Posted by: ctleurope | March 24, 2010

Accelerating Debt Collection in the Age of Debt

Every four minutes someone in the UK will be declared insolvent or bankrupt. The same study found that the average household debt (including mortgages) in the UK is approximately £58,040.

Unsurprisingly, debt collection is big business.

Costly traditional collection processes such as mailed communication and telemarketing and even email, text and web are now shown to offer a more unwieldy often wasteful approach to debt recovery than the more direct means offered by new technology.

The greatest opportunity for effective debt collection is being delivered by voice messaging or rather interactive voice messaging (IVM).

Voice messaging is driving new levels of efficiency

Voice messaging allows an organisation to issue a message to any number of debtors within seconds. You set the message, the tone and language according to your specified audience, and prompt the desire behaviour via the intimacy of human voice. The interactive nature of more powerful voice messaging solutions allows recipients to respond in real-time. They can acknowledge any number of requests or to be through to an agent, for instance to make payment or agree to a payment plan.

Voice messaging is particularly advantageous when used to handle the unskilled elements of a call such as ID verification and answer machine detection, before connecting the debtor to an agent. This allows agents to focus on the more skilled aspect of addressing the debt.

Widespread smartphone adoption empowers multichannel communication

Clients today are demanding a quicker debt collection service in larger quantities and this is exactly what these solutions, such as SmartInform, by SmartDesk, offer. With one click, thousands of debtors can be reached by voice, SMS and email.

As a final comment, the increasing penetration of smartphones means that we now expect to be able to browse, engage and transact wherever we are. Voice messaging, SMS and email communications support this lifestyle. For debt collection, it’s an opportunity to communicate with debtors on their terms, in a way that’s hard to ignore. Call centres and other customer-centric organisations that fail to embrace these developments and the associated technologies clearly do so at their peril.

Posted by: ctleurope | July 24, 2009

Swine flu – we’re getting pig sick of it

SwineFlu

On May 8th we blogged how the UK’s National Flu Line was 12 months behind schedule just as Swine Flu assumed the status of a pandemic.

Two weeks ago we asked if the pandemic was progressing to pandemonium, in view of the marked increase in the number of swine flu cases. Today, we note an article pointing to 100,000 new UK swine flu cases within a week, nearly double the count for the previous week.

No doubt prompted by CTL’s blog last week, a national swine flu service, including a phone helpline for infected people, went live on 24th July. Unfortunately, the phoneline for this Government’s National Flu Pandemic Service (or GNFPS for those in the know) crashed too. It really is ‘national’ too, supporting only English residents.

Part of the new service is a government website to help diagnose people with swine flu. This has similarly experienced “unprecedented demand” and crashed within minutes of launch. The Government said the system was receiving 2,600 hits per second – or 9.3 million hits per hour (that’s more than the http://www.ctleurope.com/ website. Note to self: fewer obvious plugs).

A spokesman for the Patients Association said, with admirable restraint: “It’s disappointing to hear that the service was not able to meet demand.”

Sir Liam Donaldson, the chief medical officer, pointed to people visiting the site out of “curiosity” – that’ll be the same curiosity that killed the cat and 31 UK flu victims to date.

Amongst the populace, the talk however is of the Tamiflu distribution service being exploited by healthy but concerned people willing to fib to obtain the drugs, should they contract swine flu in the future. Peter Holden, representing the British Medical Association for the flu pandemic, admits that abuse of the system could lead to shortages. He added “people need to show a little of the Dunkirk spirit and take what they need.” Not a most reassuring reference point when you note the number of casualties on the beaches.

The swine flu service GNFPS is being staffed by more than 1,500 call centre workers with the Department of Health saying it would add 500 more if necessary. They’re estimated to be capable of handling more than 200,000 calls per 15-hour day which equates to more than a million calls a week.

Despite today’s frivolous tone on a serious matter, CTL Europe is primed to help, should many of your staff be off sick and you need help handling calls or a temporary new space to support your business.

Your thoughts? We’ll be pleased to hear from you.

Posted by: ctleurope | July 17, 2009

Swine flu taking off pt. 3 (pigs really might fly)

On May 8th we blogged how the UK’s National Flu Line was 12 months behind schedule just as Swine Flu assumed the status of a pandemic.

