Auto lenders that expect punctual car payments should consider refining their online and mobile payment options.
Customers are more likely to pay on time when their lender has an accessible website and robust mobile offerings, according to a survey last fall. In the survey of 2,425 customers who had paid a bill on a mortgage, vehicle, school fee or medical expense, research firm Aite Group concluded that customers who cannot find account information online and a method of making payments are more likely to fall behind. Only 55 percent of auto lenders receive payments on time, according to the survey.
Optimizing search engine results so that customers find information quickly is also important to getting payments more efficiently. Three quarters of the respondents prefer receiving account information through a website than over the phone or in person. Auto finance customers only pick up the phone when the information they need isn't displayed effectively on their lender's website, the survey said.
Auto lenders should track the top search engine terms their customers use regarding their payments and incorporate that language into their website, said Marc Sczesnak, director of product management at ACI Worldwide, a payment system company.
When properly leveraging search engine optimization, lenders are able to see what types of words people are keying in to find their accounts. Using those trends can drive their resources higher on a Google search, ensuring information reaches their customers' sight line.
Digital engagement is also key to ensuring customers pay on time. More than half of auto finance customers noted that reminders were helpful in making payments on time, according to the survey.
Pushing notifications to a customer's phone, or sending an email reminder about upcoming payments, could make a large difference. Expanding mobile offerings so that customers can make car payments on their phones through a website or an app will also ensure lenders get repaid at a faster pace.
Smartphones are a constant for many lender customers, Sczesnak says, and can be the most reliable method of reaching customers in time to make payments.
When a customer moves, "They have to go to every one of their lenders to make sure they get a new address on file," Sczesnak says. If auto lenders are able to get more customers to engage with them digitally through a smartphone or digital bill, "It's an easier way to stay connected," he said.
The faster customers can find information about their accounts, the sooner they can make payments on them. An outdated payment system could keep auto loan borrowers from paying on time or deter younger borrowers from selecting a lender in the first place. Either way, customers are frustrated, and money is left on the table.
It's up to lenders to invest in the change.