Credit Matters Blog

The telephone - the forgotten tool of business

Kim Radok 02 December 2011


I often see and hear about how technology such as twitter, face book, emails, websites, text messages etc. are the new ways of doing business. As a result, these methods become the main means a  business will use to engage with their customers.

At the same time, I also see the best technology tool of all, the telephone, under-utilised. In some businesses, it is as though management is almost afraid to let their staff even use the telephone at all. 

Humans however, on the whole, need social experiences to maximise their well-being. Therefore in business, when you make the interaction between your business and the customer a pleasant social experience, so you maximise the opportunities for your business.

This outcome applies whether it be in sales, customer service, accounts receivable or debt collection. The reason that the social experience is so important, is simple. It is people who buy and pay your business, not robots.

Make no mistake, the younger generation may use social media, texting and the internet. However if their social experience is not enjoyable - not even this generation will do business with YOU.

As for the older generation, everything related technology, good as it may appear, can easily frustrate and annoy them. Again, these issues can usually be overcome with a simple telephone call.

Although management should be considering the use of every technology method to interact with their customers, nothing beats the telephone when times get tough.

In the case of accounts receivable and debt collection, because that is our focus, contact through emails, text messages and an interactive contact on the business website, are all very useful in their place.

However these contact methods only "talk at the customer" or dictate "what the customer can tell your business". There is no real-life interaction between two people, one of whom may have issues they need clarified.

Text messages and emails may be satisfactory for day to day use or to cover very simple situations. People on the other hand, are complex creatures and sometimes, they just need to talk through an issue with another person. Email and text messages do not allow this interaction to happen.

Telephone contact allows interactive conversations to clarify situations and resolve any problems caused by poorly written emails or text messages. 

Telephone conversations allow your accounts receivable or debt collection employee to engage with the customer and understand their needs. This is all valuable information as you seek the next payment or to understand why the payment did not arrive as expected.

Management too often relies on contact media other than the telephone because they believe it is cheaper and they do not have to pay a person to make the contact.

That philosophy is fine to the extent if there are positive outcomes to the contact. However if the contact by email or text for example, alienates the recipient, then your message losses all effect. End up on the spam list or have your text deleted, and the costs escalate. Whether these costs are caused with a lost opportunity to gain a payment or you you wait for the payment which is never going to arrive, is immaterial.

Furthermore, even a cheap cost soon becomes expensive if there is no positive result for your expense.

At the end of the day, the right telephone call completed by an experienced employee will always be more effective and profitable than one way customer contact technology.

May you be paid today rather than tomorrow.

Kim Radok