Debt collection firm Bristow & Sutor has equipped 200 of its bailiffs with mobile devices to make its work more transparent to the councils it works for.
Bristow & Sutor collects council tax arrears on behalf of local authorities. The mobile devices, which transmit data back to head office via Vodafone's GPRS network, enable councils to more quickly see when their debtors were visited and what payment schedules were agreed. They also enable bailiffs to calculate payment schedules while they are visiting a debtor.
The devices - Vodafone Qtek 9090s - hold guidelines set by councils that state what the bailiff is allowed to do in order to reclaim the debt. This is important because most councils have different guidelines for the conduct of the debt collectors and the type of arrangements they will accept for the collection of arrears.
Ian Lusardi, Bristow & Sutor's IT manager, said, "Most local authorities have different wishes about how we act." Detailed protocols are useful because a bailiff may visit people for several councils in one day, he added.
Each bailiff is allocated jobs via a SQL Server-based application developed in-house by Bristow & Sutor. The software pushes work lists to a bailiff's mobile each day which appear in the device's Cognito Formsplus application.
The handhelds also show bailiffs the quickest routes to take between debtor locations.
Each device connects wirelessly to a Global Positioning System device in the bailiff's vehicle via Bluetooth. The GPS device, developed by Cognito, stores location information so that, should the connection be broken, it can download it to the baliff's Qtek 9090 when the Bluetooth link is restored.
Lusardi said, "We are looking to extend the system. We already have in our mind that we are going to build a PDA intranet for our bailiffs."