Why organisations are choosing Paylink’s Embark affordability software

22nd June 2022.

Andrew Alder, Director of Development & Partnerships here at Paylink Solutions, discusses the importance of the affordability process and making sure customers arrive at the right outcome.

With the cost-of-living crisis hitting everyone in the pocket, and the FCA telling lenders to support customers struggling with living costs, there’s been a significant increase in demand from organisations wanting to not only digitalise their affordability process, but also provide staff with a better way to capture this information during calls. 

The concept sounds straightforward, but the devil is in the detail. 

Here at Paylink Solutions, we’ve been supporting our clients to take control of their affordability process for a while now. Our digital affordability solution, Embark, has seen more than two million affordability assessments being completed by our consumers.

What’s been interesting is that our clients are asking for individual approaches to suit their needs. We’ve been evolving our product development in a configurable way so we can quickly provide the tailored approaches our clients are asking for.

This unique view has also allowed us to continue to evolve our product and given us unparalleled insight into different ways affordability is being captured – and how consumers engage with the digital platform. 

Understanding affordability has always been of great importance to ensure consumers arrive at the right outcomes but now more than ever, this should be at the top of everyone’s list.

To support this, I thought I’d share some insights on how to digitise the customer affordability process, improve outcomes and reduce cost to serve.

Type of set-ups

During the pandemic, we worked with banks and building societies to design and deliver their digital affordability journeys at a very fast pace. Stand-alone set-up was the preferred day one option, without any IT resource on integration with clients’ CRM systems.  Affordability APIs were implemented for around 30% of our clients, and, from day one, the set-up included access to end points via APIs to access and consume customer data into and out of Embark.

Open banking and credit referencing agency (CRA) data

These have been very popular features to increase understanding of customers’ spending patterns and their overall financial situation in a quicker and more accurate way. In fact, the use of open banking via Embark is the first time some of our clients have used open banking in their organisations.

Around 60% of our clients opted to configure the open banking and CRA data features from day one. Our clients still provide their customers with a choice when it comes to using open banking, and they can opt to provide their CRA budget information manually if they prefer. 

Invite options

Clients have been consistent with the range of ways they want customers to access a workflow journey. In response, our solution is adaptable to how clients want customers to engage, using existing communication channels of their choice. 

Popular options include: 

  • Hosting Embark on their websites 
  • Sending out bulk notifications to customers who have fallen into arrears as part of their collections strategies 
  • Allowing agents to engage with customers directly, which is very effective in reducing average handling times and achieving high completion rates
  • Having the ability to share partially-completed workflows, with the most common use case being where agents and customers have started the income and expenditure (I&E) process over the phone and not been able to finish it
  • Affordability workflows presented within AI chatbots 
  • Customer API data points from clients into Embark to invite customers and pre-populate key account information 
Agent-led income and expenditure (I&E) process

Client feedback tells us the I&E process has been the most underinvested part of the collections process from a system development and staff training perspective.

Embark has:

  • Enabled our clients to provide their employees with a state-of-the-art affordability solution to use on calls with customers
  • Given agents the same experience and functionality as a self-serving customer
  • Reduced average call handling times by 20 minutes 
  • Reduced cost to serve by over £1 million in first six months 
Agent-led budget vs self-serve

This has heavily influenced strategies, policies and focus on promoting customer self-serve options. Our clients who have a digital-first strategy, where they encourage customers to self-serve their affordability, have yielded up to 90% of all their affordability solutions being completed by customers. 

Other clients, who have adopted an approach where they complete Embark I&Es with customers over the phone, are still seeing at least 45% of customers self-serving their affordability through non-call centre strategies that promote self-serve affordability. 

Both approaches have helped our clients realise significant reduction in cost to serve and reduction in call handling times by over 50%.

Free debt advice

Tens of thousands of customers have been able to access free debt advice within their affordability journey via Embark. This has been extremely important for them as it’s meant they’ve been able to  receive free support with getting back on track with their finances, by either budgeting advice – or being set up on an affordable and sustainable debt solution. Allowing customers to share their affordability data with our sister company and free debt advice provider, PayPlan, has proven to be instrumental in improving outcomes and engagement. 

Brand and product-specific workflows

For clients with multiple brands and lending products, we’ve built workflows that are specific to each of their brands and products. 

As an example, one client had four different lending brands, each with separate IT systems and office locations. Our solution enabled these businesses to bring their affordability process under a multitenancy instance within a single cloud environment. Other examples have been different disposable income calculation rules based on product type, and specific communicants and workflow journeys that recognise the lending product the customer is completing their affordability for.

Digital breakouts

Not all customers who start a workflow will be able to finish the affordability process, so having the ability for customers to share what they have done is important, with information icons to support queries – as well as Live Chat.

Google Analytics and Hotjar

Google Analytics allows our clients to track where customers drop out of an affordability journey through our widget design. Collaborating with Hotjar also provides insight into where customers spend the most time on each page. Understanding what platforms and devices customers are using to complete their affordability has helped to improve the design and overall customer experience. It has also enabled the tracking of affordability campaigns, either retrospectively or in real-time. 

Budget accuracy

A key component to this is having validation and dynamic questioning so customers are supported through the affordability journey. Configuring over and underspending guidelines has supported customers with a budget action plan at the end of the process. The dynamic questioning (based on household) has improved accuracy and ensured key budget information is provided by customers, whilst supplementing open banking categorisation.

MI and reporting

Having access to customer journey data and knowing what stage customers is at in the journey is important in understanding where drop-offs occur. Notifying customers who haven’t competed their workflow on the platform has also helped to maximise our clients’ completion rates. Bring able to access financial data has also given our clients insight into their customers’ disposable income trends and spending.

Completed budgets

Digital CTAs following completed budget workflows have had to cater for how clients want to operationally support their customers. Our product design has been tailored to each client’s specification, such as:

  • The ability for customers to request a call back through our appointment booking module to discuss their budget
  • Allowing customers to continue to engage digitally via Live Chat conversations 
  • Providing dedicated numbers for customers to call to discuss their budget 
  • Team structures set-up within Embark that can route completed I&Es to the right teams based on individual financial circumstances
Self-serve arrangements

These are now becoming more popular based on the completed affordability journey. Our digital triage/short form I&E, aided by machine learning and Chatbot capability, creates a journey tailored to the behaviour and needs of each individual user.

To find out more about how our products can benefit your customers, click here.


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