Artificial intelligence: the future of collections?

29 September 2017 | Newsdesk
Artificial intelligence: the future of collections?

As technology advances, the collections environment is faced with massive change – should it embrace the opportunities or resist?

Ian Whitfield of Virtual AI took Qualco Live delegates through the incredible history of artificial intelligence and its ability to transform industries – from healthcare and education to finance. It is clear that the tide of change is coming and all industries should look to the potential.

“The power of AI is absolutely phenomenal,” said Whitfield. “We have to get the right framework and governance around it.”

In the realms of debt management, Whitfield argued that AI can be used in robotic process automation, document analysis, audio and image analytics. “The key thing for most businesses is turning AI into actionable intelligence.”

The potential is there, for example, to replace customer service interactions with computer agents. Whitfield argued that, far from being a substandard experience, the right technology can be proactive and resolve customer service issues before they arise, freeing up human agents to handle more complex tasks and cases. This kind of pre-emptive action could improve, rather than damage, the customer journey.

Using technology in this way can also reduce training costs, enable a 24/7 service, accommodate peaks and troughs in demand and allow for innovation while simultaneously saving money.

Companies that intend to step into this space need to act now, said Whitfield, or risk being left behind in the rapid pace of change.

Key to this will be data. “You need to understand your own data assets. If you’re looking to train a machine you need to have good data.”

Businesses should stop thinking of AI as a product or service and more as a tool or technique that can be deployed to help the business in different circumstances. Areas currently offshored are ideal places to start – replacing low cost labour abroad with technology at home.

Whitfield explained how robotic process automation can control workflow, handing tasks to third parties, and highlighting occasions that need human input or a different approach. Technology that can read screens, for example, requires no technical integration and can be used where there are hard-to-access legacy systems.

In collections, technology could be used to match customer communication channels with individual preferences, personalise communications and ensure compliance for all interactions. Adaptive learning means the machines will get smarter as they operate.

Whitfield said those in collections who are keen to get started should consider using AI now for data sorting, improvement and connecting legacy applications. The next steps would be to use it to analyse data and for workflow data processing.

In the future, those businesses that have mastered these areas could then move to using technology to generalise and intuit, learn and adapt.

Good candidates for use of AI technology are mid-high volume activities that are repetitive and prone to error. Having the right infrastructure and security, plus working out how your operations will change as a result is also important.

“Start small, fail fast and break it into small chunks otherwise by the time you finish things will have moved on,” advised Whitfield.