This startup is trying to change the way you repay debt
Phone calls chasing up late payments may become a thing of the past.
Debt is hardly ever associated with anything positive, but one company is trying to take some of the difficulty away from repaying it. Credit Clear is a global payments technology company that helps companies, such as utility or telco providers, collect late payments from their customers.
Using features such as auto-translate, time-based incentives, multiple payment options and payment plan engines, Credit Clear is trying to deliver a debt solution it believes customers want.
"In the marketplace at the moment, there are a number of SMS providers that just say, 'Hey, it's overdue. Call us or log in to make a payment.' But our system goes beyond that," explains Simon Scalzo, managing director of Credit Clear.
Scalzo explains that Credit Clear has developed a sophisticated AI system which profiles every customer using data such as their age and postcode.
"It knows, by all the users that have used the system, that the best time to communicate with you might be at 2pm on a Tuesday. And then it would then know the best format to do that might be through an SMS. Or if you're an older demographic, it might say, 'Well, maybe it's an email.' Or, if you're younger, it might say, 'Well, I should communicate to you via Facebook Messenger'."
The AI even goes as far as changing the tone of its message based on your age. Older customers might be addressed as sir or madam while younger customers might get a simple "Hey, how are you going?"
The experience for the customer is seamless. For example, when receiving an SMS, the customer clicks the link and is presented with the available payment options or a payment plan. Credit Clear's product is also white labelled so it's clear where the payment has to go.
The technology is also able to automatically detect the primary language the customer uses on their phone, or the default language a phone is set to, and send a message in that language. It's currently set up with 24 languages, which Scalzo says covers approximately 96% of the population.
"It really is an enormous shift from the status quo in the way that people are communicated to about these payments and arrears at any stage of the debt cycle," says Credit Clear co-founder Lewis Romano.
"The traditional approaches are SMSs which you can't action, or even worse, phone calls while you're at your desk at work next to your colleague, or at home with your partner, at a time that's inconvenient," Romano says.
"Credit Clear delivers the messaging that allows you to address it when and how you want to. You don't have to speak to anyone on the phone, you can work out a payment plan that works for yourself at a time and place that's workable."
The payment options include standard options such as Mastercard, Visa and PayPal but also Apple Pay, Android Pay, Alipay and WeChat Pay. Customers can also opt to repay via a payment plan which they can set directly from the SMS. Payment plans are tailored to each company with minimum and maximum terms set for each, but the customer can set their own plans within those allowable limits.
With comprehensive credit reporting now mandated, on-time repayments will become increasingly important and directly affect your credit score. But Romano says it's about more than that.
"Credit Clear is really pandering to that shift in human behaviour," he says. "And again with millennials, and most people, they don't want to have these conversations by voice. They want to engage with their smartphone, and we've started that."