The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on people’s financial situations1.

People have lost their jobs, fallen ill or struggled to feed their families and pay their bills. Many of these people have never missed a payment, defaulted or fallen behind on their mortgage or rent before, but now they need help to manage debt while they get back on their feet.

And the pandemic isn’t only affecting us as individuals – it’s affecting us as societies and economies too. We’re now facing the biggest recession the UK has seen2 and the shrinking economy will put even more pressure on families’ finances.

All of this means that it’s more crucial than ever that companies tailor their approach to customers who have got into debt during the pandemic and treat them with fairness and empathy according to their individual circumstances, rather than pushing them through the traditional one-dimensional approach to collections.

Particularly for people who haven’t been in debt before, being able to shape their own journey and contact you in the way and at the time that makes them feel more comfortable is very important – it makes them more willing to engage with you and, at the same time, reduces your cost to serve. So, it’s vital that you give your customers the flexibility and space to move at their own pace and in the most appropriate way, whether that’s via letter, text, phone call or website chatbot.

Data and insights play a key role here. When you use your customers’ payment history to understand their profiles and behaviours, and identify those who are newly vulnerable, you can develop personalised strategies for rehabilitating them and preventing them from getting even deeper into debt.

But you don’t have to wait until people actually get into debt to help them – you just need to be flexible with your policies to minimise risk. As soon as customers ask for a payment holiday or a deferral, or miss a payment, you can seize the opportunity to engage with them and offer short- and long-term support, for example by granting a payment holiday on a loan and then extending the term by a few months to allow them to catch up.

You’re not only protecting your customers when you take a fair, empathetic, personalised approach to collections – you’re also protecting yourself. When customers who have never defaulted on their payments before turn to you for help, getting your approach right can protect your brand, reputation for high-quality customer service and customer base.

Covid-19 has changed the world. We’re living in extraordinary times that are exerting great financial pressure on people and organisations. It’s critical to treat customers fairly and ensure that they get the help they need, however and whenever suits them best.

To find out how Capita can help you to use data and insights to give your customers a fairer, more personal experience, speak to one of our experts.

Thinking about your organisation?

[1] https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/public-and-social-sector/our-insights/covid-19-in-the-united-kingdom-assessing-jobs-at-risk-and-the-impact-on-people-and-places#
[2] https://www.ft.com/content/734e604b-93d9-43a6-a6ec-19e8b22dad3c