What's coming for debt collections in 2024?
We looked through the industry wrap-ups and predictions to pull out the biggest topics you should prepare for in the coming year. Here's what you can expect:
1. Doing digital right
Digital outreach is here to stay. Not just because it’s effective and reduces the cost to collect, but because it’s what today’s customers prefer.
Just like Jell-o, there will always be room for voice - phone calls remain a powerful way to connect.
But many collections teams have found that email and text are more powerful tools for today’s consumers.
“I think operationally we've shifted from, ‘Are you doing this?’ to, ‘How can we do this better?’” she said in a recent webinar for AccountsRecovery.net.
In other words, it’s not about doing digital, it’s about doing digital right.
2. Uncovering the best uses of AI
Something similar is happening with AI. ChatGPT exploded in 2023.
Some collections companies embraced it right away, but there’s been a lot of caution, too.
TransUnion’s recent report on 3rd party collections separated those agencies’ reaction to AI this way:
So two things are likely to happen in 2024.
First, those early adopters are going to be working on the same problem as email and text outreach:
They’ve already decided to use it. Now they’re going to be narrowing their focus on using it well.
And second, given the climate of mergers and acquisitions in the collections space, that 40% who haven’t been exploring AI at all may need to catch up before they lose their edge.
3. Watching the CFPB
Life comes at you fast, and so does the CFPB. We spent a lot of time dealing with the outcomes of Reg F in 2023, but that shifting ground has largely settled into something more predictable.
So what’s up next for the CFPB in 2024?
- Larger legislative and legal questions about the CFPB’s powers and roles.
- The outcome of the rule on medical debt reporting.
- Future enforcement.
4. Old conversations continuing
The resumption of federal student loan repayments in 2023, along with forgiveness programs, was a big topic of concern, and we’re still hearing conflicting reports about whether or not those borrowers are doing okay making those payments or struggling.
Last year we also saw plenty of conversations about rising credit card utilization. In the third quarter of 2023:
- Total credit card balances reached a high of $1.08 trillion (Federal Reserve Bank of New York)
- The average rate for revolving credit balances was 22.77% (The Federal Reserve)
- 49% of credit cardholders are carrying balances month to month (Bankrate)
So we’ll likely hear continued chatter about those, as well as…
5. New topics for 2024
...a lot more about BNPL and medical debt.
BNPL is going to occupy a lot of conversational space this year, as its popularity continues to increase, and consumers may find themselves in financial straits after using it. CNBC reports that during the holiday 2023 season:
“Buy now, pay later usage hit an all-time high, rising a staggering 14% from the prior year and contributing $16.6 billion to online spending.”
As for medical debt, with New York City announcing its partnership with a nonprofit to erase medical debt for 500,000 residents, the CFPB’s rulemaking process about medical debt reporting and the White House’s multifaceted pressure, collections teams with large medical debt in their portfolio are going to need to plan for the future.