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Best practice case study: How RBS overhauled debt advice referrals, across multiple channels

RBS and Payplan have been working on a partnership in the past year to radically improve referrals to free debt advice, while keeping customer choice paramount. RBS described to Credit Strategy how the initiative yielded positive outcomes.



One in six people in the UK are burdened with financial difficulties but only one in five of those will engage with debt advice.


This lack of engagement is driven largely by a fear among customers about having to discuss their financial difficulties with a complete stranger. To remove this fear, RBS has been working in partnership with Payplan to optimise the debt advice customer experience.


Traditionally, RBS had relied upon signposting or hotkeying customers to sources of free debt advice. These methods delivered poor engagement – about five percent of customers act upon the signpost. Hotkeying is better at around 20 percent engagement but RBS believed those customers felt pressured or fatigued by the offer of a hotkey.


RBS felt these methods were dated and failed to recognise the shift in demand from customers towards digital services, with more than 70 percent of PayPlan customers now opting for a digital advice journey.


Recognising this need for change, RBS and PayPlan developed three new initiatives:


1 A new secure referral form
This form (see extract below) sits on an RBS desktop enabling them to digitally refer a customer to PayPlan. Using this form, RBS instructs PayPlan to contact a customer at a time that suits them, via their channel of choice. PayPlan subsequently contacts around 65 percent of those individuals.





Referrals are tagged by RBS agents, enabling PayPlan to feedback detailed MI and outcomes on all referrals made – solving the debt advice black hole and enabling better management of processes such as breathing space.


Critical to the success of this initiative was the RBS investment in embedding the process into quality assurance activity (QA). PayPlan visited all of the RBS collections sites to deliver training which re-enforced how to spot the early signs of debt and financial stress, how to refer customers to debt advice and how to explain what would happen next in the customer journey.


2. Online support via ‘struggling financially’ web pages

RBS customers can now access PayPlan support directly via the re-designed ‘struggling financially’ pages on our website (see extract below). Here, RBS customers can arrange for a PayPlan call back or start a PayPlan digital journey without speaking to an RBS agent. This feature bridges the gap for customers who are not yet in debt but are struggling to make ends meet. The tool can also be used to help with budgeting.




3) One-touch referral from a digital I&E
RBS customers can now be transferred seamlessly from the RBS digital I&E to PayPlan, carrying their contact details and completed Standard Financial Statement information through the systems, avoiding the need for the customer to repeat the I&E process.


The combination of these initiatives has decreased the time an RBS customer takes to get into debt advice, removed worry from customers and increased the numbers of customers engaging with free debt advice. Through greater engagement, more RBS customers are now benefitting from free debt advice, helping them to achieve better outcomes through holistic debt support.


"Creditors are often first to spot signs that a customer needs debt help but struggle to engage customers with appropriate support"


Explaining the rationale for the partnership, Chris Laverick, head of supplier management at RBS, said: “Recognising that only 20 percent of customers engage with debt advice, and that traditional methods of referring (signposting & hotkeying) were not working for our customers (evident through poor contact rates), we set about finding a more appropriate solution.


“One solution was never the answer, so a combined approach looking at it through all channels, whilst keeping customer choice at the core, has worked really well. Every metric set out in our success criteria has moved positively. Customer feedback is positive, and importantly our colleagues have bought into it.”


Peter Munro, partnerships director at PayPlan, added: “Creditors are often the first people to spot the signs that a customer needs debt help but struggle to engage customers with the appropriate support.


“RBS have responded to this challenge with a fresh collaborative approach and successfully re-defined what ‘best practice’ now looks like for the debt advice customer journey. We look forward to working with them to continue pushing the boundaries even further and influencing positive change across the industry.”


The outcomes
Through analytics and customer feedback, RBS was able to demonstrate the following results:

• 67 percent of clients had not heard about debt advice before engagement via these channels, driving a 45 to 60 percent improvement in contact rates (Payplan to customer).

• 92 percent understood why they had been referred, testament to the training investment.

• 93 percent felt calmer and reassured at the end of the journey.

• 96 percent felt more determined to sort out their debts.


By re-designing the ‘struggling financially’ FAQs, RBS also found that traffic hitting the page increased 26 percent, which translated to a 35 percent increase in customer satisfaction


Ultimately, the team at RBS found that key metrics for the initiative are performing marginally better than comparable internal benchmarks, dispelling the myth that by removing dialogue with agents, it will lead to lower payments.


Combined with better engagement and NPS scores, the case study proved that providing channel of choice, at a convenient time for the customer, is in-line with customer expectations and should become the norm.





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