30% of Consumers turn to WhatsApp for debt-related customer service

Customers are demanding as many as seven different ways to interact with payment and collections teams, including newer channels not commonly known for business use such as WhatsApp and Snapchat, according to research from conversational AI specialist Webio.

The Webio Customer Connections report, based on a survey of over 2,000 UK adults exploring their experiences interacting with brands around account payments and collections, found that while email still leads as the channel of choice for two thirds (66%), 30% want to use WhatsApp. One in five (21%) would also use Facebook Messenger and one in 10 (9%) would choose Snapchat to have conversations about payments and collections.

One driver for the popularity of newer channels appears to be age. WhatsApp is the most popular brand communication channel, with 41% of adults aged 25-44 years using this compared to 31% of 16-24 year-olds and only 18% of those aged 55 or older. Snapchat appeal doubles for 16-24-year-olds, with one in five wanting the option to use this app.

The report also reveals the importance of newer communication channels to put customers at ease when interacting about money-related issues, such as overdue or failed payments or when their account is in arrears. For example, one in five (22%) choose WhatsApp because they don’t want to feel pressured or embarrassed, as they might do on a ‘one to one’ conversation on the phone. Over a third (37%) say they prefer to use SMS so they can feel in control of the conversation.

Cormac O’Neill, CEO, Webio, comments: “Living costs in the UK are rising at their fastest rate in 30 years. On the back of the financial pressures of pandemic restrictions, households face one of the most challenging periods in money management, with rising inflation, fuel costs and interest rates. Against this backdrop, collections teams are facing their own challenges in how to start and sustain conversations with customers, balancing professionalism with empathy to boost engagement while protecting cashflow and brand reputation.

“Blending conversational AI with human interaction ensures brands can engage positively with customers across the debt cycle, with empathy and in the channels they want to use. By designing personalised journeys, payments and collections teams can increase engagement rates, improve conversation outcomes and ultimately positively impact cashflow.”