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The Analysis Comment


The impact of mobile telephony on collections


Productive use of the telephone should still be a centrepiece of an efficient credit-management department


John Wheeler Director, credit & collections Europe, Office Depot john.wheeler@officedepot.com


It is said that the pen is mightier than the sword – not true if you ever get attacked by somebody with a sword! However, for credit and collections teams, the telephone is usually mightier than the written word. In the world of telephony, however, very


little changed between the invention of the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell in the 1880s and the introduction of mobile telephones in the 1980s. The 1980s was a boom time for new


technology and an exciting, if challenging, time to work in the computer industry. A large proportion of my time was spent in my car, travelling from one computer reseller to another to assess their risk of bad debt and to part them from their cash. To make sure that I was contactable


throughout the day, my boss decided to provide me with a ‘car phone’. This was not a small device, it could not be removed from the car and took an engineer about six hours to install. At first I viewed this as a benefit as this was still a novelty in the mid-1980s. However,


the constant interruptions


became a nuisance and I found a low-tech solution. By crunching an empty crisp packet next to the microphone and shouting “you are breaking up, must be a bad signa...” I could end the call! Common sense has since prevailed and we are now not


encouraged to make and receive calls whilst driving, so we have gone full circle. I received my first true ‘mobile’ phone in the late 1980s, which was the size of a house brick – similar to the phones used in the first


February 2016


customers and the aged- debt profile achieved has not altered


The relationship between the number of productive telephone


calls with


Wall Street movie with Michael Douglas. If anybody tried to steal it from you, it doubled up as a weapon! The first smart phones appeared in the


mid-1990s but were not very smart, or easy to use. Reading e-mails on the move was not something that occurred to people. If you had a telephone, why not just call them? Text messages were also not widely used in the 1990s as, until the end of the decade, they could not be used across different networks. The real revolution in smart phones has


occurred in the last 10 years. In terms of business use, there is no real advantage for anybody based in an office. For people on the move, however, they are a real asset. So what has changed for the average


credit controller over the last 40 years in terms of the telephones we use? The answer is very simple – not much. There are some extra buttons available compared to the telephone I used in the 1970s. However, the purpose of the telephone is to connect with somebody in a different location, and that has not changed over the years. The relationship between the number of


productive telephone calls with customers and the aged-debt profile achieved has not altered. There is no doubt that the


revolution in mobile telephony has changed people’s personal lives – although whether it is for the better is a separate debate. However, the fact that virtually everybody has a mobile phone and


very few people can find the off button, means that everybody is always contactable. So there is a benefit to us in credit and collections after all! CCR


www.CCRMagazine.co.uk 13


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