Using VoIP is a good bet for companies in hard economic times . It can save them money and provide much-needed flexibility. But VoIP can also be helpful for organizations dealing with the victims of those hard times. For example, LiveVox Inc .'s hosted VoIP dialer helps collection agencies cope with abrupt changes in their business. It lets them ramp their capacity as quickly as necessary, and helps them adjust to rapidly changing regulations. It may even help them deal more humanely with debtors.
The key piece of equipment in the collections business is an automatic dialer that calls debtors. When a call reaches the right person, the dialer connects a collection agent who speaks to the debtor. Since a number of calls go unanswered or otherwise don't reach the intended person, it takes multiple outgoing lines to keep a single agent occupied. Traditionally, dialers have been premise-based equipment that agencies purchased like PBXes . LiveVox's advance was to offer a VoIP-based hosted version that let agencies purchase capacity as they needed it.
That flexibility can be a big help in uncertain times, according to LiveVox chief marketing officer John McNamara. When the economy turns down, "Delinquent consumers start to skyrocket," he explained. When that happened in the past, agencies bought additional equipment to deal with the growth in demand for their services. Once the economy improved again, though, it left them with too much capacity. That's why economic recoveries saw many collection agencies trying to get into telemarketing, just to keep their expensive new equipment busy. Using hosted dialer capacity to deal with temporary demand makes that unnecessary.
The VoIP dialer technology itself is also more efficient, according to McNamara. With traditional equipment, there is a hard-wired correlation between lines and agents. Agencies typically bought four outgoing lines per agent, he said. While three lines were busy dialing numbers and getting no response, the agent was talking on the fourth. But as consumers got harder to reach, that ratio no longer held, so agents were often left with nothing to do.
The LiveVox system, though, can assign as many outbound dialer lines to agents as necessary to keep them busy full time. "It takes agent productivity back to a level we haven't had in 10 or 15 years," said McNamara. Other productivity boosters include functions like automatic screen pops that display a debtor's name and other information for the agent as soon as a call connects.
LiveVox recently enhanced several features that make it easier for collection agencies to deal with rapid regulatory changes. For instance, there is currently a legal dispute over the circumstances in which making collection calls to cellphones is permissible. A "scrub" feature makes it relatively easy to remove cellular numbers or those on various "do-not-call" lists from the group of numbers being dialed. In addition, the times of day when it is legal for agencies to call consumers varies by state, so "time-to-call" settings allows adjustment of that factor.
LiveVox also provides what it calls RPC (Right-Party Contact) Opt In. The feature allows recipients of calls to confirm that they are the debtor in question before being connected to a collection agent. "I think that during these hard economic times, consumers are under more strain than they've ever been under," said McNamara. "RPC Opt In is a very humane and civil way to let people decide whether they're ready to talk to a bill collector right now. The call says 'If this is [debtor's name] press 1.' If you've just watched CNN and you're depressed and don't feel like talking, you can just hang up or press 3 to say you're not that person."
Given the recent headlines, many more consumers could soon be finding out how humane and civil that option really feels.
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