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Maria Douneva | 14 July, 2023

[Podcast] How Consumer Behavior Impacts Collections with Maria Douneva

C&R Software presents Collecting Thoughts. A podcast featuring conversations with industry experts and insiders throughout the finance, software, and collections industries.

On this episode, host Christina spoke with Dr. Maria Douneva, a veteran of the collections industry who lent her behavioral science background to the debt collection process. We discuss various topics, including her consulting career and how psychology affects consumer behavior. 

Listen on Spotify here.

Listen on Apple here.

Guest Profile

Name: Maria Douneva, Ph.D

Profession: Behavioral Scientist, Corporate Trainer, Coach, and Speaker

Coming from an academic background researching the difficulties humans face in decision-making, Maria received her doctorate and went to work for a consultancy as a behavioral scientist and as a team lead in debt collections. 

Now working as a consultant, she “guides people to discover their underlying motivations and where their true obstacles lie.” In other words, she advises companies to make their products more effective and consumer-friendly using the psychological insights gained from her research. 

Find Maria on LinkedIn.

Key Points

The Psychology Behind Consumer Behavior

To start, Christina asked Maria about how psychology affects consumer choices. According to Maria, humans aren’t always known to make decisions rationally—often, our decision-making results from a mix of logic and emotions, making it often difficult to separate the two.

“The goal is not so much how we can make people behave more rationally, but just accepting the way it is and using it to our advantage without manipulating people. 

So that’s my general understanding of where I come from, and this thinking for me applies to all kinds of areas—collections, and even when it comes to dating decisions—how do people choose their prospective partners?”

Applying Psychology to Debt Collections

How does one use psychology to affect consumers’ decision to repay their balance? As Maria explains, using data available now in far greater measure than in the past can assist in debt recovery. 

“I think for the longest time, debt collection mostly approached collecting in the same way for everyone. It doesn’t matter if it’s someone old or young or what their circumstances are in the situation.

Nowadays, we have so much data available, and I urge everyone to use it. We can think about the various reasons why someone doesn’t pay. If they don’t have the means, the approach should be different than if they’re just forgetful and have to be simply reminded. 

It’s different whether they are maybe young and female or if they’re an older family guy—people are different. We should also target them in a more specific way depending on where they come from, what their goal is, and also what the obstacles are for them.”

Relationship Building in Debt Collection

Maria explains how a company in the debt collection industry can utilize consumer behavior insights when focused on relationship building and the human aspect of collections. Typically, companies use data and technology to enhance their workflow, but at the end of the day, they’re still picking up the phone and speaking with people directly—so how does one square the circle?

According to Maria, it’s about focusing on individual treatment and a genuine desire to understand the customer’s needs and goals. 

“[It’s about] how you view your consumer. Is it someone I want to build a long-term relationship with? For me, the key factor is personalization. Again, not sending out the same type of message, the same form of communication to everyone, so that people feel seen. We all want to be understood—be seen as a unique individual and not just one out of a million. 

I would suggest, for example, communicating, ‘Hey, sometimes there are stressful moments. Maybe you forgot to pay?’…I would start with this assumption that people want to do good.”

Learn More About Maria

To learn more about Maria’s work and expertise, check out her website

To discover more topics on finance, software, and the collections industry topics from insiders and experts like Joe, visit the C&R Software blog

Stay tuned for future episodes of Collecting Thoughts, where host Christina dives deep into more interviews with leaders from across the debt recovery and software world. 

 Maria Douneva
About the author

Maria Douneva

Maria uses psychological insights to enable long-term positive changes in companies, teams, and individuals.

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