Services Association (CSA), to Guy Opperman at the Department for Work and Pensions.

In it, Mr Leslie proposes that MaPS should consider embedding early engagement into its strategy for money guidance as ‘the best first step to resolving problems’.

“If a borrower talks to a creditor or a debt collections agency (DCA) acting on their behalf, it is highly likely that an affordable repayment plan can be arranged, tailored to an assessment of an individual’s income and expenditure and the issue resolved to mutual satisfaction,” he says.

“But if that conversation is delayed, does not occur, or efforts to make contact are ignored or pushed aside, then those seeking to collect on sums owed will be unaware of that person’s circumstances – and that individual’s stress and concern could well continue for longer than might need to be the case. Sharing the issues between all parties is most often the best route to resolution.”

The CSA’s Chief Executive has urged Ministers to improve messages about early engagement in the MaPS money guidance strategy and to consider discussing this at their next meeting of the Government’s Financial Inclusion Policy Forum.

He says that the Government already acknowledges the best practice evidenced by the private sector in collecting debt and should now help to change the narrative about what happens when a borrower falls into arrears.

“As a trade body we have worked hard to dispel the misconceptions around collections and to reassure customers – but our ability to influence financial education and public information is limited. That is why we would like to work in partnership with the Government, MaPS, the FCA and other public bodies to promote the benefits of ‘early engagement’ to the wider public on a larger scale.”

In 2020, according to CSA figures recorded in its Data Gathering Initiative, more than three-quarters of a million borrowers (773,579) received additional covid-related forbearance from DCAs, over and above the forbearance and payment rescheduling such agencies would already provide borrowers, as the sector responded to the needs of customers during the pandemic.

“Conversations between customers and lenders made a big difference in 2020,” Chris continues, “and this could be a positive learning from the pandemic.”

“We fully support the work of MaPS in promoting free independent debt advice and debt awareness but believe that many borrowers could also prevent difficulties worsening if they engage in dialogue with creditors and our members at an earlier stage to discuss repayment plans and affordability.”

COVID-19 insolvency measures extension, R3 response

Insolvency and restructuring trade body R3 is urging directors of COVID-hit businesses to make the most of the time granted by the Government’s extension of temporary insolvency measures to plan for the future.

The Government announced today (24 March) that it will extend a number of temporary measures brought in by the Corporate Insolvency and Governance (CIG) Act, which were due to expire on April 30, until the end of June.

R3 is calling on company directors to use this additional time to plan for when these measures and other Government support schemes end, and to seek advice about the options open to them to address their financial issues.

Duncan Swift, Immediate Past President of R3, said: “The Government’s decision to extend the CIG Act temporary insolvency measures will be a welcome boost for firms that are struggling as a result of the pandemic.

“It also provides directors of these firms with more time to plan for when these measures – and Government support initiatives like the furlough scheme – end, and we urge them to make the most of this.

“We’ve been through a period of unprecedented Government support, and directors need to plan for how they will manage when these measures are wound down – especially as it will take time for the business environment to return to how it was before the pandemic started.

“Now is the time for anyone with worries about their business finances to seek professional advice. Seeking this now rather than later typically provides more options to deal with challenges faced by the business, more time to decide which option is most suitable, and more time to implement the most appropriate solution.”

Noble Systems Prescribes a More Engaged Patient Experience for Healthcare Organisations

Noble Systems, a global leader in omnichannel contact center technology solutions, is helping healthcare organisations meet changing patient demands for more streamlined patient services. With three decades of experience in innovation for the customer experience, Noble can provide the tools to create a more personalised patient journey, helping improve patient acquisition and retention, driving high-value service line growth and extending patient lifetime value.

Healthcare contact centres, most often the first point of patient contact, are typically tasked with handling a wide range of functions. They answer for everything from call routing to scheduling appointments, triage, admissions, referrals and billing questions. Many struggle to meet all of these needs. Additional demands of the coronavirus pandemic and transitioning to an at-home workforce have tested their limits even further.

Private hospital administrators in today’s healthcare environment are laser-focused on a top priority: Improving the patient experience. A recent survey indicated that 81% of hospital and health system executives identified improving the patient experience as a high priority for their organisation. Good communication is essential to the patient experience and positive outcomes.

