The payment's in the SMS

Australian companies are assessing SMS technology as a bill payment alternative to drastically reduce communication costs.

Businesses can save up to 90 per cent on customer communication costs by using SMS to replace bill reminders such as customer calls, mail outs and other methods of debt recovery.

SMS technology provider Start Corporation CEO Michael Mak said research shows 42 per cent of customers are paying up to $400 million in late fees a year as a result of late payments, but it is Australian companies who will see the real tangible benefits of using SMS technology.

Only this week Diners Club Australia introduced SMS-based services for it newly launched Club@lerts service to provide customers with up-to-date account information and special offers.

Diners general sales manager, James Atkins, said it is the first card provider in Australia to offer mobile alerts which are being provided by mobile transaction company Mobileway.

Asia-Pacific region vice president at Mobileway, Cyrille Even said there is a thirst for mobile information which is expected to grow 18-fold by 2005.

At this stage its deployment is not widespread in Australia according to a spokesman from CRM provider E.phiphany, but many companies are assessing its suitability with marketplace research.

E.piphany released research this week on SMS customer strategies in the banking, telecommunications, insurance, utilities, travel and leisure industries.

It found customers in the telco sector prefer e-mail communication and are open to receiving information via SMS.

More than 400 customers were surveyed for the research which found e-mail and telephone contact are level in popularity with bank customers, but traditional post is still twice as popular.

The more affluent the banking customer the more accepting they are of e-mail communication, the survey found. E-mail and SMS were far more accepted where there is an existing customer relationship, particularly in the travel and leisure industries.

E.piphany Asia Pacific vice president and general manager, Chris Ciauri, said traditional mail is still the preferred method of contact, but the research proves there is no single method of contact that suits all customers.

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