Coming into 2022, many organisations were looking forward to a reprieve from the upheaval of COVID-19.

Unfortunately, a cost-of-living squeeze, ongoing supply-chain issues and the economic impact of the invasion of Ukraine has eclipsed these hopes.

Diminishing disposable incomes will lead to more consumers entering collections

A rise in global energy costs and increasing demand is driving inflation. This is being exacerbated by the Ukraine-Russia war.

Household bills are set to rise, which will result in more customers entering collections and requiring support with their regular payments.

There will be greater competition amongst businesses to get accounts paid on time, and in full, from rapidly diminishing consumer incomes.

Here are some impacts we are likely to see in Australia and New Zealand:

–             Increasing financial stress amongst some consumers

–             Consumer savings balances starting to dip

–             More consumers relying on BNPL (Buy Now Pay Later) lending

To get a share of wallet, businesses must understand consumer affordability.

Businesses need a clear sight of what customers can afford – where collections must be focused – and should optimise payment options to provide a seamless experience.

Below are five recommendations for getting the highest share of wallet during the current cost-of-living crisis:


1.       Make it easy to pay

Focus on flexible payment dates and provide multiple payment options.

2.       Don’t let customers become frustrated

Prevent long call-waiting times by providing customers with flexible, self-service, digital payment options.

3.       Start off on the right foot with customers

Take charge before payments become delinquent. Prevention is better than cure.

Certain sectors, such as utilities, will need to work very closely with customers to ensure their payment cycle is optimised over tough periods.

4.       Provide a channel of choice and two-way interaction

Look at ways to improve interactions with customers, whether online, through a customer service team, or via communications. Early engagement with convenient payment options will help customers pay their bills on time.

5.    Adapt to customers who are unable to pay

Ensure your staff know how to deal with people who are experiencing vulnerability or hardship.

Show empathy and proactively support those who can’t pay immediately.

There are many ways to do this, such as by implementing a digital self-service ‘pay later’ or ‘by instalment’ program.

By better understanding and supporting your customers, you will maintain customer loyalty and free up staff to assist customers who need extra support, instead of collecting monies.

Get the latest insights on the economy

illion’s Economic Health Check reports examine the current economic environments in Australia and New Zealand, analysing consumer and commercial risk, consumer spending and collection behaviours.


Customer experience leaders partner for frictionless, personalized bill payment journeys powered by two-way omnichannel digital engagement, messaging, and AI solutions

Toronto, 23rd September 2020 – illion Digital Tech Solutions, a global leader in customer engagement and bill payment solutions, and LivePerson, Inc. (NASDAQ: LPSN), a global leader in conversational solutions, announced a partnership to disrupt traditional contact methods of customer management, bill payment, and collections. This partnership enables illion clients to increase customer engagement by offering a multi-channel, proactive communication platform for consumers to pay with one click, set up simple payment plans, or gain help and advice from live customer care agents.

By combining LivePerson’s technology with illion’s services, brands will be able to engage with customers through conversational experiences using popular messaging channels — including SMS, Facebook Messenger, Apple Business Chat, WeChat, Line, WhatsApp, and more — in combination with AI and automation to deliver personalized conversational experiences at scale.

The illion-LivePerson partnership brings together two customer experience pioneers to help clients improve NPS and CSAT and reduce friction by enabling conversational commerce. LivePerson’s industry-leading Conversational Cloud platform allows contact centers to leverage AI to manage both bot and agent-handled conversations from any messaging channel. illion Digital Tech Solutions is operationalizing this platform to enable its customers to offer consumers more choice and enable two-way conversations with agents.

Brands using LivePerson’s Conversational Cloud have seen results including:

  • 2x increases in agent efficiency
  • CSAT increases of 20% or higher
  • Up to 4x increases in sales conversion
  • Significant reductions in contact center agent attrition rates

Andy Lezon, VP Global Partnerships at LivePerson commented: “We are excited to partner with a leading communications and payment provider such as illion Digital Tech Solutions, which has over 30 years’ experience in delivering digital transformation projects in the customer management and collection marketplace. With an increasing demand for digital engagement, our combined offering will be vital to ensure that businesses can operate efficiently and effectively during these uncertain economic times. Together, we want to ensure businesses can communicate with their financially vulnerable customers as early as possible to ease any fears and establish sustainable and affordable payment plans.”

