Blog by Phil Stark, CEO at TALKINGTECH

In 1986 the stars were clearly aligned for innovators across the world.  That year saw Richard Branson – on a 72ft powerboat – break the world record for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic, the amazing Pixar Animation Studios opened and a new, powerful version of MS Dos was released.  Oh, and it was during a piano lesson in Hamilton, New Zealand, that the origins of TALKINGTECH was created with something called a ‘DVR’…

Our story has a pretty unusual beginning and we’re proud of it.  Our founder, Ray Stark, was learning to play the piano and his teacher owned a machine that was refusing to play.  Ray took it home to his business partner, Raymond Greenfield, who fixed it.  The machine was a dialler which recorded a message onto an analogue tape.  Ray and Raymond decided to trial an idea for local businesses in the area to call prospective and current customers. Soon they were ‘in business’.

In 1989 the pair received a call from Telecom, a telecoms network in New Zealand, looking for help reaching their debtors and so the first payments and collections product was developed.  Around 200 overdue customers were called to start off with and the idea soon became a success as payments were received back into the business.  Subsequently Ray and Raymond decided to develop a toll tracker in 1991 which would track all long-distance toll calls made.  They wrote the software, a British company manufactured the hardware and the product was sold by Telecom, mainly to customers in the hotel industry.

The next product quickly developed and brought to market by the team was an outbound dialling machine which it started marketing to libraries in New Zealand.  Allowing to contact their users and answer questions for them, the first customer was the Lower Hutt library in Wellington.

Telecom Dialers

Our original diallers operating in 1991. Each dialler was a single line system and had its own printer for reports.

Under the brand name, Fieldstar Marketing, in the mid-90’s the company was rebranded to TALKINGTECH. It was at this point that we had the true beginnings of the company recognisable as it is today, with both payments and outbound customer contact capabilities.

The library proposition was expanded in the late 90s to Australia and by the year 2000 we had 20 customers.  In 2001 I joined this exciting business and we also formed an important international partnership with a new customer, the mobile phone service provider SinglePoint, in the UK.

Four years later, the TALKINGTECH Foundation was established, a truly important milestone in our company’s history.  Fully integrated and supported by our close-knit team, the Foundation has given over NZD $1million, helping causes which might not receive support from large charitable organisations.  We invest in improving education and healthcare services for the disadvantaged, leveraging innovation and technology to do so.  More information for projects looking for support or for donators can be found here.

By 2005 (or so!), the business operated in New Zealand, Australia, North America, South Africa, the UK and the rest of Europe.  We had experienced steady but strong growth and we had a much bigger team supporting and developing the business as well as helping our clients achieve their goals.

In 2011, we proudly achieved PCI DSS compliance and two years later became a Visa Merchant Agent.

Today, TALKINGTECH provides critical payment and self-service solutions and advice to some of the world’s largest blue chip companies in the financial services, telecoms and utility sectors as well as servicing over 600 libraries throughout North America, Australia and New Zealand, supported by our award-winning i-tiva system.

This post has allowed me to reflect on how transformative technology is and how far TALKINGTECH has come.  We celebrated in true Antipodean style last weekend with a conference and party for our global team in New Zealand!  It was a rare opportunity to have everyone together – a true highlight of my time in the company.

Naturally, we must look to the future – which we rightly did at our celebration – and what it holds for us.  We’ve set out three areas that our business will focus on:

  • Continuing to revolutionise the payments and self service industries
  • Supporting our library clients; and
  • Providing excellent consultancy for omni-channel payment solutions.

So with that, I’ll sign off as we’d better get on with the next 30 years!

This article was first published on LinkedIn, which you can read here:

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