Bob Iger, who spent the past 15 years as the chief executive of The Walt Disney Company, is known for a number of famous sayings, and a pair of them symbolize how the accounts receivable management industry should be embracing change rather than fighting against it, especially as it pertains to the adoption of technology.
“The riskiest thing we can do is just maintain the status quo.”
“You can’t allow tradition to get in the way of innovation. There’s a need to respect the past, but it’s a mistake to revere your past.“
Technology is rapidly re-shaping the world we live in and the way in which debts are collected. But many companies in the ARM industry remain reluctant to invest in new technology. Some are afraid of being sued. Others reject the idea that technology can make a big difference in contact and communication rates. While that way of thinking is evaporating across the industry, it has left many companies behind in terms of adopting new tech to help their businesses. This is why we are still talking about the need to deploy text messaging and email when we have been using that tech in our daily lives for a decade or more.
Just as the industry is bracing itself from the most recent wave of technology to hit it, the next wave is cresting, and could have a significant impact on how collection agencies operate or if they even survive.
To that end, maintaining the status quo, also known as, “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it,” is a philosophy that many companies in the ARM industry have held on to with their fingertips, fearful of lawsuits and lost money. But that philosophy is now acting as a competitive anchor weighing down companies that refuse to innovate and are going to find themselves to be too far behind those companies in the industry that have embraced technology and the benefits it provides.
Technology is not something that the industry should fear. It is a tool that has the power to make collection agencies more efficient, more productive, and less expensive. Since their inception, collection agencies have spent more money on payroll than anything else. But technology can help optimize staffing levels and automate tasks that used to be done manually. It can allow agents to focus on the important collection calls and not waste time on calls related to mundane and repetitive tasks.
Here is a sampling of some of the technology that is on the horizon that agencies should be looking at for their operations.
When the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States, companies in the ARM industry responded swiftly, sending employees home with computers, headsets, and other equipment to allow them to work remotely. Many companies have touted at how quickly they were able to get a remote workforce up and running, and while that is definitely laudable, it is not the same as working in a contact center. Keeping an eye on collectors is much harder when that collector is working remotely. Enter CollaborationRoom.ai, which aims to replicate the contact center environment while employees are working remotely.
CollaborationRoom allows contact centers to increase engagement with their employees and even goes as far as using facial recognition technology to monitor employee engagement and emotion levels. It allows supervisors and managers to monitor multiple employees simultaneously while also allowing for quick one-on-one video conversations or chats, if needed. Collectors can raise a virtual hand and notify a supervisor of a problem or situation requiring their assistance. Rather than giving the employees control of their own webcams, the software allows supervisors to start and stop the cameras of employees.
This software is emblematic of the growing influence that artificial intelligence and machine learning is having on the collection industry, in ways that go beyond predicting the likelihood that an individual will repay a debt.
There are more than 13,000 ways for consumers to indicate they want to stop receiving text messages, with more new ones being added every day. Do you know all of them? It can be easy for a telephony platform to understand when a consumer replies “STOP,” but what about if they text you a stop sign emoji or “STP”? Knowing when a consumer has revoked consent to be contacted is incredibly important. Making phone calls or sending text messages to consumers who have not provided their consent to be contacted can cost companies as much as $1,500 per call or text, under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.
TCPAi, developed by August AI, scans text messages and automatically opts individuals out when it recognizes one of those 13,000 ways that consent can be revoked. Best of all, the platform is always learning, by scanning and analyzing text messages to understand how consumers are communicating.
Artificial intelligence is having an impact on the ARM industry in many different ways. What makes it such an important tool is that it is always learning and refining itself without the need for human intervention. A human doesn’t have to sift through millions of text messages to learn new ways that consumers are opting out; technology can do it faster and more accurately, improving compliance and risk management.
Perhaps many of us have become numb to data breaches and reports about passwords and personal information being compromised, but technology is making strides at protecting sensitive information, without someone telling it what is personal and in need of protecting.
Metomic can automatically identify information that is personal and protect it without any human intervention at all. For companies in the ARM industry, this means that creditors can share information with collection agencies, law firms, and other service providers and have any personal information protected, thus reducing the chances of a data breach or violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability (HIPAA) Act. Metomic operates at the data level, beyond what most applications do, instead of just broadly granting or denying permission to wide swaths of information. Best of all, the data that is being protected never makes it to the servers of the collection agency, law firm or service provider. The data is stored in a vault, maintained by Metomic, providing another layer of security for the creditors in this example.
Metomic even tracks where that sensitive data is being used, showing the user everywhere that the data has been shared or sent.
Bob Iger understood that companies have to keep moving forward in order to succeed. For companies in the ARM industry today, technology is what they need to be using to drive them in that direction.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Click here to sign up for a free webinar on Thursday, January 21 at 3pm ET with industry veteran Tim Collins to discuss The Best Technology You Haven’t Heard of Yet, which is sponsored by SndRight.