Collecting late payments isn’t a fun job for any company. But how they go about working with customers to get those payments can make a difference for both the customer and the business, according to Canadian startup Symend, which announced a $52 million fundraising round on Thursday.
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Symend’s platform uses artificial intelligence, behavioral science and machine learning to provide insight into the situation of a customer who has a payment past due. Utilities, service providers and other companies can use Symend to connect with “at-risk” customers and craft empathetic messaging.
When they were younger, co-founders Hanif Joshaghani and Tiffany Kaminsky both experienced the negative effects of collections on either themselves or their families, Joshaghani said. So after having their own success with startups, they wanted to tackle a problem that hadn’t seen improvement.
“This experience has gotten worse over time, we want to be able to redefine it from a collections problem to a customer experience, a retention, an engagement problem. We’re really excited to view it from that lens,” Joshaghani said.
Symend is not collections, Kaminsky said, and the new funding will be used to move what the platform already does further and faster. Part of that is looking at how to make sure people don’t go overdue on their bills and how to make sure they don’t get stuck with third-party collectors, Kaminsky said.
The company has assisted about 10 million consumers through the platform, and it expects that number to be more than 100 million by the end of the year, according to Kaminsky. With the COVID-19 pandemic causing mass layoffs and rising unemployment, Symend has seen an increase in people getting behind on their bills.
“We’re trying to be really proactive in, ‘how do we make sure we’re giving them a solution for not just right now but for three months from now?’” Kaminsky said.
Inovia Capital led the new round, with participation from investors including Ignition Partners and Impression Ventures. The company, which is based in Calgary, Alberta, now has just over $60 million in total funding.
Companies need to engage with customers in a humane way to both eventually collect payment, but also to avoid churn, according to Joshaghani.
“It’s all about what is the tone of voice, the right message, how we can get them the right solution,” he said. “ … how do you engage them, how do you empower them, and how do you cure them and stand by them?”
Illustration Credit: Li-Anne Dias