Collector- June 2018 - 31
"The chatbot only says what we want it to say, so
you don't have to worry about monitoring a collector
speaking German if you don't understand German."
as regulations have changed, we've been able
to quickly adapt and move forward."
United Consumers' chatbot speaks almost
a dozen different languages, which Byrne
said has been a tremendous asset to his
small company. For instance, while United
Consumers employs collectors who speak
Spanish, if someone is out sick one day there
might be more calls for Spanish-speaking
collectors than representatives can handle.
"When that happens, we can tell
consumers that they can go to the website
and they can do everything in Spanish right
there," Byrne said. "And it would be just
the same as if they were talking to one of
our collectors. And what's even nicer is the
chatbot only says what we want it to say, so
for instance, you don't have to worry about
monitoring a collector speaking German if
you don't understand German."
WHAT'S STOPPING YOU?
AI technology makes new strides every
year, especially in areas like speech
recognition, but it still has limitations. For
example, Microsoft and Alibaba announced
in January that their AI software had
outperformed humans in a reading
comprehension test for the first time, but
outside researchers were quick to point out
that the test didn't account for things like
Microsoft researcher Jianfeng Gao told
Wired that "overall, people are still much
better than machines at comprehending the
complexity and nuance of language."
Also, as the buzz around this technology
grows each year, the definition of AI-at
least among vendors-gets increasingly
broad. One company's AI may use basic
automation, while another company's AI
may be an expert system, which emulates the
decision-making ability of a human.
And there are subsets of AI that might not
be a good fit for the collection industry. For
instance, deep learning is behind the flashier
AI applications we've seen recently, like
self-driving cars, and requires less human
intervention than machine learning.
"I'd be concerned about the application
of deep learning and other black box
techniques in collections due to fair lending
and other regulatory sensitivity," said Ohad
Samet, CEO of True Accord, a third-party
debt collection startup using AI technology.
No matter what AI product you choose
to pursue, fears that this technology will
eliminate human collectors are largely
unfounded. It can, however, help keep labor
costs down while ensuring your production
levels and recovery ratios remain high.
"I believe that AI has enabled us to stay
very competitive in the marketplace," Byrne
said. "We've been able to use AI in lieu of
adding staff. Rates are low and agencies
are bidding so low today in order to stay
competitive. You're trying to compete in a
marketplace that small to midsize agencies
can't compete in anymore. This type of AI
really helps us still be middle-size players in
a very crowded market."
Dharmaraja acknowledges that
introducing any change in the accounts
receivable management industry is a
challenge, but he does see the industry
evolving thanks to a growing number of
tech-savvy owners and managers.
"AI is not new to collections," he said.
"We predict that AI will reach the rest
of the industry quickly because it is not
possible to sustain the current model, and
it is getting too expensive to work large
volumes of accounts, at the present rates,
under compliance requirements that are
getting stricter by the day. How are so
many companies keeping up without AI?
Simple. They have armies of programmers
who are constantly (and at great cost)
modifying their systems to meet the
changing needs of the industry. Remember
the day when every company had its
proprietary, in-house accounting software?
That was replaced by a $200 product called
QuickBooks. As Bob Dylan once said, 'The
times they are a changing.'"
Anne Rosso May is editor of Collector
AI systems are
programmed to mimic
making decisions based
on established rules and
carrying out tasks as a
An intelligent system
automates all the habits
of your best collectors and
ensures communications are
accurate and consistent.
Chatbots powered by
AI algorithms can take
care of simple consumer
issues and questions, like
bankruptcy filings, payments
and paperwork requests.