Lantern chief executive Denise Crossley explains how the debt purchaser ensured it reached the next level in customer service.
In January 2020, debt purchasing firm Lantern received a gold award from customer experience agency Investors in Customers.
The recognition follows two consecutive years in which Lantern was given silver ratings by the agency, which rigorously benchmarks the quality of customer service and relationships across several dimensions, including how well a company understands its customers, how it meets their needs and how it engenders loyalty.
For Lantern chief executive, Denise Crossley, the gold rating is the culmination of a concerted effort across the whole business over three years to improve customer interactions and management incrementally in order to see an overall greater outcome.
“We decided to call the project ‘Going for Gold’ and rolled this out across the business, setting out what we needed to improve across all areas in order to reach gold, promoting what it meant for the business and what it meant for customers,” explains Crossley. “It was about improving across all areas because we were already fairly highly rated.”
This did not just entail changing customer-facing elements, but also the experience for Lantern staff, too.
“We made the offices better for staff to work in, launched our intranet and further improved internal communications to staff,” Crossley says. “We arranged for a representative from each area of the business to work with our HR, L&D and talent department to bring ideas to the executive team, from which they would get an answer and positive action.
“Everything was geared around the customer and we did much more in terms of working collaboratively with our staff internally and that then had an impact on the way we dealt with our customers. We’ve always been empathetic with our customers because we work with customers who, at the point of default, are deemed truly vulnerable in our eyes.”
As a result of that ethos, the company became increasingly focused on the needs of their customers, particularly in terms of making provisions for vulnerability.
“What started off as a care team, and then a care department, culminating in all aspects of our business being able to deal with customers in vulnerability,” Crossley said, who cited customer feedback and testimonials as a key yardstick for Lantern’s progress.
“There’s a point where you know the things you can improve upon yourself, but once you do that and you reach a good place, then you need external assistance to help you achieve more. There wasn’t any stand-out area, so it was about marginal gains.”
That progress is borne out by the increase in Lantern’s customer base over the period from 1.4 million to 2.5 million customers, while driving down upheld complaints over that same timeframe.
“Nobody likes complaints, but you can’t often avoid them in this sector. It was about keeping the percentages very low, while increasing the customer base, because we want customers to have a good experience despite being in debt.” Crossley says.
As a result, Lantern has been able to broaden its horizons, with lenders approaching the firm to sell their vulnerable customer management portfolios to the firm, which, Crossley says, offers “much better engagement and a much better customer journey”.
“We were already deemed a very safe pair of hands in the high-cost, short-term sector, which naturally has pockets of vulnerability in it,” she adds. “It was expanding that out and acknowledging that we’re extremely talented at managing customers in vulnerable circumstances. Therefore, why don’t we widen that and offer it to other lenders in other sectors?
“It’s enabled us to expand on that expertise and turn it into a niche and broadened our credibility. For customers, it means no matter which part of Lantern you’re dealing with, every single person in the business understands that making the customer journey right is of the utmost importance and that, when you buy a new book, you might have to wait for some of those funds to be realised.”