By Dean Kaplan+
Collection agencies need to be concerned about the satisfaction of Internal Customers. This is the third article in a four part series of articles on internal customer satisfaction. This article focuses on defining needs and requirements for internal customer satisfaction.
In the last article, we discussed the need to clearly identify who the credit department’s internal customers are. In addition, the functions of these departments and their relationships with other departments must be fully understood. Finally, if a collection agency has been hired to assist the credit department in its collection efforts, the collection agency must be brought into the loop to assure that all necessary information is available to the credit department as it communicates with its internal customers.
Once the customers and their functions and relationships are understood, the next step is to clarify the needs and requirements of these customers as they relate to the credit department. There are many valid ways to gain this critical understanding of the internal customers. One way is for the credit manager to talk with all its internal customers and explain the functions of the credit department to the customers. Then it is up to the customers to tell the credit manager what is needed for the customer to do the best job possible while managing resources and complying with the overall company’s goals and objectives. The positive about this approach is that the credit manager gives face time to all the customers, hopefully building relationships and trust along the way. The negative to this approach is that the data is gathered via conversations. It may be hard for the credit manager to collect the data, write it all down, and summarize it into actionable items.
Another technique to collect the necessary information is to hold meetings where several customers come together and the same basic information is exchanged. This is akin to the focus groups used by marketing departments to test product ideas. This may be a more efficient method for the credit manager because he or she can make the explanation of the functions of the credit department to several customers at the same time, and the message will be the same for all in attendance. In addition, this gives the customers a chance to understand how their respective functions fits into the credit department’s regime, and how their functions might relate to each other. It also gives the customers a chance to identify duplicate efforts, or areas where communication should begin. The positive of this approach is obviously time savings as well as a chance for communication across functional areas to begin, and relationships and trust to be built. A negative is the same as the face to face meetings: it may be difficult for the credit manager to develop an action plan from the subjective data collected.
A final technique, which is less time driven and more easily tabulated, is to develop an internal customer satisfaction survey. While the survey takes time to develop and write, it is relatively simple to administer. One negative feature is that the survey lacks the personal touch of face-to-face meetings. However, using a survey does not preclude the credit manager from taking the time to meet with internal customers prior to the survey to explain the purpose of the survey and obtain buy-in from the customers. An easy way to obtain this buy-in is to make the customers feel their input is valued and necessary. Customer satisfaction comes from customers feeling important.
The final article in this four part series will look at the actual development of the internal customer satisfaction survey. The information collected is only as good as the questions asked on the survey. It is important to make sure the survey questions get the credit department the information they need to satisfy their customers. Once again, it is also important for the collection agency working for the credit department and its debt collectors be informed of the findings of the internal survey to assure that they are providing the credit department with all the information they need to satisfy the needs of their internal customers.
Click here to go to the final article in this four part series Collection Agencies And The Internal Customer Satisfaction Survey, which will be posted tomorrow. If you missed earlier articles in the series, click here to go to the first article Collection Agencies Working For Credit Departments
The Kaplan Group is a boutique collection agency specializing in large (over $10,000) debt collections due from businesses. Founded in 1991, the company has a stellar reputation (A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau) and is recognized as one of the leading collection agencies for results on large and complex matters.