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    Onward Homes, one of the leading housing associations in the North West, has been using Voicescape Collections since 2017. But as the pandemic worsened and tenants started to fall into arrears, the need for a new approach to rent collections became evident.

    Working with Voicescape's customer success team to innovate in their use of Collections, the housing association has been able to contact more customers and reduce rent arrears with the same resources. Read on to discover how…

    The challenge

    Onward Homes promises to take early action to prevent arrears from escalating. As the pandemic unfolded in 2020, the housing association recognized that they needed to expand their reach of support to customers, in response to increasing arrears and higher demand on their services.

    With face-to-face contact off the table, Onward needed to think differently about how to engage with customers effectively. This would require a new strategy to steady arrears performance, drive collections, and create time in the team to be there for the increasing number of customers who needed extra help and support. At this point, it was clear that something needed to change.

    The solution

    Onward Homes has been forward-thinking in its approach to the use of technology and automation to contact its customers. And the pandemic provided a unique opportunity for the housing association to evolve its use of Voicescape Collections.

    How it works

    Voicescape Collections is a ground-breaking solution that automates the thousands of tasks required to reach your customers. Upon receipt of your data, it makes outbound telephone calls to customers who require contact, turning this usually time-intensive activity into efficient inbound calls for more engaged conversions and thus, collections.

    Onward Homes has taken the technology one step further with an innovative ‘nudge’ approach, removing the transfer option until – in this particular case – the 4th contact attempt has been made. This encourages their customers to respond with a payment without the need to contact the income team, freeing up team resources to engage with those customers who need more personal contact.

    Their process is as follows:

    • Week 1: 1st text message
    • Week 2: 2nd text message
    • Week 3: Voice message with no option to transfer (nudge)
    • Week 4: 1st voice note with the option to press #1 and speak to Onward Homes
    • Week 5: 2nd voice note with the option to press #1 and speak to Onward Homes

    The technology is used in the following ways:

    • New tenants: ‘Welcome’ text sent from both the financial inclusion team and the income team
    • Terminations: Text at the point of notice given and once a tenancy has terminated
    • New Universal Credit (UC) claims: Text sent as soon as they’re aware of a UC claim
    • Direct debits (DD): Text sent when DD failed (1st, 2nd, and 3rd failed DD) and when DD is cancelled
    • Rent and service charge arrears: Text sent when a customer is in arrears, tailored to the particular issue with their rent account

    The results

    After the success of a soft launch, this new contact pattern of using Voicescape Collections was fully implemented within Onward Homes in July 2021. The automated ‘nudge’ voice message contact is now driving engagement from customers. In total, 65% of customers that have been contacted made a payment and 1,097 DDs have been set up, with 1,836 arrangements being made. As a result, their income management specialists now have more time to focus on accounts that require manual interventions.

    “Voicescape Collections has reduced arrears across all three of our regions by £607,350, with Merseyside having the largest impact.”

    Becky Ellison | Income Management Team Leader at Onward Homes

    Onward Region    Action Arrears Balance    Current Arrears Balance   Impact

      Greater MCR                   £9,843,073                             £9,661,864                    £181,209 

     Lancashire                       £2.943,405                             £2,817,593                    £125,813 

       Merseyside                      £10,227,538                            £9,927,210                     £300,327

           Total                               £23,014,016                            £22,406,667                 £607,350 

     

    "We're seeing a significant impact with the first text messafe sent, as well as the first voice call."

    Becky Ellison | Income Management Team Leader at Onward Homes

                  CONTACT STAGE                                       ARREARS RECOVERED 

    1st text message                                                    £233,737

    1st voice call (no transfer)                                   £174,303

    2nd text message                                                  £99,813

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