So what’s changed?  

Is there pandemonium out there? (a sure-fire way to detect a pandemic you’d think), Certainly cases of swine flu are escalating. This week a report suggested that Britain may need to prepare for a possible 65,000 deaths this winter.

In terms of the stats, the UK has close to the number of infected people in Mexico. Catching up with the country that introduced this bout of swine flu to the world is not the kind of global kinship we really want to foster however.

So, in view of the concern over increasing rates of infection, the Department of Health is presently introducing an interim flu line service, after admitting that the full system will not be ready until October.

Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson admits “We have to acknowledge the problem is bigger than surveillance is showing us”.   

Cause for concern is Sir Liam’s claim that there will be many more people who don’t realize they have swine flu and look after themselves at home without any (or the correct) treatment.

As the swine flu outbreak moves from the containment stage to the treatment stage, it raises the question of communication – how can home sufferers be informed or reassured as to the risks their (non)action poses to themselves and others. The UK health service is the biggest inbound contact environment in this country – how good is it at outbound communication?

When was the last time you were last contacted proactively by SMS, email or a phone call by your doctor or hospital other than for a booked appointment? Do they have your current mobile number or email address? Our research suggests probably not. Go on, let them know – you know it makes sense.

Your thoughts? How does the situation compare in your country? We’ll be delighted to hear from you.

Posted by: ctleurope | July 10, 2009

Swine flu taking off (pigs really might fly)

On May 8th we blogged how the National Flu Line was 12 months behind schedule just as Swine Flu assumed the status of a pandemic.

doctorSo what’s changed?  

Well, the reasons behind the delay have now been more openly articulated – this text from the government’s advice site offers a few clues:

“The National Framework is one of the first pandemic flu frameworks for cross government joint planning published by any European country. It recognises that a pandemic would have significant social and economic impacts as well as its serious effect on the health of the population. Joint and integrated plans are therefore critical to mitigating its overall effect and this joint guidance is a further major step in developing, improving and maintaining UK preparedness.”   

But whilst there’s no pandemonium out there (a sure-fire way to detect a pandemic you’d think), cases of swine flu are escalating.

In terms of the stats, we’re currently drawing with Mexico – let’s just hope this doesn’t go to penalties. On the vidiprinter it’s being confirmed that Britain today has 9718 cases of the disease, with Mexico a nose in front on 10,262. Catching up with the country that introduced this bout of swine flu to the world is not the kind of global kinship we really want to foster however.

So, in view of the concern over increasing rates of infection, the Department of Health is presently introducing an interim flu line service, after admitting that the full system will not be ready until October.

Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson admits “We have to acknowledge the problem is bigger than surveillance is showing us”.   

Cause for concern is Sir Liam’s claim that there will be many more people who don’t realize they have swine flu and look after themselves at home without any (or the correct) treatment.

To give some perspective, roughly 27,000 per week are being diagnosed with a flu-like illness with an estimated 8000 of these having swine flu according to research into UK GP surgeries.

As the swine flu outbreak moves from the containment stage to the treatment stage, it raises the question of communication – how can home sufferers be informed or reassured as to the risks their (non)action poses to themselves and others. The health service is the biggest inbound contact environment in this country – how good is it at outbound communication?

When was the last time you were last contacted proactively by SMS, email or a phone call by your GP or hospital other than for a booked appointment? Do they have your current mobile number or email address? Our research suggests probably not. Go on, let them know – you know it makes sense.

Your thoughts? We’ll be delighted to hear them.

Posted by: ctleurope | July 3, 2009

Gift Aid helps charities fight the recessionary squeeze

coins3This year, there was heightened interest in the pulling power of Comic Relief, a charity that has never failed to surpass its previous fundraised amounts.

And again, it – or rather you, the public – delivered. Despite the recessionary climate, the £80 million it secured in donations outdid the 2007 amount by over £12 million.

Yet, whilst high profile events may still generate impressive donations, they tend to obscure the full, current picture, one that’s providing reason for concern.

