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Tackle Agent Productivity in Debt Collection Agencies Using Voice AI

For debt collection agencies, debt recovery is a labor-intensive effort that typically relies more on human effort than capital investments. Even with the adoption of newer digital communication tools that promise to scale manual efforts, the ARM industry invariably struggles with one major issue — human resource turnover.

Across all industries, average attrition rates in contact centers vary between 30 to 40%.

It’s hard to know the exact attrition rate in the ARM industry. Agencies reported a monthly quit rate of 2.9% in 2021. Before the pandemic, in 2016, large collection agencies reported experiencing an average turnover rate of 75% to 100%, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The high attrition that characterizes the collections space makes third-party debt collection agencies vulnerable to several challenges, like loss of domain expertise, risk of non-compliance, lawsuits, and increased cost of hiring and training new talent. In the United States, with nearly one in four citizens having at least one debt in collections, recovery has become an increasingly costly endeavor.

Most Common Reasons for Collection Agent Attrition in the Debt Collection Industry 

Here are some of the most common challenges that make it so difficult for agencies to retain collectors:

  • Too Many Accounts, Too Much Work: Given the growing debt delinquency in the U.S., one can only imagine the amount of verification and debt-related communication work that can drive collectors to overwork.
  • Collectors’ Commission is Dependent on Recovery: Third-party debt collection agencies are involved when credit card issuers or creditors’ collection representatives cannot recover overdue balances. Collection agencies face thinning profit margins, and human agents’ commissions for debt recovery further burn holes in their pockets. There is no set rule or guarantee on the time the human agents need to recover outstanding loans successfully.
  • The Great Resignation: While all contact centers face high attrition rates, many people have been rethinking their careers and seeking opportunities in new fields over the last two years. This also applies to the ARM industry, where collection agents face acute stress from chasing after customers over the phone while adhering to a wide array of regulations, making attrition an even bigger challenge.
  • Empty Promises to Pay: It is common to find consumers dodging debt-related interactions. When confronted directly, they are likely to make promises to pay that may only sometimes be honored, which is another detractor for collectors to stick to their roles.
  • Debt Shame: Debt collection calls are direct and can sometimes make the debtors uncomfortable delving into the details of their unpaid loans. According to a study by Webio, people can be much more honest when communicating via text messages than in voice interactions for difficult scenarios. In the case of debt collections, textual conversations can reduce stress for both debtor and collector.
  • Efforts Often Don’t Justify Conversion Rates: When it comes to debt, the devil is in the details. To invest too much attention and time in each customer who needs a detailed overview of their loans and debts is unrealistic. It is extremely costly and leads to operational overkill, another reason for collectors’ resignation.
  • Debt Collection is Not for Everyone: Employee turnover in any field results from the nature of the job/employer and the employee’s capabilities. Working conditions, perks, quality of work, and benefits will fix the collector’s morale. But employees’ capabilities for the job determine how much they are willing to stick to it. 
  • Rapid Changes in Regulatory Framework: Many regulatory agencies like FTC and rules like Fair Debt Collection Practices Act dictate how collection agencies can approach consumers without violating consumer protection laws. It requires constant staff training and procedural approaches like obtaining debt verification requests, debt validation, forbearance, and foreclosures that rely on unique expertise. When agencies adopt a manual route or use restrictive debtor communication methods, errors and inaccuracies are expected.

 The Rising Role of Voice AI in the Debt Collections Industry

These challenges highlight the urgency for digital transformation in collection agencies; in particular, agencies are looking at automation as the primary solution to their attrition crisis.

In our previous articles, we discussed the unique capabilities of Voice AI technology in reducing contact center agent labor costs via call automation. Concurrently, Gartner’s estimates from their survey also suggest that labor expenses represent 95% of contact center costs, and adopting Conversational AI helps cut expenses by $80 billion. The customer-facing side of ARM, particularly the debt collection agencies, can capitalize on this trend to reduce staff shortages, curb labor expenses and make human resources more efficient and effective. 

Skit.ai’s Voice AI platform is at the forefront of transforming the ARM industry with its Digital Voice Agents and augmenting collection agencies’ workforce to focus on resolving complex use cases. 