The use of fragmented contact centre technologies can obstruct good communication, prevent efficiencies and diminish patient satisfaction, undermining your investment in the systems and throwing up a roadblock in your path to improve patient care. A unified approach pays off for the enterprise, patients and employees. Creating a vibrant, integrated contact centre technology framework can ultimately lead to an improved patient experience. It also provides opportunities to reduce IT costs, increase efficiencies and improve revenue collection.

Noble’s powerful technology solutions for the Healthcare industry give you the tools to enhance agent productivity, save resources, improve appointment scheduling, increase payments on patient accounts and improve the patient experience with more proactive service. Our robust suite of omnichannel contact centre, workforce engagement and analytics tools help you manage the entire patient lifecycle, from revenue management to relationship management.

One of the nation’s leading vision laser eye surgery providers uses the Noble Contact Centre solution to manage lead generation and appointment setting, as well as regulatory compliance. The company’s dealer manager said “Noble makes it easy to get calls where they need to go; we have different brands, we have different languages, we have customer service, we have technical. With Noble, it’s easy to point those calls to where we need them to go. Web chat and SMS texting brings in the millennial crowd, connecting with the people who use the 4-5” screen in their hands, and puts us in a category to connect with them faster. With Noble’s compliance tools, we can follow all the rules and regulations, and it helps keep us compliant”.

A top radiology services group uses the Noble Contact Centre to manage contacts more efficiently, along with Noble WEM for workforce scheduling. This combination has allowed them to achieve greater efficiencies. The group’s director observed: “Noble is extremely efficient in adjusting outbound pacing when we have inbound calls. We don’t lose inbound calls to long hold times while agents finish outbound calls. At the same time, we can also now make all of our outbound referral follow-up calls without leaving calls unattempted at the end of the day. We can also use it to contact patients in emergencies, such as unexpected clinic closures; what once would have taken 10 hours we are now able to call in 30 minutes”.

A large healthcare collections organisation uses Noble Gamification to keep employees engaged and improve retention rates – especially important to maintaining motivation when so many teams have had to shift to remote working – which ultimately leads to higher productivity. “The biggest problem we were trying to solve was attrition, which was close to 55%. With Noble’s gamification solution and expertise, we’ve seen drastic improvement. Employee attrition is down to 12% — so it definitely seems to be working” said the company’s director of operations. “Collections is a hard line of work, but bringing in gamification really helped improve the attitude and experience of our agents, which then goes on to the consumer that is on the phone, and it really does translate well to them. We’ve seen increases in all our KPIs goals, including dealer adherence, total calls and talk time percentage. KPIs that we previously thought were unattainable have been blown out of the water and have even exceeded the targets”.

Chris Hodges, SVP sales and marketing, said: “Noble Systems has been in the customer contact technology business for more than thirty years, and we’ve worked with numerous healthcare organisations. Today’s healthcare consumers want better and more personalised care, more access to information and lower costs. There is also a range of growing trends in healthcare patient services, such as cloud-based healthcare contact centres to eliminate business interruption and omnichannel communications to create an experiential patient journey. Health systems need to deliver consistent, positive patient experiences each and every time, regardless of how that communication with patients and customers happens. Whether you’re a private hospital, medical group or service bureau specialising in medical accounts, Noble can provide the tools you need to create a productive, connected and efficient healthcare services operation”.

Payment  Systems  Regulator  publishes Annual Plan and Budget for 2021/22 

The Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) has published its key aims, activities and expected costs for the year 2021/22.

The PSR regulates 40 billion payments worth more than £92 trillion each year. Its role is to provide the focus and expertise necessary to make sure that the systems – and markets they support – work for people, businesses and the economy.

In 2021/22, the PSR will focus on work that will improve outcomes by encouraging competition and innovation where it is needed most and putting the interests of everyone who uses payment systems first. By doing this, it wants to see people and businesses benefit from more choice and exciting new ways to pay.

The pandemic has changed the way many people live their lives and how businesses operate. Increased reliance on the internet and digital communication is shaping the way we socialise and the way we pay for things.

Against this backdrop, the PSR will focus on issues that affect people and businesses now while pushing ahead with important work required to improve outcomes in the future. In 2021/22, the PSR will continue to build on work in areas like scam prevention and access to cash to make sure that no one is left behind and people can access the payment methods they want and need.

