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Taking a marketing approach to communication and an e-commerce approach to transactions is the future for enforcement

07 July 2020

Enforcement firms perform a difficult task. Getting a debtor to engage that has, in most cases, avoided many demands for payment from the creditor themselves or their debt recovery providers, can be difficult. Traditionally, enforcement firms have therefore relied upon a swift movement from sending a letter to physical visits. Since the Regulations changed in 2014, more and more enforcement firms have tried to improve their success at the letter stage, and the fees for doing so have increased, which allow additional investment in the process.

There is, however, still a big divide between the success rates of some traditional enforcement providers over others.

Communicating with debtors without a physical visit
Getting a response to an initial letter has traditionally been feeble for enforcement organisations. Many people claim to know the reason for this, and some of the common reasons that are discussed are:

  • The notices are not sent.
  • The debtor avoided all other letters, why would they respond to this one?
  • The only thing that will make these debtors communicate is an enforcement agent at the door, so sending letters is pointless.

We are sure that all of the above reasons have an impact on the success rate, but the more significant issue is that the letters are prescribed in the Regulations. This means the letters are traditionally sent in a set format, with essential information looking like something you would have received in the ’80s by your phone provider. They are bland, formal and lack any form of behavioural techniques to incentivise behaviour. The only incentive is the stick – pay now, or have your goods removed.

Taking a marketing approach to communication
While the letters are prescribed and must include specific information, we don’t believe the format of the notices must remain the same. We also don’t think that a notice can’t have a cover letter or be ‘top and tailed’ to increase the amount or type of information provided. The approach we take is:

1. The better we know our audience, the better we can appeal to their interests
All successful enforcement efforts begin with a thorough understanding of the debtor. We start by appending data and analysing the ‘type of person’ we are trying to communicate with, adapting our communication strategy accordingly.

2. Uncover our unique proposition
This is the main benefit that we can offer, that when delivered effectively, will drive debtors to communicate with us. This must be compelling and strong enough to move debtors to act, and is central to all of our communications e.g. self-service tools and financial discounts.

3. Our sharp brand (look and feel) will provide trust in what we communicate
From logos to the quality of the text, our brand must speak to the debtor in a relevant manner. It must support our operational selling point and accurately represent our position as the enforcement market integrator. We must be honest, sincere and authentic to the heart of our business. We must be ‘on brand’.

4. Choose the right channel
With the recent advancements in online communication, there are more ways to speak to debtors than ever before. Every debtor is unique, so there is no standard communication mix that will work for everyone. The key is to understand our options and choose a media mix that fits that specific debtor e.g. a combination of letters and emails, a SMS that informs the debtor that a letter is on the way, or recorded post to ensure notice delivery. We must have the technology to deliver a multi-channel approach.

5. Measure and monitor the success
Whatever the medium and message, we must ensure that our communication response rates are measurable. We then use this data as a ‘base case’ for debtors that look like other debtors. For example, we have 33% greater response rates by doing this with debtors between the ages of 19-25 so repeat that with the next debtor that looks like this, if no additional information is available.

Driving early communication is vital to provide an effective enforcement service. In an industry that lacks the numbers of qualified resource to meet the physical demand, any visits that can be taken from the street into the office is pivotal to success.

An e-commerce approach to transactions
Driving engagement rates from a letter is easier when you can incentivise the outcome by offering value-added services, such as: access to open banking, access to debt advice and access to the industry’s only virtual enforcement visit solution, which is performed at a discount of 100%.

Once the debtor communicates, we must transact with them swiftly. We achieve this by offering virtual enforcement visits over physical visits, by providing a self-service tool like online diary access and also a suite of payment, taking control of goods and vulnerability tools.

Our approach to transactions is:

  • Provide a suite of options to help the demographics of our entire debtor group transact in a manner they are most comfortable with.
  • Test options with groups to ensure they are fit for purpose and easy to use.
  • Monitor the success of each option and remove any ‘hold-up points’ e.g. unnecessary requests for information on sign-up forms or income and expenditure data when self-certification would suffice. 

The enforcement of court orders is vital to the economy and to ensure compliance is maintained, and those that do pay, are not paying for those that refuse to do so. The enforcement of debts using enforcement agents has been crucial since the dismantling of debtor prisons in around 1869. What’s essential now, however, is that we take a modern approach to the delivery.

We believe that reducing the amount of debtor interaction at the door and taking it into an environment of using the right technology, is a thoughtful and modern approach to enforcement. Where a traditional approach is required, it should be used, but only where the conventional method is considered to be the right approach, based on intelligence and understanding of the debtor in question (as point one above).

When enforcement returns, I am positive it will be more innovative, modern and sensitive to the debtor’s circumstances than ever before.



Find out more about the enforcement market integration approach we take and read testimonials from some of our customers who are the largest creditors in the UK.  

About the Author: Jamie Waller

Jamie Waller is an entrepreneur, investor, author, and philanthropist. In 2018 he was awarded the prestigious Cranfield Business School, Entrepreneur of the Year and has been responsible for the formation, development, and sale of two previous businesses in the financial services industry.

Jamie is the Chairman of the Arum Group of companies.