Keeping your Collections Technology Relevant
Authored by: Amber E Gest
“How can we be sure to maximize the return on our technology investment?” This is a classic question that is echoed in every bank and credit union conference room nationwide. It used to be that focusing on the return alone was enough; if the new system/platform showed a return within 5 years, it was considered a good investment. In this highly competitive banking market, with ever changing regulations and compliance requirements, we believe that bank and credit union staff must remain actively focused on continuing to evolve their technology, rather than leave it alone. Our belief is that in the long run, the plug & play, or “set it & forget it” modules might end up sacrifice relevancy and longevity for easy implementations and perceived ROI. In our minds, maximized technology output runs in direct correlation to maximized staff input – and there are 3 key focus areas that can keep technology in tip-top shape: continued staff training, user group participation, and evolving system integration.
Maximized staff input equals maximized technology output!
Continue Training the Business Unit
Initial staff training is often bundled with the purchase and implementation of new technology – whether it is new core platform, document imagining system, collections automation platform….you name it, your team gets trained on it. For two to five days, the business unit sits in a room or logs into a WebEx, and sucks How-To information from the fire hose. Inevitably, some information dribbles out and doesn’t get swallowed. Fast forward two or three years down the road, and inevitably the team has unknowingly “dumbed down” the technology; they use the features and functionally that they remembered from training, and the less-commonly used functionality falls into the rabbits hole. Holding continued staff training, or product “refresher courses” helps to ensure a few things; that the business unit is consistently is reminded of functionality or applications that they may not be fully leveraging, and that they are made aware of new functionality or enhancements that may have been made available. In our efforts to encourage IBS clients to leverage consistent training for their staff, we recorded and released a few Online Self-Guided User Training Modules. These interactive training modules are available at no additional cost to supported IBS clients, allowing platform users to take the online classes based on their availability. Some of our clients have included “attendance” to the Training Modules within their staff performance reviews. Requiring refresher training helps ensure that staff stay on top of their professional game; they are aiming straight before they release the bow.
If you continue to sharpen the saw, you will continue to cut straighter and faster.
Actively Participate in User Groups
Many platforms and banking systems have some sort of affiliated User Group which is directly or indirectly supported by the technology provider. If an institution truly wants to leverage their technology, and get the most out of their experience, then they must be an active participant the associated User Group. These groups provide a forum for open dialogue, suggestions, feedback, and networking with other users of your platform (although some confuse it as a place to get their social needs met). I have seen countless exchanges between fellow IBS users on the IBS Online User Forum about how to leverage our technology to satisfy CFPB requirements, or how they might be optimizing newest features to satisfy FannieMae or FreddieMac collections compliance requirements. Not only are User Groups or Online User Forums key places for getting feedback on what’s working for other clients, or how they are leveraging the technology; the Group itself often acts as larger voice for the client base which feeds directly to firm’s executive management and development teams. Need a new doohickey? The fastest way for an enhancement request or new feature to gain traction with development is through active support and feedback from the User Group.
Ask questions, share results, and engage!
Continue to Expand Integration
Technology is only as good as the problems it solves...but it could be fair to say that it is also only as good as the information it has access to. A key issue that we hear about from bank and credit union collections executives is that their business unit is bogged down by too many manual activities, like bouncing from application to application (collections module here, credit card processer there, Doc imaging system here, mail house there). It seems that there are no “one-stop-shops” anymore; institutions are contracting with best-of breed providers in multiple areas, and may not be getting all their technology needs met in one place. A key thing we encourage our clients to remember though, is that the best technology solution might not truly be the best if it can’t “speak” to other platforms… Information is power – shared information is key. Looking back through IBS history, we have clients who installed our platform 10 or 15 years ago, when they may have only needed data imported from their core processer. Through the years these same clients may have added additional credit card portfolios, or may have added a Forced Placed Insurance plan to their indirect portfolio – and if we sat idle and never expanded our integration capabilities, they may have also replaced a collections automation platform. Without continuing to evolve the integration between technology platforms, information silos inevitably form. When information is parsed into multiple areas, institution staff is less informed or perhaps not aware, and they most certainly have to visit multiple platforms in order to get the information they need. On the other hand, if an institution continuously focuses on expanding platform integration and data sharing, they continue to add fuel to the performance fire.
Information is power, but shared information is efficiency.
“You get what you put into it”. This saying might bring you back to your days in grade school, or sitting around your kitchen table – but it is still relevant in every walk of life. Banking technology is no different; in order to maximize your technology investment, and continue to see results, you have to engage. By committing to continuing refresher training and development for your staff, actively participating in the technology’s User Group, and expanding system integration to other platforms, you will inevitable lengthen the life of your investment.