Collector – May 2019 - 20

Shifting Consumer

Payment
Preferences
A 2018 study by Interactions
LLC reveals details about
consumers' use of intelligent
virtual agents when faced with
past-due accounts.
More than half of survey
respondents (58 percent)
said they are uncomfortable
being contacted about a pastdue debt by a live agent.
More than half of respondents
(51.53 percent) have used
artificial intelligence systems
for payments.
Nearly 70 percent of
respondents don't want to
speak with a live agent if a
virtual agent is consistently
effective and quickly
responds to questions.
Between 2017 and 2018,
the number of respondents
who are comfortable making
payments via a virtual agent
grew by 16 percent.
Source: Interactions LLC

20

consumers in the same manner as human
agents, handling a wide range of tasks based
on agency preferences.
Whether a consumer simply needs an
updated account balance or wishes to
negotiate a payment plan, virtual agents
can handle the job. The agency specifies
the virtual agent's functions and parameters,
ensuring it follows company (and creditor
client) policies.
Common tasks a virtual agent may
carry out include:
* Verifying identifying information.
* Providing creditor information.
* Confirming account balances.
* Updating contact information.
* Accepting attorney information.
* Requesting bankruptcy details.
* Accepting and processing payments.
* Handling disputes.
* Negotiating payment plans.
If a company doesn't want its virtual
agent to handle certain accounts-those
that are already in the legal process or have
characteristics indicating they may present
a high risk of default, for example-they can
be locked down so the consumer is directed
to a human collector.
Agencies have the option to use virtual
agents across multiple communication
channels, including inbound and/or
outbound calling, website integration and
SMS messaging.
"Right now, we're seeing the strongest
return on investment using virtual agents
for inbound voice calls," said Erin Stewart,
collections lead for Interactions LLC, a
provider of intelligent virtual assistants in
the collection space and other industries.
"On the web or SMS, you'll get a few
customers who will use it, but the phone is
the most predominant in this industry."

VIRTUAL AGENTS WEAR
MANY HATS
Giving the Britneys of the world a comfortable
method to interact is just one of many
solutions virtual agents provide. Another is
the ability to communicate in consumers'
native languages without the need to hire an
army of multilingual collectors.

"There are a lot of agencies with bilingual
agents-usually English and Spanish-but
with a small agency, a virtual agent takes
care of the language barrier," Hopkinson
said. "I don't need to find collectors to
speak German, Russian, Haitian Creole or
Vietnamese. I don't need to hire eight people
who speak eight different languages. We can
direct them to Alex, who can speak all of
those languages."
Because collection agencies are so heavily
regulated, legal compliance is always an
important issue. Virtual agents can help
ensure compliance and reduce risk.
"There is so much risk involved with using
live agents on collection calls," Stewart said.
"They're handling credit card information,
where there's risk even if you're using secured
systems. They have to say the mini-Miranda
exactly as written and treat the customer with
respect at all times. AI is programed for those
things. It never forgets to read a prompt. It
will never say something inappropriate to a
customer or use an incorrect tone."
Collection agencies can also harness
virtual agents' capabilities to better
customize future interactions based on what
the individual consumer prefers.
Gaining express consent to contact
consumers' mobile phones is an ongoing
issue, and agencies have been slow to use
SMS messaging even as its popularity has
surged. However, virtual agents can be used
to request and record consent.
"When consumers contact an agency's
virtual agent, either by calling or texting,
they have initiated the conversation,"
explained Ranjan Dharmaraja, CEO of
Quantrax Corp., a collection industry
software provider specializing in artificial
intelligence for more than two decades. "So,
during that consumer-initiated call, the
agency should request permission for future
contacts to call them on their cellphone or to
text them."
Perhaps most appealing to many agencies,
virtual agents can also be used to improve
human agents' productivity by handling
more of the routine tasks.
"A lot of an agent's day is spent handling
wrong parties, speaking with people who

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Collector – May 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Collector – May 2019

Upfront
Industry News
Best Practices
FYI
Collection Tips
The Robot Revolution
ACA International’s 2019 Convention & Expo
Number Crunching
Calendar
Honor Roll
Education Spotlight
Regulators Should Be In The Business Of Helping The Regulated Comply
ACA SearchPoint
Ad Index
Membership
Last Word
Collector – May 2019 - Cover1
Collector – May 2019 - Cover2
Collector – May 2019 - 1
Collector – May 2019 - 2
Collector – May 2019 - 3
Collector – May 2019 - Upfront
Collector – May 2019 - 5
Collector – May 2019 - Industry News
Collector – May 2019 - 7
Collector – May 2019 - 8
Collector – May 2019 - 9
Collector – May 2019 - 10
Collector – May 2019 - 11
Collector – May 2019 - Best Practices
Collector – May 2019 - 13
Collector – May 2019 - FYI
Collector – May 2019 - 15
Collector – May 2019 - Collection Tips
Collector – May 2019 - 17
Collector – May 2019 - The Robot Revolution
Collector – May 2019 - 19
Collector – May 2019 - 20
Collector – May 2019 - 21
Collector – May 2019 - ACA International’s 2019 Convention & Expo
Collector – May 2019 - 23
Collector – May 2019 - 24
Collector – May 2019 - 25
Collector – May 2019 - 26
Collector – May 2019 - 27
Collector – May 2019 - 28
Collector – May 2019 - 29
Collector – May 2019 - 30
Collector – May 2019 - 31
Collector – May 2019 - 32
Collector – May 2019 - Number Crunching
Collector – May 2019 - 34
Collector – May 2019 - 35
Collector – May 2019 - Calendar
Collector – May 2019 - Honor Roll
Collector – May 2019 - Education Spotlight
Collector – May 2019 - 39
Collector – May 2019 - 40
Collector – May 2019 - 41
Collector – May 2019 - 42
Collector – May 2019 - 43
Collector – May 2019 - 44
Collector – May 2019 - 45
Collector – May 2019 - 46
Collector – May 2019 - 47
Collector – May 2019 - 48
Collector – May 2019 - Regulators Should Be In The Business Of Helping The Regulated Comply
Collector – May 2019 - 50
Collector – May 2019 - 51
Collector – May 2019 - ACA SearchPoint
Collector – May 2019 - Ad Index
Collector – May 2019 - Membership
Collector – May 2019 - 55
Collector – May 2019 - Last Word
Collector – May 2019 - Cover3
Collector – May 2019 - Cover4
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