It’s a dirty business but……


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Yes, someone has to do it. Debt collection isn’t the sexiest job, or the safest job, on the planet. I’ve only had to do it a few times, and it’s stressful, risky, nerve-wracking and unpleasant. You never know what will happen when you meet face-to-face with a debtor. Repeated role-play training sessions and observance of best practices don’t quite quell the anxiety.

And that’s why I was very interested to learn that text-messaging (SMS) has a role to play in enhanced debt-collection.

One of the UK’s largest Councils manages thousands of properties throughout the city and continually faces the challenge of collecting overdue rent from Council housing tenants. The process for chasing up late payments was inefficient, cumbersome and costly: agents would call, write letters or arrange home visit collections. The Council had a limited number of contact centre staff to handle both inbound and outbound calls. Individual communications were time intensive, and many tenants didn’t have landlines and were difficult to reach. They were looking for a better way, and SMS messaging provided it.

The Council’s solution was to implement a process of sending SMS notifications of overdue rent payments, inviting tenants to call the Council’s Housing Department. The solution offered an easy way to reach all tenants in arrears in a non-confrontational way.

The Council experienced immediate ROI and benefits from the solution:

• Improved debt collection. 42% of Council housing tenants responded to the SMS to schedule payments.
• Reduced costs. The solution deployed by the Council, Datasquirt CONTACT SMS (, was about 50% less costly per contact, at less than 23 pence per communication.
• More effective, non-confrontational communication. SMS broadcasts are easily managed and are better received by end users.

It’s delivered a big win for the Council, relief to their debt collectors, and a saving to tax payers. Win, win, win.

Francis Buttle
Dr. Francis Buttle founded the consultancy that bears his name back in 1979. He has over 40 years of international experience in consulting, training, researching, educating, and writing about a broad range of marketing and customer management matters. He is author of 15 books, has been a full professor of Marketing, Customer Relationship Management, Relationship Marketing, and Management.


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