Mark Sussex, Head of International at illion, added: “This partnership will enhance the existing services that we offer to our clients. illion Digital Tech Solutions’ ability to utilize the technology and communication channels from LivePerson, using our SWIPE solution that encompasses SMS, web, and voice will be a powerful and compelling proposition. We have already seen a huge amount of initial interest and we are working closely with LivePerson to ensure that our customers are better prepared to embrace the digital age in collections and support customers in financial hardship”.

Media Contacts:


Mike Tague

About illion Digital Tech Solutions:

illion Digital Tech Solutions is a global leader in customer engagement and payment technology solutions for some of the world’s largest utilities, telecommunications and financial services organizations. Founded in 1986 and with deep expertise in the areas of customer engagement, payments and collections, illion Digital Tech Solutions is headquartered in New Zealand and has offices across EMEA, Australasia, South Africa and North America. The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of illion Australia Pty Ltd. illion Digital Tech Solutions helps organizations such as Vodafone, O2 and EDF Energy to improve overall customer satisfaction and increase revenues by making it easy for their customers to pay their bills promptly. For more information visit

About LivePerson, Inc.:

LivePerson makes life easier for people and brands everywhere through trusted conversational AI. Our 18,000 customers, including leading brands like HSBC, Orange, GM Financial, and The Home Depot, use our conversational solutions to orchestrate humans and AI, at scale, and create a convenient, deeply personal relationship — a conversational relationship — with their millions of consumers. LivePerson was named to Fast Company’s World’s Most Innovative Companies list in 2020. For more information about LivePerson (NASDAQ: LPSN), please visit

By Paul O’Hanlon, Business Development Manager

Since lockdown began in the UK, the number of direct debits being cancelled has skyrocketed. Some of our clients have seen cancellations double in the past six weeks and over 1.6 million mortgage payment holidays have been offered to homeowners impacted by Covid-19 (UK Finance, 24th April 2020).

Never has communication between provider and consumer been more important, yet not all customers are arranging payment holidays before cancelling direct debits, or fully exploring other payment options. Compounding this, call centres are under strain from both an increase in inbound calls and a reduced workforce. Whilst the vast majority of consumers can apply for payment holidays via online forms, there is often a delay in the provider responding as well as a lack of true digital channels and options to connect.

When a consumer cancels a direct debit, they are unlikely to make a manual payment in the immediate future. How can organisations improve automated communication and payment options without further burdening their contact centres? We advise clients to adopt a four-step communication procedure during these unprecedented times:

1. Engage customers digitally

Customers expect seamless and personalised ways to interact with their providers. When a customer cancels a direct debit, they should receive a communication based on their preferences, usually a text or an email, that includes a web link to a number of self-service options. Consumers can communicate their situation and payment preferences through this channel and the provider can make it clear there are other options available to pay their bill.

2. Make it easy to pay

Make sure customers know of the different ways they can pay in the future: IVR, ‘Pay by SMS’, web, email and mobile. If a customer does make a payment, utilise card capture functionality to register their payment details for future use. This can enable frictionless payments over several digital channels, giving the customer flexibility over when and how much they pay, enabling them to keep their account on track.

3. Put the customer in control

Customers are cancelling their direct debits to give them better control over compromised finances. Digital communications via the channel of their choice, available 24/7, will make consumers more comfortable in dealing with a sensitive issue. Handing them the power to set their payment plans, (whether that is a promise to pay, regular payments or a payment holiday) with self-service options will help them to better engage with their supplier.

4. Understand affordability

We are all hopeful that, as lockdown eases, many people will have the financial recourses to re-start regular payments to their supplier. Organisations can then focus on affordability of payments and the support of vulnerable customers.  It’s at this point that suppliers should undertake omni-channel affordability assessments to set affordable and sustainable payment plans.

