Collector – May 2019 - 21

can't or won't pay, dealing with deceased
and bankrupt accounts, and responding to
balance requests and questions about the
debt," Dharmaraja said. "With the power of
AI, agencies must invest in the true potential
of powerful virtual agents, cutting out half of
a human agent's day."

CALCULATING THE
LONG-TERM EFFECTS
With virtual agents' ability to mimic the
role of human collectors, what does this
mean for jobs and the future of the accounts
receivable management industry?
Much of the attention given to artificial
intelligence uses, such as virtual agents,
highlight the potential workplace shake-up
that may occur, and for good reason. Any
technology that gains widespread adoption
and improves efficiency has the potential
to eliminate jobs, companies and entire
industries.
Consider how entertainment distribution
services, like Netflix, led to the demise of
video stores and, more recently, contributed
to the "cord-cutting" trend affecting cable
and satellite TV services. Look at how
ridesharing services Uber and Lyft have
significantly reduced the use of taxicabs.
When was the last time you used a travel
agent or bought a new road atlas?
A 2017 Forbes article, "Which Industry
Is Next For A.I. Disruption? The Answer
Might Surprise You," suggested the ARM
industry is ripe for change, and artificial
intelligence solutions, such as virtual
agents, could be the major factor that
shakes up the industry.
"A new era of debt collection services,
powered by A.I. and automation, is coming,"
the article said. "These services are going to
offer new, progressive cash flow solutions to
small and large businesses alike. The only
question is which companies will resist it and
which ones will go along for the ride."
Dharmaraja also believes the ARM
industry is long overdue for modernization,
and AI-driven technologies, including
virtual agents, will be a driving force.
"Do you want to be modern or continue
to cater to a demographic that no longer

COLLECTOR 05.19

exists? Do you want to live, or do you want
to die?" he asked. "AI is a huge thing, and
it can be incorporated into every part of a
business. Just implementing a chatbot or
virtual agent won't leapfrog an agency from
1990s technology into the future, but it's
one part of an integrated, overall shift. This
should be a wake-up call. Agencies need to
modernize or they're going to die."

THE RIGHT FIT
As with any important business decision,
the choice to use a virtual agent comes
down to return on investment.
"We're a small agency with only 20
employees," Hopkinson said. "Alex works for
us 24/7. It doesn't cost me payroll or benefits.
It never calls in sick. And I can scale it to use
as many Alexes as needed."
With about 60 percent of Alex's
interactions occurring after normal business
hours, and 60 percent of consumers who
use Alex setting up payment arrangements,
Hopkinson's agency has found value in
using the service and is currently working
to expand its use from an online, web-based
service to add outbound calling.
Interactions says the ROI "sweet spot" for
its virtual agent solution is agencies with 150
or more collection seats.
"A big change in making AI accessible
within the collection space is that it isn't
available only to the giants anymore,"
Stewart said. "An agency that has 200 seats,
for example, can develop an ROI using
virtual agents."
Stewart recommends that agencies have a
clear understanding of the problems they are
trying to solve to most effectively implement
a virtual agent solution.
"The biggest pitfall that people can get
dragged into is looking to deploy AI without
a problem," she said. "The most important
thing is recognizing what the problem is
before deciding what the solution is. If your
problem is that your agents are spending a
lot of time on nonproductive calls, virtual
agents are likely a good fit for you."
Tim Dressen is a communications consultant
and former editor of Collector magazine.

KEYNOTES

1

Korean? Russian? Navajo?
Virtual agents can speak
a multitude of languages to
help consumers resolve
their account.

2

They also shine
by handling many
of a human agent's
nonproductive, routine tasks.

3

Before investing
in virtual agent
technology, make sure you
have a clear understanding
of the problems you're trying
to solve in your company.
21



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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