A South African startup, The Gentle Reminders Club, believes that using emojis can help many people and organizations get paid on time by their clients. The startup uses an emoji ratings to encourage businesses to quickly pay their invoices.

How it works is that instead of constantly hounding a company's accounts department for payment, The Gentle Reminders Club sends out weekly letters, notifying both parties that their public rating, which is broadcast on their website, is happy, grumpy or indifferent.

β€œMost of our clients pay us quickly. It’s that 10 to 15 percent that make us want to scream. With payments being such a problem in South Africa, this will help speed up the chain of payments down the chain and all businesses will benefit,” said Scott Cundill, Co-Founder at The Gentle Reminders Club.

The startup indicates that the effectiveness of rating systems to improve service can be seen through Uber and Airbnb. The Gentle Reminders Club was conceived after Cundill witnessed his own accounts department, at a different company, struggle to get paid on time, particularly with larger corporations in South Africa.

The platform is very simple. The creditor registers, chooses a letter template from the various options available and The Gentle Reminders Club sends it off to the debtor. Only the creditor can then change their emoji status and the payment status which is publicly reflected on the website.

"It’s a kind, gentle and easy way to collect money," said Cundill.

Added to that, a confidential chat room allows both parties to privately discuss the invoice if they so wish.

β€œIt’s a lovely feeling, watching people, who were otherwise silent, come out and make payment arrangements. It’s all done with a positive attitude – it’s not adversarial like a lawyer or debt collector.”

A serious question is the issue about whether or not a poor rating would be considered a form of defamation, or whether the platform itself uses intimidation for people to pay their bills.

β€œActually, it’s just the opposite,” says Cundill, β€œIt’s so easy to have your rating upgraded so you look good on the website. We want you to have a great rating, Gentle Reminders is not here as a punitive measure, but rather to encourage better business ethics.” said Cundill.

Although the use of emojis as a rating system is quite a novel idea, similar platforms have been available in South Africa before, although they didn't soy focus on payments. One notable platform is Hellopeter, which allowed consumers and other organizations post complaints or complements about organizations they did business with. In turn giving them a rating and allowing the businesses to respond.

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