Ensuring the successful renewal of the UK’s interbank payment systems1 by Pay.UK will be a key focus. The New Payments Architecture2 has the potential to support greater competition in the payments market which will give people and businesses more choice to use payment services and systems that work for them.

One way to offer increased choice is through new payment methods. The regulator will consider what barriers there might be to bank-to-bank payments playing a greater role in everyday payments, offering alternatives to card or cash payments. Part of that work will explore what levels of protection are in place for people making payments this way and consider whether more are needed. The PSR also plans to finalise work on its future strategy, as well as assessing emerging innovations like cryptoassets and what its role might be in their regulation.

Effective engagement and prioritisation are central to the regulator’s plans for keeping pace with the demands of an ever-evolving landscape and realising its objectives. But the PSR will also step in and use a range of formal powers to effect change and secure compliance where necessary.

In the summer, the regulator will publish its annual report on how it has performed against its plans for 2020/21.

Chris Hemsley, Managing Director at the PSR, said: ‘Greater competition and innovation in payments can significantly benefit us all and help the UK’s economy recover from the impacts of the pandemic.

‘Whether it’s cash, cards or interbank, we want to see the systems we regulate adding real value to people’s lives while supporting an innovative, competitive payments market. We also have an opportunity to address some of the issues – like scams and access to cash – we see in payments today, so that outcomes for everyone improve over time.

‘We have set out our plans to prioritise our work between the more immediate challenges we face now, and the changes needed to make UK payment systems fit for the future.’

Four bad communication habits that you might have slipped into during the pandemic

The pandemic has seen us alter many aspects of our lives – the way that we communicate being one of them. It’s fair to say we’ve probably all sat through more Zoom and Teams calls in the past than year than we ever have before. Whilst this has been a means to an end and a blessing that has allowed business and social communications to continue, it has also likely caused us to slip into some bad habits that just won’t cut it in a post-pandemic world.

Here, Tony Hughes, CEO of global negotiation, sales and communication specialists, Huthwaite International, highlights the five bad communication habits that you ned to ditch now, as we hone our virtual communication skills and gradually increase our face-to-face communication.

Talking for the sake of talking

The phrase ‘listen first, speak second’ often comes to mind when we think about bad communication habits. The main problem is that when you don’t listen, you don’t understand – which can be detrimental to communications. Because of this, one of the biggest hurdles to overcome when communicating is talking for the sake of talking. From experience we can all note that it is painfully irritating when someone keeps talking over you and simply isn’t listening to what you are saying. This is a bad habit that you may have picked up through virtual communications – as it can be that bit trickier to know when others have finished expressing their views. This is because you don’t have the same cues that you do in person that indicate when they have said everything they wish to say.

With that in mind make sure that when communications in person resume, you take the time to listen carefully, digest the information you’re hearing and then share your thoughts once the other person has finished theirs. If you aren’t listening, it usually means you’re talking and the danger is that you miss an opportunity to discover how you can really help someone and make them feel valued.

Practising irritating verbal behaviours

Virtual communications can be irritating – we all know that. It almost goes without saying that you won’t go on a Zoom call without hearing the phrase ‘you’re on mute’, or ‘my wi-fi is really slow’ or ‘you sound a bit robotic.’ This means that before a conversation even fully begins, there are multiple barriers that can cause participants to feel irritated. Because of this, it’s crucial that your personal behaviours do not add to this irritation. However, there’s a chance that this could be a habit you’ve slipped into, usually without even realising.

At some point during a virtual call, you may have found yourself using self-praising declarations. This includes words such as ‘fair’ and ‘reasonable’. You may be doing so just to let the speaker know you’re interested and listening; however, this kind of language can be irritating as it undermines the person you’re speaking to. Steer clear of these words and show your interest through non-verbal behaviours such as nods and open body language. Other irritating phrases you may have picked up whilst communicating through the pandemic may include telling someone you’re ‘being honest with them’ or ‘that you’re trying to be frank’. A lack of face-to-face communications can make it trickier to build personal and trustworthy relationships, but these phrases indicate a lack of sincerity or that you were previously dishonest. It’s best to stop these habits in their tracks ahead of face-to-face communications resuming as it can cause lasting damage to relationships. Try instead to build strong relationships through relating on a personal level, listening properly, asking questions and taking an interest.