  • Almost 60% of respondents confirmed in a Charity Commission report that their charity had experienced a significant fall in income as a result of the recession.
  • A recent survey by National Council for Voluntary Organisations showed cash donations to charities fell from £1.7Bn 2006-07 to £1.3Bn in 2007-08 – that’s a drop of £367M.
  • According to Rapidata, average monthly (charity) direct debit cancellations rose from 3.32% in 2007-08 to 4.64% in 2008-09. For the first time, monthly cancellation rates exceeded 5%, in four months.
  • Bigger charities are also suffering with Oxfam shedding staff, and many more job losses predicted, particularly in not-for-profit organizations
  • Both legacy income (typically property or shares left in wills) and corporate income are falling, the former by nearly a third (that’s over £750 million)

Unsurprisingly, John Low, Head of the Charities Aid Foundation, advises “Now is the time to look after committed donors who have given in the past.” Rapidata’s MD Sott Gray supports this, suggesting focus on existing donors rather than chasing new business.

Yet despite a variety of sound suggestions to maintain funds, rarely is Gift Aid, the government’s charity tax initiative, included near the top of the list.

Today still less than half of the UK’s 170,000 charities have registered with Gift Aid. And of the 75,000 that are, not all claim.

In the past, charities may have claimed that the administration to claim Gift Aid on small donations made it unviable, but changes by HMRC have made this issue a thing of the past.

A highly appealing part of the Gift Aid scheme is that charities can backdate their claims – six years in fact. And 2009 year represents a big opportunity to maximise Gift Aid income since, as of April 2010, new rules mean that charities will only be able to claim back four years.

CTL Europe is working with charities to ensure they maximise their Gift Aid income via innovative voice technology.

 We’d be delighted to hear your views and experiences.

(Source for statistics : “UK Giving 2008” report and fundraising.co.uk)

Posted by: ctleurope | June 19, 2009

Music Downloads: now $80,000 a song

Turnip4The Recording Industry Association of America has just won $1.92M in damages against a woman accused of file sharing.

Jammie Thomas-Rasset was found guilty of copyright infringement with regard to 24 songs downloaded from the Kazaa file sharing network and ordered to pay $80,000 for each song. She quipped “Good luck trying to get it from me… it’s like squeezing blood from a turnip.”

In the same week, a report was published by two US economists claiming that instead of stifling the creation of music, films, and books, peer to peer (P2P) file sharing actually fuels art.

Felix Oberholzer-Gee (Harvard University) and Koleman Strumpf (University of Kansas) published a working paper to Harvard Business School highlighting the benefits of online piracy. This document concedes that piracy harms certain business models yet claims that the technology has not dampened the motivation of artists and entertainment companies to produce new material. This, they argue, is the key point behind copyright and a flaw in the argument against P2P.

The paper claims that because the music industry has seen more than a twofold increase in the amount of recordings since 2000, it’s difficult to argue that file-sharing has lowered the incentives to create new work.

While album sales have fallen since 2000, the number of albums created has risen significantly:

  • in 2000, 35,516 albums were released.
  • In 2007, 79,695 albums were released

Even if file sharing was the reason that sales have fallen, the new technology does not appear to have impacted the quantity of music produced. (The quality argument is another matter but we’ll leave that for now)

 If we look at other industries we see a similar tale:

  • The worldwide number of feature films produced each year has increased from 3,807 in 2003 to 4,989 in 2007.
  • Even in countries where film piracy is rife, production has increased, for instance:
    • South Korea (up from 80 to 124)
    • India (877 to 1164)
    • China (140 to 402)
    • USA (459 to 590)

Economists say a key measurement is whether income from complementary products offsets the decline in income from internet piracy. They claim there is clear evidence that income from complementary products has risen in recent years, for instance from as gig sales and games.

CTL Europe has worked with a broadband provider to develop ancillary revenue through music downloads. As to what effect this US court case may have on UK downloads is difficult to say. Call me a square turnip, but I know I’d prefer to pay £0.79 a track than $80,000.

More info here on the working paper can be found here.

Posted by: ctleurope | June 12, 2009

Turning The Corner On Two Lemons

lemonsEarlier this week CTL attended “Turning The Corner”, an event aimed at helping businesses turn the corner in the current marketplace.

