Engaging customers in payments and collections. 

TALKINGTECH is revolutionising the payment and collections process for some of the biggest names in the financial services, telecoms and utilities markets across the world. 

We have 30 years of expertise and global industry intelligence in the areas of customer engagement, payments and collections. 

5 mistakes killing customer retention

5 mistakes killing customer retention READ MORE

Believing direct debit is a silver bullet

Although Direct Debits remove risk and collection costs (now mandatory with some companies) many customers prefer alternative payment methods with up to 10% of Direct Debits cancelled after sign up. Furthermore 3-5% of Direct Debits can fail, for example: unavailable funds at due date (involuntary), or a customer prefers to select from different accounts each month (voluntary).

Customers expect to pay bills on their terms and resent additional fees for non-Direct Debit transactions. Payment management systems that provide customer choice foster greater satisfaction and higher levels of Direct Debit uptake.


As an example, consider a mobile telecommunications operator with 3.5 million customers; with 70% of them on Direct Debit. That leaves over a million remaining customers manually managing the payment of their accounts, plus up to 500,000 Direct Debits cancelled or failing each month.

Many of these customers will not even be aware they have missed payment until a collections letter, call or SMS is received - adding significant costs for the operator and frustration for the customer. Many more will see the addition of fees once they voluntarily elect to stop their Direct Debit as cause for discontent, which can further increase pressure on the Call Centre or worse, increase churn.

TALKINGTECH's payment management services can automate the process for managing failed Direct Debits, setting up instructions and importantly, reinstating cancelled Direct Debits before the bill is even due. This alone can result in reducing calls hitting the inbound Call Centre by over 50,000 a month, based on the above example.

TALKINGTECH can deliver payment management systems that can establish automated payment options with such cost effectiveness that additional customer fees are unnecessary. By tracking which communication channels the customer uses, combined with customer opt in / opt out and preferences data, we can determine through Next Best Action methodology which contact channel yields the highest response rate on a per customer basis. This increases customer uptake of cost effective payment options, reduces unwanted customer churn and reduces payment delinquency.

TALKINGTECH's automated payment solutions reduces the cost of chasing customer payments by relying solely on Direct Debit and imposing penalty fees for other payment methods, which increase customer frustration and churn. A far more effective solution is to employ a coordinated customer engagement strategy that utilises customer choice, efficiencies and advanced analytical tools.

Treating bill payments as just a transaction

For companies with large numbers of contract customers, the most frequent and regular engagement with each customer is typically payment of their account.

More customers leave an organisation because of dissatisfaction with the relationship than because of dissatisfaction with the product or service. Whenever a customer makes a payment, an evaluation occurs in their mind; challenging the level of customer satisfaction they are experiencing. If the payment process is not suited to the customer’s needs, this creates risk of unwanted customer churn.


Ensuring customers pay for the services they receive is fundamental to the ongoing viability of any business. But at such a regular point of the customer relationship life-cycle, Payments are a key customer engagement point and should also be seen as an opportunity to communicate with the customer in a mutually productive and unobtrusive way.

In the simplest of terms, treating customers with respect and offering the options and ease of engagement that makes bill paying as painless as possible, results in a greater level of prompt payments. However there are other latent, but very significant, opportunities within the Payment engagement process.

TALKINGTECH manages the entire customer Payment process and tracks how each customer responds to specific Payment options. Combined with historically proven patterns, this gives accurate and dynamic insights in to individual customer behavior. Automated Intelligence then generates Next Best Actions, which in turn have a positive effect on future customer behaviour.

Our payment management solutions allow us to listen to customer preferences, even when they are not actively offering feedback. While enhancing brand satisfaction and customer loyalty, it also provides us with an opportunity to learn a surprising amount about customers; that may not even be directly related to Payments.

For instance, let’s imagine four individuals

  1. one customer always pays on time,
  2. one customer only ever pays after assertive action,
  3. one customer is always late but always pays within 7 days of the due date, and
  4. one customer has had a long history of prompt payment but suddenly stops paying.