Getting caught in a defend/attack spiral

This is when communications can spiral out of control. There’s a chance that if your online meetings have led to a rise in tension or have been fuelled with irritating verbal behaviours – this type of situation may have occurred. A defend/attack spiral occurs when focus shifts from the problem, such as a deadline or a proposal idea, to the person themselves and the conversation therefore becomes personal. Tensions can rise quicker on virtual calls due to miscommunications and can be trickier to resolve.

Skilled communicators avoid this behaviour during a conversation, as it can generate frustration and can end very negatively. Usually, involvement in a defend/attack spiral is a heat of the moment reaction and it can be tricky to stop in its tracks. However, it is certainly a behaviour that you don’t want to slip into post-pandemic so try to nip it in the bud now and find other more successful ways to communicate in order to diffuse a situation. In order to do so, communicators should aim to understand and resolve, rather than react. This allows the conversation to become open and a solution to be achieved harmoniously.

Neglecting to implement structure

Having a clear structure to a meeting can make all the difference between one that is successful and one that is not. Due to the nature of video calls, they can sometimes feel more informal and with that, there can be a slipping in standards. You might find that you’ve attended a business call that has no clear purpose, no agenda and no one chairing the meeting. This can lead to chaos and most importantly a really ineffective way to communicate. Try to get into the habit of implementing everything that you would in a boardroom meeting into your online calls too. This will ensure that when face-to-face meetings do resume, you’re more prepared to have a properly structured and successful meeting.

Try to nominate a meeting manager/chair who can steer and guide the conversation productively. Ensure each meeting has a purpose and make it clear to all involved from the start. Also, take into consideration who is attending each meeting – base your decisions on your meeting invitations around the meeting purpose. Planning for a meeting can be an unpopular task, but taking a few minutes to think through the structure and purpose of your conversation can really help you to achieve your objectives.

Phillips & Cohen Associates hires Amy Perkins as chief of staff

Phillips & Cohen Associates, Ltd., the leading deceased account care and debt settlement portfolio management business servicing creditors in the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Portugal, Germany and Italy, is pleased to announce that Amy Perkins has joined its senior executive leadership team in the newly created role of Global Chief of Staff.

Perkins is a proven leader, with several years of collections strategy and operational experience at the highest levels at NCO Group, Bank of America, and Citizens Bank.  Most recently, she served as President at one of the industry’s premier media outlets, where she led aspects of the news, product design, operations, and marketing, as well as being the architect and driving force of the innovative and influential Women in Consumer Finance Conference.

Adam S. Cohen, Co-Chairman/CEO commented, “These are exciting times for our organization as we look to introduce new products and enter new markets. We are thrilled Amy has joined our global leadership team as she will play a critical role in our ongoing growth by working with all levels of PCA leadership to formulate, design, and execute the long-term vision and strategies of the global business.”

Perkins commented “Phillips & Cohen has a long-standing reputation for being a high energy, value-based company focused on compassion and innovation. That combined with my experience and passion for formulating and driving strategy, made joining PCA a natural and ideal fit. I’m looking forward to being an integral part of Phillips & Cohen’s exciting and prosperous future.”

Matthew Phillips, Co-Chairman/CEO added, “We have known Amy for years and have marveled at her impact on our industry. We look forward to her perspective and influence at Phillips & Cohen as we enter another significant growth phase with our global operation.”

New legislation on pre-pack administrations, R3 response

Colin Haig, President of insolvency and restructuring trade body R3 and Head of Restructuring at Azets, responds to the passing of new legislation on pre-pack administrations: “We welcome efforts to improve stakeholder confidence in pre-packs, but it may be proved that this legislation has missed the mark.

“Sales to connected parties in pre-pack administrations will now be subject to creditor approval, or review by the new independent Evaluator position. The rationale for this is clear but the practicalities around ensuring that an Evaluator is a fit and proper person is where these regulations could fall down.

“These regulations effectively leave it to the market to regulate the Evaluator position. A far better alternative would have been for the Government to agree to maintain a list of approved Evaluators.

“This might have meant an additional administrative burden for them, but it would have given stakeholders greater confidence that these reforms were robust rather than just the easiest option for the Government.”