A well run event organised by Barclays, it was unfortunately hitting its stride right at the start of this week’s tube strike. A couple of things helped ensure attendance though – and CTL’s focus:

1) location (it was held in the Emirates Stadium, home of Arsenal football club)

2) an impressive speaker (René Carayol on “Top Tips for Trading Through Turbulent Times”)

René’s speech was both entertaining and highly persuasive. His 45 minute talk was peppered with various sound-bytes and compelling market truisms that were so good that I’m certain to claim a few as my own.

In particular, I had a special fondness for René’s two lemons. Some clarification will certainly help: 

Cape Cod has long been synonymous with the most delicious lobster but even the thriving fish markets amongst the holiday homes of the well-to-do have been hit by the economic downturn.

All the lobsters were still on display there last September but very few were being sold. Except for one seriously busy stall. And here’s the reason why:

 The owner had crafted a hand-written menu on how to prepare “lobster in lemon” and left a basket of lemons next to his exquisite lobsters with a simple sign saying “buy a lobster and take a menu and as many lemons for free”. When asked how sales were, the answer was incredible. He was selling more than ever before and each time customers would take a menu and just two lemons.

Two lemons per customer – that’s all it cost to wipe out the competition.

So what are your two lemons?

CTL has been making a difference for businesses for over 10 years in the field of customer service and customer management – get in touch if you’d like us to sort your apples from your lemons.

By the way, you’ll find the full René Carayol article on Turning the Corner by clicking here.

Posted by: ctleurope | June 5, 2009

Roam for Improvement

call_from_islandRecently Vodafone announced it was dropping its roaming charges across Europe from June for all its “Passport” members, a service free for its customers to join. That means it will cost the same to make a call, text or send picture messages whether in mainland Europe or back home in Blighty.

It’s an initial three month trial to encourage usage during the summer holiday months. But let’s be fair, based on recent reports, that holiday is more likely to be Margate than Malaga. Even so, the move has to be applauded.

Operators including Vodafone have long claimed that prices will reduce through competition, not regulation, so it’s good to see Vodafone putting its money where its mouth is. It also co-incides with the company cutting the costs of international calls from mobiles within the UK with some destinations down to 5p/minute.

For now data charges will still be subject to roaming charges but it may be just a matter of time before they follow suit. In any event, from July 1st, roaming charges set by the European Parliament go into effect so the most you’ll fork out for mobile surfing in Europe will be €1 per MB, that’s roughly 90p per meg, down from £1.50.

If the move proves successful, Vodafone will consider extending its offer or introducing similar schemes to its UK customers. The initiative will also pressurise other mobile operators to slash or abolish roaming charges.

As a multilingual UK call centre it will be interesting to see what impact this unexpected gift for international callers has. We’ll keep you posted….

Wherever you’re going on holiday this summer, enjoy it. Only this time, you no longer have an excuse for not calling home.

Posted by: ctleurope | May 29, 2009

Keep Calm And Carry On

Keep-calmEarly in 1939, an anonymous civil servant was given the task of coming up with a series of slogans for a propaganda poster. The aim was to comfort, reassure and guide the people of Britain in the event Hitler’s armies arrived en masse this side of the Channel.

This was the third in the series and was developed specifically for the period of invasion. Thankfully, it was never needed and for the following sixty years the design remained filed away.

It was found in a bookshop in Northumberland by the co-owner of the store, Stuart Manley. He framed it and put it up in the shop. And from year 2000, word and interest has just spread and spread.

Nowadays, it’s everywhere, from homes to pubs to government offices to all manner of clothing. According to The Guardian (March 09), The Lord Chamberlain’s Office at Buckingham Palace, the prime minister’s strategy unit at No 10, the Serious Fraud Office, the US embassy in Belgium, the vice chancellor of Cambridge University, the Emergency Planning Office at Nottingham council and the officers’ mess in Basra have now all ordered copies. Even a certain Mr. Beckham apparently has the T-shirt.

The slogan now adorns doormats, cups, T-shirts, deck chairs, lip balm, cufflinks, all types of clothing (that includes thongs), rugs and bags.

