Many businesses are managing to extract huge amounts of value from implementing Robotic Process Automation (RPA) across their organisations, but Collections and Recoveries (C&R) is often only thought about late on in the process, and sometimes is not considered at all. And while a lot of C&R work is customer contact driven, there are plenty of opportunities for RPA to drive efficiencies and reduce costs, which means it should be a high priority for any C&R manager right now.
Opportunities to introduce RPA
RPA is a relatively new and disruptive automation technology that uses software ‘agents’ to mimic the rules-based processes carried out by people usually across a number of different computer systems. The benefits of using RPA software agents (robots) instead of humans is that the robots are cheaper to run, they don’t make mistakes, and they don’t go off sick or leave the business. Configuring a robot is a very similar experience to training a new (human) starter. Once it has been trained, the robot will continue to do the same thing again and again, 24 hours a day if necessary, as well as leave a detailed audit trail of exactly what it has done.
Opportunities for RPA can be found in collections departments where back office staff are updating customer accounts manually as collections proposals come in and are either accepted or rejected. Returned mail processes could be automated, or updating of customer statues following incoming mail, such as a change of address confirmation. In fact, any rules-based process that occurs many times a day is a candidate for automation through RPA.
What about AI?
But the opportunities for automation don’t just stop with RPA. There is, arguably, orders-of-magnitude greater value to be had from the application of artificial intelligence (AI) to the C&R space. Artificial Intelligence is a catch-all term for a wide range of complex technologies that includes data analytics, natural language processing, and chatbots. But this complexity and diversity doesn’t mean that AI is necessarily difficult or expensive to implement: by breaking it down into meaningful chunks, and focusing on specific opportunities, AI can bring significant value to the C&R function.
For example, AI can be used to predict delinquency before it happens, providing opportunities for proactive interventions, saving the time and effort of trying to recover the monies later. This approach also significantly reduces the stress for the indebted customer. In a similar way, AI can be used to identify vulnerable customers early on so that they can quickly be escalated to the right team for appropriate handling. The technology can also be used to model champion/challenger scenarios virtually, thus eliminating the need to test on real customers, and reducing testing time to minutes rather than months. Chatbots can be used to interact with customer’s 24 hours a day, carrying out, for example, I&E questionnaires as well as collecting the electronic documents directly from customers. Many people in debt prefer the opportunity to speak to a machine rather than a human, and a chatbot can be an ideal approach to take. In the Recoveries space, AI can be used to effectively price debt for onward sale.
Technology to enhance, not replace, human staff
At its core, Collections and Recoveries is about helping customers effectively manage their debt, and that often requires empathy that only human staff can provide. By taking away the mundane, repetitive tasks through RPA, and augmenting their decision-making capabilities using AI, these automation technologies allow staff to properly focus on those tasks that really matter, and where a whole range of human skills can be drawn upon to deliver the right outcome.
Need any help?
Here at Arum, we have created a ‘heatmap’ of the opportunities that exist for RPA and AI across the C&R space. This is based on our expertise in these technologies but, most importantly, our deep experience of working in this area over many years. The examples we have discussed above are just a small sample of the automation opportunities we have identified.
But our list is generic, and your business is not. We’d love to come and talk to you about our automation heatmap and understand which of these opportunities are relevant to you and how they may benefit your business. If this sounds of interest to you, please do get in touch, or read more about what we do within AI and RPA.