How we treat each of those customers can vary considerably: Now consider which of these customers you would:

  • Create an outbound Call Centre call to gauge if the customer has a grievance?
  • Introduce firm Collections tactics earlier?
  • Present new product marketing offers to?
  • Avoid using unnecessary marketing resources on?

TALKINGTECH can develop customised customer engagement strategies and systems that automatically generate the most appropriate action based on each customer’s ongoing Payment behavior.

Let’s now consider a sixth customer whose promptness to pay relates to which payment option they choose to utilise. We can further simplify the payment process by offering that specific customer their preferred payment option as the first option – the option that achieves the fasted response, therefore reducing debtor days.

Payment management systems that treat Payments as nothing more than a transaction, fails to maximize opportunities to: engage with your customers better, provide them with options and ease of payment, isolate the most appropriate and efficient actions, reduce churn and improve the bottom line

Failing to coordinate customer communications

Most businesses understand the need for marketing communications to be consistent, represent the brand in the right light and to be coordinated to ensure promotions hit the right customers at the right times.

But many other forms of business/customer communications are often disparate. Communications relating to notifications, surveys, payments and collections should not be viewed any differently. These important customer engagements must be coordinated to: a) maintain a consistent brand, and b) get the right message to the right customers at the right time.


Customers today expect to engage with businesses on their terms and in many cases, customers chose to engage through several different channels. Customer communications need to be coordinated in a way that supports the integrity of the business’s brand.

In today’s multi-channel approach to customer engagement, businesses adopt a myriad of communication techniques for all manner of purposes including: welcoming a new customer, informing a customer of a service call, surveying customer satisfaction levels, communicating new products and services and drawing attention to late payments.

But how often do your customers get an isolated message that fails to take their relationship history or other current interactions in to account? All of these customer communications are just as important to the integrity of the brand as any marketing message.

While the marketing industry rapidly moves in to an ‘Omni-channel’ approach, other areas of the organisation need to follow suit. As opposed to a siloed and isolated multi channel approach, Omni-channel means ‘all channels’ and describes a holistic approach to all communications.

This means that payment-related letters, email, live and automated Call Centre contacts, SMS and IVR are seamlessly coordinated in a cohesive and customer-centric brand experience.

At TALKINGTECH we believe that the key to Omni-channel communications is to ensure:

  • The approach puts the customer is at the centre of the process
  • Communications are not only personalised, but also interactive - dynamically reacting appropriately to individual customer interactions
  • Content is relevant to that customer and their individual needs and preferences
  • Channels are integrated and consistent, all measuring up to brand standards
  • The process encourages the uptake of automated options, which can apply both greater levels of customer relationship intelligence and improvements to the bottom line, through better efficiency
  • And above all, the customer engagement process is tracked and measured against set KPIs

Notifications, surveys, payments and collections are all important forms of engagement with our customers. An Omni-channel approach that is personalised, consistent, integrated and relevant to the customer puts customers at the centre of the communication process. In doing this, we allow customers to move between channels effortlessly and without any weakening of the brand experience. This increases customer satisfaction and reduces churn.

Lacking an understanding of customer payment preferences

Customers expect to engage with businesses on their own terms. This attitude is true throughout marketing, service delivery, fault resolution and bill payment. Where large numbers of customers are involved, it can be difficult to gauge which actions will satisfy each customer.

Intelligent customer engagement and payment systems can measure and predict customer behaviour, gain insights in to preferences and react with the next best action. Understanding customer preferences and correctly predicting the best way to engage with them can significantly reduce customer churn.


Consumers have a clear sense of their power as a customer. Any perceived barriers an individual customer experiences causes dissatisfaction and increases the risk of churn. Limited payment options can be frustrating for customers and give cause to assess their loyalty, increasing risk of customer churn. And if we want our customers to engage with us more frequently and more positively, we certainly need to do so on their terms.

Traditionally, gaining an understanding of what our customers want was largely a democratic and quantitative process: surveying consumers and satisfying the market as a whole. This approach usually results in the majority of customers being generally content. In today’s competitive environment however, majority satisfaction is simply not good enough. It is becoming more and more important to understand individual customer's specific preferences around communications and payment options and tailor solutions designed to suits their specific preferences.

