In most companies, CX efforts concentrate on the most exciting part of the customer journey: crafting experiences for prospects and new business opportunities. But what if you were to shift that emphasis to include the low points of the customer journey as well? This was a central question for the marketing team at Southeast Toyota Finance, when they set out to rethink the experience for customers in the late-stage debt collection process.

During Sitecore Symposium 2020, Patrick Neff, Principal Manager, Marketing & Digital Experience, Southeast Toyota Finance, and David Kovner, EVP, Client Services for veteran Sitecore Platinum Partner Verndale, told the story of their discovery: that debt collection and customer loyalty are closely linked – and marketers can solve business problems by applying well known CX concepts to different stages of the customer journey.

As part of the Customer Experience track, this featured session gave attendees an inside look at a real-world case study with the Sitecore Experience Platform.

“Marketers want to focus on the happy path of the customer journey – when the customer is making a purchase and paying bills on time,” Neff said. His team believed that applying the same concepts from the early-stage customer experience could have an equal or greater impact on customer loyalty, and the bottom line.

The current state of consumer debt 

Neff began his part of the talk with a bit of industry context: By the fourth quarter of 2019, 4.7% of outstanding debt, or US$669 million, was delinquent. Of this amount, two-thirds was in a late-stage delinquency — meaning more than 90 days past due. This typically is the point when companies enlist the support of third-party debt collection agencies.

In 2020, the pandemic caused even more individuals and businesses to default on their loans. States began to limit what collectors could do, and agencies proactively put holds on their own debt collection activities. Against this backdrop, Neff and his team set out to prove that a better customer experience could strengthen relationships and reduce past-due collections.

A fresh approach

The first steps were to find the right implementation partner and define a set of core principles for the project. Southeast Toyota Finance chose Verndale for its deep and relevant industry experience, and commitment to value creation. Verndale in turn recommended using Sitecore for its enterprise CMS capabilities, flexibility with site design, and content authoring tools.

With these decisions in place, the team set out to design a human-centered experience. To succeed, they had to earn trust, demonstrate compassion, and transition customers from a new digital experience to the phone.

They scoped the project in two phases. First, a four-week pilot to test the theory of an inviting website carefully designed to build trust. In this phase, the priorities were time-to-market with a lean approach, using the company’s current implementation of Sitecore. Later, a complete rollout in Phase 2 would take advantage of the full functionality of Sitecore.

Encouraging results

After four weeks, the initial pilot had produced a 72% increase in the number of retail customers who had made an initial payment on their contract and a 700% increase in the number of “promises to pay” within a seven-day window. On the leasing side of the business, Southeast Toyota Finance reported an increase of 60% in initial payments, and a 1700% jump in the promises to pay metric.

This early success led the team to begin work on a new experience for customers who are in an earlier stage of default, 31-45 days past due.

Solving business problems

By exploring strategies for rescuing customers at the lowest part of their journeys, Southeast Toyota Finance has reengaged many of them and turned them into loyal customers.

“Marketing isn’t always about setting up the next sale,” said Kovner. “We can be problem-solvers who drive revenue and long-term loyalty.”

Symposium All-Access Pass holders can log into the event platform and watch the full 20-minute presentation, which includes a demonstration of the new debt collection website.

Jill Grozalsky is a Product Marketing Director at Sitecore. Find her on LinkedIn and Twitter.