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the discussion demonstrated the importance of broadening collections strategies to include more convenient, context-appropriate communications

–Big name rent to own retailers, retailers and communications experts debate customer communication channels and best practice–

Dublin & Birmingham, April 15, 2015 – Customer communications services leader VoiceSage has today published a report detailing the results of a recent expert discussion on the obstacles the industry needs to overcome.

Chaired by independent business journalist Sue Tabbitt, stakeholders from a number of high-profile organisations wrestled with the problem of how, in today’s digital times, where customer experience and convenience are the number one priority, should collections companies evolve their customer engagement and contact strategies to meet this challenge.

Joining Tabbitt to debate this issue was independent communications analyst firm Martin Geddes and managers from SMS provider MBlox, pay-weekly rent-to-own retailer Brighthouse, debt recovery specialist Walker Love and UK digital department store Shop Direct.

Can technology help?

A key topic was the contribution of the right technology, with Martin Geddes kicking off the conversation with his challenge that, “There is an opportunity to be more sophisticated about how the sector manages customer interactions now, drawing on ‘big data;’ If you can capture and mine detailed information about when different types of contact work best – i.e. through which channels, at what times and in what context (the type of contact and the age and profile of recipient) – players could definitely start to maximise the results of each new campaign.”

And indeed according to Alasdair Skeoch, head of credit operations at Brighthouse, his company is currently doing just that, piloting a system where customers can make quick account payments via a web link delivered straight to their mobiles.

“It’s very inexpensive and the impact has been incredible; we’re only five weeks in and have seen a 20% uptake of the customers we’ve targeted,” commented Skeoch, who admitted that the last time his firm introduced a new payment mechanism it took 22 weeks to get to the same level of acceptance.

The role of the customer

According to Sharon McIndoe, resource allocation manager at Shop Direct, “As our customers move increasingly onto smartphones and tablets to shop, we’ll adapt our strategy to reflect this. [We need as an industry] to be all about providing maximum choice, and being able to adapt to changing preferences – and in collections, it’s particularly important, that we’re customer-centric, focusing on the customer’s needs.”

The panel agreed. “Part of our customer engagement strategy is being able to tailor our channels to different age groups,” was one representative comment back from Andy Fraser, contact centre manager at Walker Love, for example.
“It’s important our clients can see we’re at the forefront of customer engagement practice.”

What’s the ‘next big thing’ in customer engagement?

For Martin Geddes, the answer’s clear: mobile. “Mobile notifications (via brands’ own apps) will be the next area of growth. The challenge here is for companies to develop more of an ability to react spontaneously to the customer.”

“What’s exciting about the mobile medium is its direct access to an individual,” thinks Rob Malcolm senior vice-president for product marketing at MBlox.

“These days, people could have three or more email addresses but they usually only have one mobile number. In a recent survey we carried out, for example, the majority [55%] said they would increase their use of SMS if they could introduce more two-way interactions.”

Don’t limit your strategy

Commenting on the results of the debate, VoiceSage’s Chief Product Officer, Paul Sweeney, felt the discussion demonstrated the importance of broadening collections strategies to include more convenient, context-appropriate communications.

“Our debate canvassed the views of experts in collections and communications who seemed to be in full agreement on how to approach their customer engagement and contact strategies; it is definitely shaping up to be both mobile but also multi-channel, too.”

Editors and journalists are invited to contact Sarum on or 01722 411150 for a copy of the full roundtable report, or to arrange an interview with communications expert and analyst Martin Geddes, for extra commentary on the roundtable report themes.

About VoiceSage

Founded in 2003 and headquartered in Dublin and Birmingham, VoiceSage and its founders have deep heritage and experience in delivering transformational customer communications solutions that streamline and add value to high-volume outbound contact activities. Household brands including Argos, Dun & Bradstreet, Thames Water, AXA Insurance and Freemans Grattan Holdings rely on VoiceSage to reduce inbound call volumes, increase appointments and deliveries, reduce debt and enable real time customer conversations, while VoiceSage’s cloud-based messaging product and services deliver more than 2 million messages a day and are used by businesses serving more than 75% of the UK population. More than 44 million individual phones in the UK have received a VoiceSage message at some time. Please visit and follow us on Twitter @VoiceSage

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