According to Customers 2020 Report: The customer of 2020 will expect companies to know their individual needs and personalise the experience. Immediate resolution will not be fast enough as customers will expect companies to proactively address their current and future needs.

But how can organisations with large numbers of customers cost-effectively understand the preferences of each and every customer? The smartest way to understand every customer is to hand the power to chose the method of engagement over to them, by utilising intelligent customer engagement and payment management systems. .

Take Payments as an example. Tools that measure how customers respond to various methods of payment not only tell us what individuals prefer, but also improve response and early payment rates. By measuring how the uptake of various options affects how a customer responds towards the business’s desired result (in this case, the desired result is prompt payment) we can proactively engage with each customer in a mutually beneficial way.

TALKINGTECH employs a sophisticated Relationship Intelligence System that initially creates choice and ease of engagement for the customer. Pro-active communication through their preferred channel, plus ongoing measurement and analysis, identifies customer behaviour and Next Best Actions are executed using a cycle of continuous improvement. Each customer is continually presented with options best suited to their own history of communication and payment behaviour and preference.

Ultimately, the execution of TALKINGTECH customer engagement strategies creates flexibility that makes it easier for customers to engage with the company, proving customer satisfaction and fostering profitable payment behaviors.

In today’s competitive environment, it is imperative to improve customer satisfaction by understanding and acting on the preferences of individual customers. By using the right tools even businesses with extremely large customer bases, such as utilities and telecommunications providers can significantly enhance positive customer engagement, with a proactive and personalised engagement strategy rather than a ‘one size fits all’ solution.

Parking the collections ambulance at the bottom of the cliff

Overdue or missed customer payments happen in all businesses and collection of late debt is not only costly, but can also create involuntary customer churn. Intelligent customer engagement and automated payment solutions that prevent payment delinquency are far more effective strategy; improving both customer satisfaction and cash flow.

Customer payments are missed for a variety of reasons, but many of these can be anticipated and avoided using intelligent predictive systems to analyse, manage, understand and respect customer’s payment history; across vast volumes of individual customer accounts.


A certain amount of payment delinquency is inevitable and effective customer engagement strategies to reduce the level of late debt are important. However, the collections process can often make the customer uncomfortable, embarrassed or even angry. This can be brand damaging and in many cases creates unnecessary customer churn.

Late payments can happen due to a multitude of reasons, not all of which necessarily relate to undesirable or unprofitable types of customers. For instance, the due date may not match some customers’ pay cycle, lack of money from wrong billing date or unfavorable circumstances

It is not only better for customer relationships to prevent payment delinquency, but it is also better for cashflow and company profitability. Typically 90% of late payments can be addressed through effective communication. Unfortunately however, the larger our client base, the harder it is to keep on top of our debtors.

The good news is that there are many opportunities to avoid repayments becoming late in the first place. From personalised reminders to customer selected invoice dates, TALKINGTECH will work with you to identify the greatest opportunities for improvement. By communicating with your customer on their preferred channel, your invoice is prioritised ahead of the pack.

TALKINGTECH creates flexibility, making it easy for customers to pay their bill. Choice and flexibility increases customer satisfaction and fosters prompt payment – a win/win business/customer engagement. By offering a personalised communication strategy rather than ‘one size fits all’, payment options suit the individual customer, leading to greater satisfaction and willingness to settle their accounts in a timely fashion. This results in less debtor days, more cash collected and increased NPS scores.

Customer choices include: traditional, online and mobile payment options, including extremely easy-to-use and market-leading payment portals, as well as Direct Debit conversion and retention tactics. TALKINGTECH’s Relationship Intelligence model identifies and restores Direct Debit defectors and also helps convert more customers to Direct Debit. And if all else fails, TALKINGTECH can also help reduce debtor days for those payments that do become delinquent.

Avoiding delinquent accounts is clearly good for the bottom line. Flexible and cost-effectively deployed Payment options that suit the customers’ situation empower customers and make paying their bills easy. Reducing late payments (and the amount of Collections actions) improves cash-flow and makes customers happier with the company, reducing both costs and customer churn.