Do people prefer to talk to humans or robots when managing their unpaid debts? That is going to be the question that drives the future of the collection industry for the next decade or more.
Much has been made about artificial intelligence and the role that it will play in life and everyday interactions and how many people are going to lose their jobs to computers and robots. People do not want to talk to other people about unpaid debts because it is embarrassing, some claim, and that makes sense. Just tell me how much I owe or how much I need to pay and let me pay it.
But, on the other hand, a survey from Forrester Research last year revealed that humans do like talking to other humans, because, well, humans are human.
More than 80% of the survey’s respondents would prefer to talk to another human because they “better understand” their needs and can address multiple problems at once.
To be fair, that survey was about general interactions when contacting a call center and not something as specific and personal as an unpaid debt. But it is still interesting to consider the notion that maybe individuals with unpaid debts are looking for empathy and a sense of understanding, which is more likely to come from a human.
For the collections industry, though, this is more than an abstract theoretical conversation. This is about the future of the industry. An agency that bets too heavily on one side or the other may find themselves on the outside looking in.
The discussion is even more timely because we are hosting a webinar tomorrow on “The Moneyball-ization of Collections” because collections is becoming more data-driven. Exactly how far the industry will drive on that tank of gas is going to shape what the industry looks like in the future.