[Editor’s note: This is a guest post from National Debt Relief. National Debt Relief is a gold sponsor and will be in attendance at LendIt USA 2015 on April 13-15. In this post, they talk about using transparency to build trust online.]
Here’s an idea: Go out and ask 100 people what they think of debt settlement companies. You’re pretty much guaranteed to attract some interesting comments:
- Debt settlement companies are a scam
- Debt settlement companies charge high upfront fees
- Debt settlement companies take your money and don’t do anything
- Debt settlement companies ruin your credit
To be fair, there are valid reasons why consumers have come to be so skeptical about debt settlement. Due to underhanded or dishonest business practices, a handful of bad actors have tarnished the entire industry’s reputation. Moreover, many people think the idea that creditors will agree to forgive a large chunk of a customer’s debt sounds too good to be true. They assume there has to be a catch.
Unfortunately, negative perceptions are hard to erase. Reputable debt settlement companies have a hard time separating themselves from the poor reputation of their industry and dishonest practices of some peers.
Laying all your cards on the table – not hiding behind fine print – earns consumers’ trust and leads to a profitable enterprise. How can a reputable, aboveboard debt settlement company go about doing this?
The answer is clear: by being as transparent as possible. Start by answering as many questions as possible. A FAQ section, detailed “Help” page and easily accessible customer service representatives are all pieces of the transparency puzzle. These resources should provide as much information as possible and in as many ways as possible. This assures customers that they’re dealing with a legitimate company with a proven background and the ability to secure positive outcomes.
Outline the Costs and Implications of Debt Settlement
First, transparency about pricing – the prime consideration for many customers – is critical. This information should be clearly indicated in a FAQ section.
Credit effects and tax implications are important as well. FAQ, blog posts and help topics should remind prospects that debt settlement does damage credit to some extent, though not to the same degree as bankruptcy and that some clients may incur a tax liability for forgiven debts. Putting this information out there enables consumers to make informed decisions about the pros and cons of using debt settlement.
Acknowledge Other Options
As in other industries, transparency and ethics dictate that debt settlement companies should acknowledge that consumers have other options, including credit counseling, debt consolidation loans if they qualify and bankruptcy. Each option has its own merits, which should be fully explored.
In fact, debt settlement companies actually strengthen their case by admitting that debt settlement isn’t ideal for everyone. By presenting a balanced picture of each option, a trustworthy debt settlement company can save consumers time and research – and possibly prevent them from visiting competitors’ sites to learn important information. Smart debt settlement companies produce Facebook and YouTube videos that clearly outline their competitive advantages while acknowledging where their services fall short.
By contrast, consumers faced with a one-sided analysis may choose to conduct their own research. When they learn that the information presented by the one-sided debt settlement company site is false or incomplete, they’re sure to lose their trust in that company.
Nod to the DIYers and Offer Security
Debt settlement companies sometimes struggle with folks who think they can settle their debts on their own. Doing so certainly saves time and money. In some cases, consumers may be able to “self-settle” and achieve results similar to what they’d obtain with a debt settlement company – without paying the company’s fees. Since the alternative is writing off a total loss, it’s true that creditors usually want to settle for less than consumers owe.
Having said that, trying to negotiate with creditors on your own can be an intimidating process. This process must be repeated every couple weeks with each creditor. It’s often compared to endlessly haggling with a car dealer. As a result, many consumers choose to avoid this hassle and tap a reputable company to handle it for them.
Separately, reputable debt settlement companies generally make a big deal of offering money-back guarantees to unsatisfied customers. This goes a long way toward assuaging the fears of consumers who worry about being locked into a long-term agreement. Since a money-back guarantee is a great way to “seal the deal,” they should be included on or near the form that consumers fill out to contact the company for more information.
Proudly Tout Positive Reviews
Positive online reviews can do wonders to build trust with a skeptical consumer. Savvy debt settlement companies typically post testimonials from real consumers and current clients who have been helped by their services. Although there’s always the danger of a bad review popping up here and there, companies can also build trust by including links to consumer-review sites that they don’t directly control.
Due to their perceived authority and impartiality, third-party reviews are also critical to building trust and facilitating transparency. Reputable review sites like Top Consumer Reviews and Top Ten Reviews routinely evaluate debt settlement companies and other players in the debt relief space, posting detailed reviews that fully outline their strengths and weaknesses. These reviews are often ranked, meaning that consumers can clearly see a particular company’s quality relative to its competitors.
How to Lead by Example
National Debt Relief does most of the things mentioned above – and has an impressive track record to show that they really do work. National Debt Relief is clear about its rates, the financial and credit-related implications of its services, the other services that appeal to some prospective clients and the fact that debt settlement is possible to do on one’s own.
Perhaps most importantly, National Debt Relief has accumulated hundreds of positive reviews and coveted #1 rankings by Top Consumer Reviews and Top Ten Reviews. All told, thousands of clients have been helped by the company’s services. Many have avoided more dire alternatives like bankruptcy.
It just goes to show that laying all your cards on the table and investing in your reputation is a great way to build a profitable, consumer-friendly debt settlement business that can be a complimentary service for peer to peer lenders who have applicants that don’t qualify for a loan but could be helped by a partner like National Debt Relief.