Continuing to provide customers with flexible self-service payment options will be crucial in assisting customers back to financial normality. Those businesses that embrace this approach long-term will benefit from reduced customer churn, improved customer loyalty and manageable contact centre volumes.

illion Digital Tech Solutions works with some of the world’s largest blue chip companies to streamline the payments and collections process. We help organisations to offer digital self-service options that improve the customer experience and provide options to help end-customers manage their payments. Want to learn more? Contact us today

By Mark Sussex, Head of International, illion Digital Tech Solutions

For organisations that collect regular payments, the dramatic increase in individuals experiencing financial difficulties because of the COVID-19 pandemic has already been felt keenly. In recent weeks, many of our customers have seen a sizable increase in the number of customers cancelling direct debits and requesting payment holidays.

In the UK, the Government and the utilities industry have pledged that suppliers will support any energy customer in financial distress as a result of the pandemic. The utilities industry, already feeling the pressure of increased wholesale prices, price caps and competition, have had their request for a loan scheme denied by the Government. For the telecommunications industry, phone loans are also eligible for payment holidays under the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) new guidelines.

Similar relief packages are being offered to financial services customers, including mortgage holidays. The FCA recently announced that it was suspending banks’ obligation to stop credit cards held by customers who were in persistent debt because of the impact the lockdown may be having on their finances. Meanwhile, money is still owed, and interest accrues.

With only the generic Coronavirus loan package available, how can providers support customers in financial difficulty while keeping themselves afloat?

Organisations need an approach based on three core factors:

1. Communication

Digital communications and channels will be crucial in serving customers at this time. Contact centres are experiencing high call volumes, adding pressure onto an already compromised workforce. Technology has a role to play in streamlining and digitising communications with multi-channel, self-service options that better engage customers and significantly reduce operational costs. As well as enabling payments, these platforms will become particularly crucial in providing Income &Expenditure (I&E) assessments, forms and setting up payment plans.

2. Evaluation

Many providers are offering payment holidays but the consequences of this when the crisis ends are worrying.

Never has evaluating a customer’s ability to pay in order to set sustainable payment plans been so important. The challenge is that implementing I&E assessments can be a time-consuming and expensive process but taking the digital approach outlined above will reduce this burden. Self-service income and expenditure tools increase the speed and accuracy of affordability assessments.

3. Resolution

Guidance from Government and industry bodies has been vague about who is eligible for payment holidays and financial support. The consensus is that support should be targeted for those whose incomes have nosedived in the pandemic. Suppliers should use the data from digital communications and assessments to find the right solutions. Payment holidays could cause debt to pile up further, so other options such as significantly reducing monthly payments or switching to an interest-only arrangement may be better long-term. There is much financial uncertainty at the moment, with many not knowing what their income may be in three months’ time. Tailored online forms that offer a range of re-payment options (such a three-, six- or nine-month payment arrangements for an unpaid bill) allow customers to take charge of their debt and encourage some re-payment.


The likelihood is that we will see more customers in collections. Organisations that deploy the best technology-driven processes to improve customer service and reduce costs will enable them to scale and meet increased demand at this unprecedented time.

illion Digital Tech Solutions works with some of the world’s largest blue chip companies to streamline the payments and collections process. We help organisations to offer digital self-service options that improve the customer experience and provide options to help end-customers manage their payments. Want to learn more? Contact us today

By Michael Chatfield, General Manager – APAC, illion Digital Tech Solutions

We are living in unprecedented times. Businesses that are able to harness technology during a crisis to ensure the safety of their employees and customers, are more likely to be able to operate. Some smaller, agile organisations have been able to diversify using technology, whilst industries for whom human contact is integral to their offering are suffering.

As Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Clients that have robust business continuity plans in place have seen the least amount of disruption so far from the COVID-19 pandemic, although it is an ever-evolving situation in which the restrictions and advice will inevitably change.

Lessons can be learned from the collections industry which has embraced technology in recent years to improve efficiency and transform services. During this uncertain time, organisations that enable both consumers to digitally self-serve as well as empowering employees to remotely assist their valuable customers are in a stronger position. As many call centres experience unparalleled levels of pressure, what can be put in place to minimise the burden and ensure a positive customer experience?