The message and design (let’s avoid the ugly expression ‘look-and-feel’ for something so iconic) clearly resonates with substantial numbers of people. There are many reasons why.

According to Alain Samson, a social psychologist at the London School of Economics, in times of difficulty, “people are brought together by looking for common values or purposes, symbolised by the crown and the message of resilience. The words are also particularly positive, reassuring, in a period of uncertainty, anxiety, even perhaps of cynicism.”

Another leading social psychologist, Dr Lesley Prince, develops the point: “It’s not about British stiff upper lip, really. The point is that people have been sold a lie since the 1970s. They were promised the earth and now they’re worried about everything – their jobs, their homes, their bank, their money, their pension. This is saying, look, somebody out there knows what’s going on, and it’ll be all right”.

As a call centre focused on customer service, we’ve noted a clear, steady change in the manner and apparent priorities across all the end users we support. Up to 12 months ago, we could reliably pin a general sense of empowerment and self-aggrandisement on our customers, now the zeitgeist seems to be turning to a need for reassurance and security. It’s in our customers’ tone, diction, questions, dialogue and even volume.

So today are we a calmer nation more driven by a sense of reassurance and togetherness than a self-serving posse of paranoid, egotistical Tweeters? Does the explosion of social media like Facebook and Twitter encourage or counter this development? We’d be delighted to hear your views.

By the way, if anyone wants to purchase any ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ items, can I suggest you contact the original finder of iconic phrase at Barter Books, Alnwick, Northumberland http://www.barterbooks.co.uk. Tel: (0)1665 604888 – if it’s engaged, just keep calm and carry on.

Posted by: ctleurope | May 22, 2009

DEATH BY WEBINAR

death_by_webinarOr Turn On, Tune In and Drop Off

Do you find your employees or colleagues

  • listless and unresponsive?
  • unproductive for periods of typically one hour time slots?
  • hunched over their desks with earphones stringing from their heads but no head movement or feet tapping?

If so, it’s likely they’ve succumbed to death by webinar.

After swine flu, surely one of the more serious office afflictions to have developed in the last few months is the webinar.

Why, only a couple of months before the dreaded “R” word was uttered by one of our more trustworthy MPs (known as an oxymoron in the trade) ours was a relatively webinar-lite universe where workers could collaborate productively for hours on end and work got done by COB (who is the mysterious Mr or Ms Cob?).

Now with a lot of work drying up (ok, so Alan Greenspan differs in his definition of ‘recession’) the challenge of passing 8+ hours a day in an ostensibly effective manner is a very real one for many people.

So praise the lord for webinars! It’s a lot easier to feign interest in a pseudo relevant webinar than finesse the latest report demanded by your boss, for Mr COB no doubt.

It’s not just the frequency with which they occur. And let’s admit it, a 40 hour webinar week is not far off – but it’s the cross-over in topics that is quite remarkable. So when your boss asks you what you learnt from the latest webinar, you’re bound to roll off a few key points – after all, you’re not a twit – it’s the 11th webinar on “the real value of Twitter” this week.

To prove a point, here are a few of the most recent webinars we’ve seen:

  • Practical solutions to winning customer service strategies in the recession
  • Improve your customer relationships…while saving costs
  • Gain a greater understanding of your customers
  • Is outbound contact the future of customer service?
  • Can outbound contact add value to your customers?
  • Are you adding value to your customers?

And quite amusingly these two:

  • How to Launch a Webinar that Resonates
  • How you can remove boundaries from team communications (ahem…by banning webinars?)

But our aim is not to knock webinars. In fact they deliver some real value without cost or obligation. They provide many useful insights and quotable statistics and genuinely offer compelling thought and solutions. And that can only be a good thing.

However, when you pull together the topics together, don’t you get the feeling that the webinar you really should have tuned into, was “Common sense things you really should know”.

As a customer contact centre we’d have to admit that customer focus comes a little easier to us. And we’d be delighted to help you get closer to your customers in ways they don’t tell you on webinars.

And of course, we’d be very interested to know what webinar topics YOU would like to see covered.

We’re looking forward to your comments!

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