Eight-and-a-half-year-old Durban debt collection agency, Debt-IN has expanded its client base in difficult trading conditions during 2016, ending the year on a more positive note than the start of the year. The company is set to double its office space at new premises early next year with expectations of growing market share further and plans to capitalise on new industry trends.
“Although 2016 has been a challenging year as a result of price pressure and a weak economy - contrary to popular belief we do better when the economy is strong than in tough times – we have performed well over the past twelve months and are expanding into new premises in the Durban CBD in February,” say Mark Essey, director of Debt-IN.
“Another plus this year is that we have grown the depth and skills set of our management team and staff at all levels. We plan to build on this next year by introducing extra training programs. We are proud of the fact that, relative to our size, our spend on training is higher per employee than most business in the call centre industry.”
Staff turnover at Debt-IN is also consistently lower than the industry average, which Essey believes is in part due to their employee wellbeing programme. Part of this is a medical programme which ensures that a nurse visits regularly to check on the blood pressure of staff and to give them Vitamin B injections. Debt-IN’s incentive programme is also superior and they pay slightly higher than the industry average.
As a result, there has been an improvement in staff satisfaction over the past year – according to a survey conducted in October 2015 and again in October this year.
Debt-IN’s move to expanded new offices in West Street in the hub of the Durban CBD is also a plus for most employees who will find it easier to get there than to their present Westville premises.
Another recent achievement Essey is proud of is improving efficiencies by integrating their dialer (software that automates calling patterns) more fully into their existing systems following the appointment of a specialist consultant.
Next year, they hope to further expand their client base – currently banks, financial services companies, municipalities, some retailers and telecommunications enterprises. In particular they would like to increase the number of retail and municipal clients.
Essey envisages that other major challenges next year will be continued pressure on pricing and that the biggest curve ball could be a ratings downgrade for the country in mid-2017 which would put pressure on interest rates and cause “a lot of pain” for the economy.
“The economy is our biggest challenge. It is a misconception that debt collectors do better in bad times. In good times people have more money to spend and create debt so the debt-collection business improves,” he said.
That said, he is positive looking forward. “Yes I am bullish about 2017. We wouldn’t be expanding otherwise.”
One potential growth area that Debt-IN plans to target next year is non-voice communication via online chat and similar mediums using Smart Phone Technology and apps like WhatsApp.
Another aspiration for next year is to grow the early stage collection business, where the collection process is started as close to the date of the debt initiation as possible.
Established in 2008, Debt-IN currently employs 110 collectors and 15 administrative staff members. It will move into its new offices in 303 Pixley KaSeme Street, Durban in mid-February 2017.