  • Make self-service, digital communication channels available to customers with services like ‘Pay by SMS’, web bill payments and IVR
  • Encourage customers to self-serve through those digital channels at a time convenient to them, without the need of speaking to an agent
  • Further reduce friction with personalised payments and communications, such as the use of tokenised payment details and one-time payment links.
  • For some consumers, they will be under greater financial strain than before and their ability to pay may be altered by the impact of the virus. Accurately and sensitively assess their situation with a self-service income and expenditure tool to increase the speed and accuracy of affordability assessments.
  • In the event that your call centre must fully or partially close, you have a digital only strategy that allows the customer to self-serve without the need to speak with an agent.

Many business continuity plans may not have foreseen a global pandemic. Whilst systems and infrastructure are not affected, it’s the availability of people that is the main issue. With disruption expected to evolve for months to come, organisations must bolster communications capabilities to enable home working and make secure and robust access to corporate and sensitive information available. As the situation develops, they must also guarantee that they are compliant with changing regulations.

In response to considerable demand from organisations at this time, illion Digital Tech Solutions is now offering a lite version of SWIPE, our payment and customer experience suite, that allows for rapid deployment. SWIPE increases customer engagement and loyalty levels, expands technology options for customers, reduces customer churn and optimises internal efficiencies. If you would like to know more, please contact us. 

By Mark Sussex, Head of International, illion Digital Tech Solutions 

UK energy suppliers, both big and small, are feeling the pressure of increased wholesale prices, price caps, competition and regulation. Since the beginning of 2018, sixteen challenger energy companies have collapsed and the combined profits of the six largest providers for domestic energy supply decreased by 35% in 2018.1

Ofgem’s report ‘Vulnerable consumers in the energy market 2019’ revealed that the overall number of customers in debt increased by 4.2% in electricity and 4.8% in gas during 2018. Amongst these customers there was an increase in those in arrears without a repayment plan, meaning that there is an growth in the number of customers in debt who need to be contacted to work out their repayment options. Ofgem regulation requires the suppliers to address affordability issues and treat customers in arrears fairly by offering “certain services for customers who are in payment difficulties, and to take all reasonable steps to ascertain the customer’s ability to pay.”

Undertaking affordability assessments is the first step in setting affordable payment plans. Income and expenditure (I&E) forms completed via phone and paper is often a time-consuming and expensive process. These assessments can create a poor customer journey and don’t always capture the most accurate data, plus smaller providers may not have the infrastructure in place to undertake these.

We have worked with a number of providers in other regulated industries to implement self-service, digital channels that enable the agent, customer or both to complete I&E forms across multiple devices, as well as on the phone. The results are transformative.  Where previously an I&E analysis could take agents and customers an average of 45 minutes, at a cost £40-80 each, the omnichannel I&E process takes just 15 minutes typically.

This is because intelligent self-service data validation tools make the assessments more accurate and, consequently, the payment plans more realistic. Digital channels promote more collaboration between both parties and internally between departments, helping to better educate customers and give them more visibility and control over the I&E process.

For challenger brands, a digital affordability process not only lowers the burden and cost of assessments but also empowers them to better adhere to industry directives.

By harnessing back-end technology to streamline the collections process, smaller utilities companies can compete with larger providers in debt recovery and communications. Automated and omnichannel collections technologies, such as SMS, outbound and inbound IVR, mobile, email, web and portals better engage customers and encourage loyalty. Moreover, funds are recovered at an earlier stage and the cost of collections is reduced.

Omnichannel communications and payments channels also help to reduce early stage debt. Ofgem requires suppliers to not only manage and recover debt, but also focus on preventing debt. This means making early contact with customers before they accumulate debt. Digital messages and payments options that tie in with affordability assessments will improve the rate and speed of collections payments, reduce early stage debt and improve the collections experience for their customers.

Many of your good long-term customers may be struggling to pay their utilities bills, so focus on creating a consistent brand experience in collections that uses technology that effeciently assesses affordability, sets plans and collects payments.

