Why aren’t more people signing up for your company’s extremely useful assistance programs? From psychological barriers to website blunders, we offer four major reasons your customers still haven’t enrolled. Learn from this two-part series on why enrollment could be suffering, and get ideas on how to boost your awesome program’s numbers.
Last week we talked about heightened stress levels and poor website navigation being two major barriers to customers signing up for your programs.
This week we turn to some more of the practical, nuts-and-bolts aspects of enrollment, and even more customer behavior preferences that could be keeping folks from making use of all that your company has to offer.
In today’s uncertain economic environment, with (at the very least) over 20 million Americans out of work, it’s more important than ever to ensure that your customers have access to, and knowledge about, all of your awesome programs.
Even if your company is doing great work to spread the news of crisis relief grants or late-fee forgiveness programs, which we’re sure it is, there are probably some key areas where it makes sense to deploy a few easy tools to:
- increase enrollment numbers,
- hit company targets, and
- help more customers
If you missed last week’s post, check it out here. If you’re ready for more insights, we bring you Part 2.
Applying for a program sometimes requires too much paperwork.
Filling in handwritten forms, gathering bank statements, submitting copies of tax returns–all the headaches that are required to apply to a financial assistance program–can sometimes be too much for the modern consumer.
Nowadays we’re comfortable using slick, digital submission forms. Clunky paper and pen systems are a major turnoff for many–especially the droves of newly under-employed Millennials in your customer base who never needed assistance before but sure do now.
What The Guardian reported way back in 2016 still holds absolutely true: “Insurers [and others] may have to innovate, scrambling for new products that would appeal to millennials. It’s what Mark Evans, group marketing director of Direct Line in the UK, calls the ‘Amazonification’ of insurance, where young people can buy things quickly without a fussy policy procedure. ‘Young people like things that are fast and don’t involve too much paperwork,’ he says.”
Neal Keene, Executive Vice President of Intelledox, adds in his 2019 article on PaymentsSource.com, “…many businesses – especially those in highly regulated industries like financial services – still require customers to complete paper forms and scan, fax or mail them back. This tedious and time-consuming effort is cumbersome for all parties involved.”
Instead, making the switch to digital can keep you and your programs relevant, nimble and responsive. Which are all keys to keeping customers engaged over the long haul.
Thankfully, some of our energy industry partners have offered customers extended grace periods, and many states have issued a moratorium on collections, giving people time to gather and submit all of the necessary paperwork. Still, eliminating headaches for stressed-out, vulnerable customers can make a big difference.
For an easy lift toward a digital transformation, start by making use of e-signatures and simple photo-scan apps that allow users to upload pictures of paper docs from their phones rather than having to fax or mail hard copies.
Apart from digitization, make the most out of community partnerships–when in-person events can resume, that is. Some companies report extremely high rates of engagement and increased enrollment when they show up at schools, churches, or community centers with freebies in hand. Minnesota Power, for example, passes out energy efficiency kits for free while sharing their wealth of knowledge with the public on how to weatherize to save on heating and cooling costs. In-person meetups with partner organizations that have good standing in the community also help to build trust–an essential ingredient to delivering great customer service.
Discretion and stigma are major concerns.
Plenty of companies do a great job of letting customers know that assistance programs exist. Still, newly-in-need customers don’t necessarily know they’re eligible for help.
When they do start poking around for guidance and support, a red flag starts waving for them when the first step required in order to apply to a program is to ‘call Sharon’ in Billing at Extension 201 to tell her about your vulnerable financial situation, or to schedule an appointment with a caseworker at a local charity organization who can assist.
We understand there’s an unspoken (albeit, potentially questionable) benefit to laying eyes on an applicant before approving them for acceptance into your program. If they are to receive donor funds, for example, it’s worth knowing they’re an actual person and not some imaginary bot.
However, in-person interviews can be cumbersome and unnecessary. Phone screenings are just as effective, and verification can be done digitally.
Even better: convert as much communication as possible into text and email and rely on digital verification to establish need.
“People are ‘more comfortable’ talking with friends about marital discord, mental health, addiction, race, sex, and politics than money,” reports The Atlantic, in this fascinating exploration of money taboos across societies.
Your customers may be even more reluctant to discuss money matters with a stranger–especially if it involves asking for help.
Applying for assistance, even though customers may be entirely qualified to receive it, can be a difficult thing to overcome, emotionally. Despite the global pandemic and resultant economic disaster, hardworking folks, now in the many millions, may dread the idea of “taking a handout.”The stigma of accepting financial support is psychologically embedded for a lot of people. Click To Tweet
“Americans commonly associate means-tested aid with laziness, dishonesty, and moral weakness (an association that doesn’t hold true for other government aid like tax breaks and Social Security). That makes applying for benefits a threat to a person’s self-image,” says Livia Gershon, writing for Jstordaily.org.
Admitting publicly that we’re in need is a hard enough hurdle to overcome on its own. Making us share it out loud with a stranger may be asking too much.
On the other hand, people are also increasingly squeamish about sharing private information online, especially if it’s of a sensitive nature like the decline of our income.
According to the Pew Research Center’s 2019 report on privacy and information sharing, “Some 81% of the [American] public say that the potential risks they face because of data collection by companies outweigh the benefits, and 66% say the same about government data collection. At the same time, a majority of Americans report being concerned about the way their data is being used by companies (79%) or the government (64%). Most also feel they have little or no control over how these entities use their personal information.”
Unfortunately, most companies that offer special assistance require their customers’ sensitive data to be disclosed. Verifying the security of that shared data is crucial.
Remove as much customer discomfort as you can from the assistance program enrollment process by reducing human touchpoints. For newly vulnerable customers, the relative anonymity of answering questions and providing data through an online form may encourage more to apply. Added bonus: your company’s customer service team won’t be overtaxed.
To overcome any customer concerns about privacy, data integration company Cloverdx.com recommends putting a thorough data governance plan in place to ensure customers understand both their own privacy rights and the company’s obligations to abiding by federal privacy laws. In addition, Clover dx recommends automation to ‘reduce the number of data silos, eliminate points of friction that come with manual processing, reduce the risk of human error,’ and more.
What barriers to enrollment have you encountered? What is your company doing to boost signup numbers? How are your customers engaging with your programs and platforms overall? We’d love to hear what you’re learning. Drop us an email to explore how data analytics can help you boost program enrollment.