How to increase responses to arrears communications

How to increase engagement with your tenants

Arrears communications challenges

The importance of engaging with tenants has increased since Universal Credit means rent needs to be collected from tenant directly. Voicecape have worked with several social landlords with tenants in debt. Obtaining responses to letters and calls from this group can be very tricky.  Using behavioural insights, we triggered a 24% increase in customer engagement using some very simple techniques that any social landlord could take and adapt.

Tenant engagement is the foundation of a sustainable tenancy and is therefore a central pillar of most social landlord’s income collection strategies. If a tenant responds to a letter, text message, telephone call or email, this demonstrates a level of responsibility and commitment to resolving any debt. Furthermore, communication with these tenants enables provides a deeper understanding and enables a more tailored approach to resolving cases.

Trialling responses

Voicescape ran a trial with a group of tenants who were all due to receive the second letter in the organisation’s arrears escalation process. As with many income collection functions, there are tenants who can’t pay and those who won’t pay. Having a reliable method of differentiating between these two scenarios can lead to a more tailored and effective intervention. This trial was used to elicit contact as the key way of differentiating the can’t pays from the won’t pays.

Our own research has shown that arrears communication and letters tend to be verbose, vague and poorly designed. Redesigning existing letters using basic information design principles to inform the use of colour, icons and content hierarchies helped aid instant comprehension. It made it very clear what response we wanted from the recipient. We ran this as a trial across three groups who were receiving:

  • The usual communication the social landlord sent out.
  • A redesigned letter with a positive, empathic message
  • A redesigned letter with a fear based ‘negative’ message.


Of the 51% that made contact after receiving a letter, 24% more tenants in the ‘negative’ group made contact than in the control group and 16% more from the Positive group made contact than the control group.

We would love to hear from you if you would like to understand how this kind of behaviour insights approach can help you in your work.