1 ‘State of the energy market 2018’, Ofgem

In today’s digital world, traditional collections solutions are no longer fit for purpose for local councils and their customers. But, how can local councils adapt and renew to serve the digital customers of tomorrow, whilst meeting regulatory requirements and budget restrictions?

Fundamentally re-examining how customers are communicated with will be a real game-changer for local government. Recent research by illion in February 2020 into how Australians pay their bills, showed that council rates are one of the most neglected bills once overdue. In the survey, more than 30% of late payment respondents left their council bills for longer than 30 days, making it critical for councils to send timely reminders to improve early-stage payment rates and first time resolution, while also reducing costs incurred further down the collections cycle.

Letters and phone calls may work for some, but not all. In 2020, customer contact preferences for late bills is predominately electronic. Self-service options, including web payment portals, ‘Pay by SMS’ and IVR can provide a more tailored customer experience. They are also often more cost-effective than a traditional call centre and offer the end-customer more control.  Personalised payments and communications, such as the use of tokenised card details and one-time payment links, can also help decrease friction and reduce barriers to payment.

Council rates are also more likely to be paid by card or account when the bill is received (about 60%). In light of this, it is critical that customers are provided with push payment methods so that they can immediately action billing reminders. We have seen first hand how adding a payment option to a reminder message can increase payment rates – a UK telecommunications company achieved a 29% uplift in payments when they added a payment channel to a reminder SMS.

We recently worked with City of Parramatta council to introduce new automated, self-service touch points into their collections process.The existing collections strategy leveraged high cost, advisor-led outbound calling activity. Time and resource constraints meant the council could only contact a small percentage of its overdue customers. Customers entering collections have the option to make a payment through WebPay – a one-click, personalised payment channel that delivers mobile and web-based options. Since the introduction of the new payment channel, the council has been able to significantly reduce the amount of manual, advisor-led work required, freeing up internal resources to focus on more complex cases.

Other local councils also have a significant opportunity to improve how they communicate and take payments with automated, self-service options, to better serve today’s digital customers, whilst reducing costs and creating new internal efficiencies.

illion Digital Tech Solutions works with local councils internationally to streamline the payments and collections process. We help retailers to offer digital self-service options to improve the customer experience and provide options to help end-customers manage their payments. Want to learn more? Contact us today

By Michael Chatfield, General Manager APAC, illion Digital Tech Solutions

The past few years have seen a shift in attitude within collections, to one of prevention, not cure. The goal is now to avoid debt before it actually happens, to treat customers fairly and collect arrears at an earlier stage.

Whilst many collections departments have transformed themselves in recent times, through the adoption of multi-channel, digital collections that better engage customers and significantly reduce operational costs, there is still more work to be done.

Organisations that communicate with their customers earlier in the collections cycle, before implications become critical, will reduce the operational cost of each payment and relationship.

How can organisations better achieve early stage payments in collections?

  • Identify those customers who may be susceptible to falling into arrears. Use data to look at payment histories and predict when customers might be in danger of missing a payment.
  • Personalise services to your customers around payment dates, service methods and billing.
  • Send timely payment reminders to improve early-stage payment rates and first-time resolution. As well as adhering to regulatory advice, this also reduces costs incurred further down the collections cycle.
  • Offer a choice of digital payment channels, such as SMS, outbound and inbound IVR, mobile, email, web and portals.
  • Personalise payments and communications, such as the use of tokenised payment details and one-time payment links, to decrease friction and barriers.

Using the strategies above, we helped an Australian Energy Retailer to improve their early stage collections rates and increase the volumes of cash collected earlier in the process. By engaging with customers before their bill is due with a convenient payment channel, the retailer has been able to reduce the number of customers falling into arrears. The number of customers who pay on time has increased to 78% which represents a 3% uplift.1

Taking a ‘prevention not cure’ approach with early and frictionless communication and payment experiences can only nurture customer relationships. Providing digital touchpoints that enable consumers to choose and self-serve will strengthen this preventative approach.



1 Results from an anonymous trial of the retailer’s customer base not on Direct Debit conducted by illion Digital Tech Solutions. Percentages are based on a comparison of customer on-time payments 3 weeks before the trial and 3 weeks after the trial.

