When colleges go to recover past-due student accounts, the obstacles can seem overwhelming. But there are tactics that can increase your retention rate while maintaining a positive overall relationship with students. It all begins with a student-first customer service model.
Act sooner rather than later. Once an account is overdue, make it a priority to connect with that student as quickly as possible. Don’t let the account sit around. That increases the chances of a student dropping out, moving on and becoming unreachable. The further into the past an overdue account is, the less “real” it feels. If you work the account sooner, you're going to have better recovery rates.
Make direct contact. A personalized approach – reaching out by phone, for example, rather than through a form letter – gets better results, especially if the tone used conveys empathy.
Don’t think of phone calls as collection calls. The first thing you ask should be “How can we help?” Because you’re talking one-on-one, you can craft a plan to help your account holders solve the situation.
Offer payment plans. A big dollar amount in the thousands marked YOUR TOTAL BALANCE can be intimidating. The solution is easy – a system that lets students make monthly payments.
Concentrate on ease of use. If you want payments from students, let them pay down their college tuition and fees using a simple online payment method. For today’s college students, mobile payments are a lifestyle preference, which is why ECSI’s RecoverySelect was designed to accommodate them. The same goes for automatic checking account withdrawals. If you want your money, make it easy for students to pay.
Take the long view. Is it possible to increase customer service while you resolve a student balance? Often you get more money, but you leave a negative taste in their mouth.
Lori Carbonara / Warrendale, PA
Lori oversees the products for Heartland ECSI and is focused on bringing the right solutions to the higher education industry. More than just the product expert, Lori is a youth mentor for business students, directing member of the Product Management Group, and is deeply involved in the product management community.