Care by Volvo Approves Applications in Seconds Using Cloud-Hosted FICO Platform

Volvo Cars has used the cloud-hosted FICO® Platform to digitize and accelerate the customer onboarding process for its new vehicle subscription service, Care by Volvo. By automating the process, Volvo has cut the credit check process on applicants from three days down to seconds.

Care by Volvo is a vehicle subscription service (Mobility-as-a-Service) designed to let customers enjoy the benefits of a new Volvo, without the challenges of owning one. For a fixed monthly fee, Volvo provides subscribers with a brand-new Volvo and covers all regular service, maintenance costs and breakdown cover. The service was introduced to reflect the shift in consumer preference toward car usage and away from absolute ownership.

“When we piloted Care by Volvo in Germany, we used manual credit reference checks, but this took too long and wouldn’t scale as we rolled the program out across Europe and North America,” said Fredrik Nero, product owner at Volvo Cars. “We needed to process applications faster, and approve applications in real time, in line with the Care by Volvo digital vision. Moving to FICO and its cloud-hosted digital decisioning solution gave us the speed and consistency we needed to improve the service and roll it out.”

Volvo adopted various components of the FICO Platform — FICO® Decision Modeler, FICO® Application Studio, FICO® Data Orchestrator Data Acquisition Module — in a cloud-hosted version for maximum efficiency. The solution connects to various external data providers, provides a workflow for managing referred decisions and is integrated with the digital sales channel. It is used for both consumer and business subscribers.

“We now have a single framework to handle third-party data consistently across countries,” said Nero. “This has allowed us to manage our credit policy with a single underwriting team, and yet allow for local market risk needs.”

Care by Volvo achieved its goal of real-time decisions for more than 80 percent of applications, with straight-through processing. As a bonus, the FICO-powered solution is being extended beyond Care by Volvo to all digital sales and new battery electric vehicles as the Volvo Digital journey progresses.

“Volvo Cars is shaping the future of driving and making it possible for more people to get behind the wheel of a Volvo,” said Nikhil Behl, chief marketing officer at FICO. “A single, cloud-hosted platform from FICO is just part of this amazing success story. Congratulations to the Volvo team for their innovation.”

“Harmonization is very difficult as you move to the cloud, and you start to look at the different data streams,” said David Dittmann, vice president, Data & Analytics, P&G and one of the FICO Decisions Awards judges. “Volvo was able to take a manual, fragmented business process, and then centralize it and automate it in real time to make it talk to their backroom applications to make credit decisions. The judges thought Volvo did a great job deploying this system in the cloud across multiple countries.”

Lantern achieves Double Gold

At Lantern we live and breathe our strapline of ‘Debt with a Human Touch’. We’re passionate about creating an environment for our colleagues which empowers them to identify solutions for our 3m vulnerable customers, and find a dignified way out of debt.

That’s why we’re incredibly proud to have achieved DOUBLE GOLD in 2021 from both Investor in Customers (IIC) and Investors in People (IIP) – independent assessments demonstrating a shining example of what happens when you focus on developing your business with people in mind.

“The team at Lantern have worked incredibly hard to ensure that customers are at the heart of their business and that all their employees understand and meet the needs of their customers first time – every time. They are a prime example of the benefits of listening to customers and acting upon their feedback. Lantern’s progress is exceptional, and they fully deserve their IIC Gold accolade as their results speak for themselves.” Tony Barritt, Managing Director of Investor in Customers

The Consultant on behalf of IIP said “The Lantern strapline ‘Debt with a Human Touch’ was apparent in a wealth of comments about how the customer is at the heart of everything colleagues do and they always strive to provide the best solution for each customer.  It was clear that the Lantern approach has been a key factor in new starter decisions to join the company. The future looks strong for Lantern as work towards their goals progresses at a high pace.  People are aware of future milestones and optimism is extremely strong. Lantern is making great progress towards becoming an employer of choice.”

Denise Crossley, Lantern CEO commented “Our success hasn’t happened overnight – it comes on the back of years of hard work by everyone here at Lantern, pushing ourselves to set the highest possible standards when it comes to caring for our customers. I maintain the belief that, even in the world of debt recovery, it’s possible to build a successful business by being empathetic, honest and relatable. I’m phenomenally proud of what we’re building at Lantern. It’s something special that is continuing to get the recognition our approach and people deserve.”