By David Lemon, Business Development Director – Telco and Utilities

Last month I attended the 11th Annual Utility Week Consumer Debt Conference in Birmingham, United Kingdom. The conference drew 100+ attendees from the UK energy and water sectors to discuss the most pressing issues facing the sectors. With consumer debt levels on the rise, increasing competition and tightening regulation, the utilities industry is undergoing significant change and discussions on vulnerability and improving the customer experience were high on the agenda.


There are millions of people in the UK struggling to pay their bills. According to the Money Charity, at the end of December 2018 people in the UK owed £1.625 trillion. As a result, utilities are having to devote more time and resources to supporting customers in financial difficulty. While the sector has made significant progress in the way it supports vulnerable customers, there is still more that can be done.

When it comes to supporting customers, prevention is better is than cure. The key is to spot customers who need assistance early on before they fall into arrears. Today, data is readily available at our fingertips and can be used to help paint a picture of a customer’s financial position. Retailers can use the internal data they hold, such as payment patterns, and external data, such as a customer’s credit report, to provide insight into their financial position. This data can then be used to proactively communicate with customers who need assistance and provide the right level of support, such as flexible payment options or referral to a debt advice charity.

Customer Experience 

Unlike the retail sector where passion and emotions drive most decisions, customers rarely jump at the chance to hand their money to a utility provider. Utility services are for the most part intangible and generally delivered without any intervention by the customer; therefore it is critical that retailers make it simple for a customer to pay.

Using digital technology to communicate with customers and provide self-service payment options has been successful in the financial services and telecoms sectors for many years and is now being adopted with great success in the utilities sector. Utilities who provide customers with self-service options, including mobile payment portals, ‘Pay by SMS’ and IVR can provide a simple, more tailored customer experience.

illion Digital Tech Solutions (formerly TALKINGTECH) works with some of the United Kingdom’s leading energy retailers to streamline the payments and collections process. We help retailers to offer digital self-service options to improve the customer experience and provide options to help end-customers manage their payments. Want to learn more? Contact us today

Ahead of this week’s Credit Summit, part of Credit Week, Achim Cremer looks at three of the most pressing trends and issues facing the UK credit and collections industry.

1. Digital Evolution

Customer demand and preferences continue to shape the services and channels offered by lenders. With an increasing number of disrupters and digital natives entering the financial services market, there is pressure on traditional lenders to differentiate on customer service and reduce their cost to serve.

While offering digital channels for bill payments and collections is becoming the norm, there is still some reliance on traditional channels, such as phone and letters. The next phase of evolution needs to be focussed on ensuring the end-to-end process is streamlined and frictionless to make it easy for customers to pay. Offering choice, speed and simplicity will be critical to success.

2. Smarter Insights

Technology has changed the way we use data today. Lenders who can extract meaningful insights into customer trends and preferences, and then act on them, have the potential to transform their credit process by providing a more personalised and targeted service.

With the use of AI and machine learning on the rise, lenders are going to need to continue to develop capabilities to leverage the data they have, such as a customer’s contact preferences or information on their financial position, to make smarter and more accurate decisions.

3. Changing Regulation

The regulatory agenda in Europe is changing rapidly. A turbulent economic and political environment, coupled with rising debt levels has created a challenging environment for lenders to operate in. Being able to balance the complexities and requirements of regulations with providing a more personalised and frictionless customer service is critical to success.

With deadlines looming for a number of new regulations and changes, including PSD2 and Brexit, lenders are under pressure to adequately plan and transform for compliance. Brexit is going to be high on the agenda at the Credit Summit, with a whole stream dedicated to economist and international views on the impact of Brexit on the UK credit market.

The 11th annual Credit Summit on the 21st of March in London will bring together over 600 delegates from the UK credit and collections sector to discuss the most pressing issues and trends facing the industry. illion Digital Tech Solutions (formerly TALKINGTECH) is proud to be an Exhibition Partner at the Credit Summit. Come and visit us in the exhibition area to discuss how we can help streamline your bill payment and collections process.