Voice AI’s value-adds are in areas that impact collectors’ productivity and bandwidth which further determine talent retention in this space. Here’s the rundown of its merits that help address agent attrition challenge in the debt collections industry:

  1. End-to-end Call Automation: Voice AI helps automate 70% of calls (inbound and outbound), allowing prompt query resolution. Also, agencies can leverage automation to identify consumers, policy numbers, and other debt-related information. This reduces the effort and time it would take to call and follow up with each debtor manually. 
  2. Reduce High Cost of Collection by 1/5th: Digital Voice Agents that plug into contact centers and take over calls by holding human-like conversations can execute calls at less than 1/5th of the actual cost of manual calls. Collection agencies can lower operation costs with intelligent voice agents in lieu of collectors by concurrently calling over thousands of defaulters.
  3. High Scalability: Agencies can scale their debt collection efforts and consumer outreach by leveraging call automation and Digital Voice Agents that can handle and answer tier-1 caller queries by automating up to 70% of calls, reducing dependency on human agents. 
  4. Higher Portfolio Coverage Intensity: Collectors can cover many more debt files when they leverage Voice AI’s ability to handle multiple calls simultaneously. With minimal effort, cost and time, agencies expand their scale of reach of debt collection practices with minimal human intervention.
  5. Strict Adherence to Compliance: Fear of lawsuits or going off track by the debt collectors will be alleviated by the Voice AI platform, which is purpose-built and specific to the domain and use case. Digital Voice Agents can be tailored to hold and attend calls as per the laws governing consumers’ preference for call frequency, tone, language, and time to receive debt collection calls.
  6. Solve Diverse Use Cases: The recovery process in the collection agencies involves rigorous reviews, checking outstanding balances, sending demand and acknowledgment letters, and arranging for telephone contact. It is humanly impossible to keep track of all details, numbers, and sensitive information about different types of debt and cases at their fingertips. Digital Voice Agents can be optimized to address various debt-related queries and use cases without time, cost, and human effort constraints, reducing work stress and dissatisfaction for debt collectors. 
  7. Enhance Human Agent Productivity: Debt collectors can experience higher and faster conversion levels by leveraging Voice AI’s analytics and caller data insights. The pre-call verification, call automation (inbound and outbound), and routing features enable real-time agent augmentation, boosting productivity and performance. Also, the Digital Voice Agents are capable of intelligent call transfers to human agents only for complex cases, allowing the human workforce to focus on efforts that help retrieve debts faster. 
  8. Voice AI Calls are Free of Human Biases: Holding debt recovery conversations is a sticky collection practice that most consumers tend to avoid out of pressure, discomfort, shame, and fear of judgment. Voice AI’s call automation capability eliminates direct voice interaction between defaulters and collection agents, making collection calls free of human biases. Also, Digital Voice Agents can hold persuasive, contextually accurate, and proactive conversations and keep interactions direct and objective. This way, collection agents can experience higher work quality without job stress, dissatisfaction, and the chances of misdemeanors while talking to consumers. 

Collection agencies rely entirely on outstanding loan payments to survive. Voice AI helps collection agencies strike a balance between meeting their recovery targets and making debt collection efforts more intuitive in a way that doesn’t come at the cost of operational burnouts and resignations. Voice AI eliminates bottlenecks in debt recovery and improves the overall customer experience.

To learn more about how Voice AI can help you solve attrition challenges, schedule a call with one of our experts or use the chat tool below.

How a Hotel Bookings Platform Transformed Customer Support with Voice AI

Vaccine equity reopened the global tourism gates in 2021, reigniting the wanderlust of travelers, many of whom were keen on holidaying internationally.

Picture this; customer support of leading travel bookings and tourism companies began clocking over thousands of pre-booking queries and inbound calls. In addition to the chats, emails, and other contact touchpoints. The two possible ways to rise to the occasion—scale up contact center support or explore ‘novel automation areas’ beyond the scope of IVRs and Chatbots to help agents answer customers’ questions.

Travelers in the digital age prefer pre-booking research and planning over spontaneity. Even more so, customers simply desire to talk to voice support on the other side of the line, a study confirms.

While IVRs and Chatbots are excellent for very simplistic FAQs, tickets, and status handling, they need to catch up in meeting the expectations of potential travelers with generic discovery queries that can only be addressed effectively via voice conversations with contact center agents. 

However, managing the entire inbound query process over calls is an overpromise that most contact centers can only live up to by draining their agent resources, time, and cost.

From the potential customer’s standpoint, booking during peak seasons, poor agent bandwidth, and long waits at the IVR loop can be frustrating. This ultimately leads to under-delivery of the promise of consistent and quality customer experience (CX), causing poor conversion and mid-call abandonment.

How AI-powered Contact Center Automation is Ideal for Travel Companies

Travel and tourism brands must factor in CX while offering a seamless flow of information on airfares, accommodations, destinations, booking and refund policies, travel safety, and guidelines over inbound voice calls. AI-powered voice automation helps intercept repetitive queries, taking away the lion’s share of the burden from the agents. This way, it augments contact center support teams to meticulously manage time and resources for solving complex customer queries while staying on top of their SLAs. Additionally, travel booking companies can leverage automation to offer more information over voice calls in their inbound support. 

Voice AI, built on powerful AI and Spoken Language Understanding (SLU) algorithms, can guarantee this two-fold benefit for travel and tourism platforms looking to unlock new automation angles in inbound customer support for an impactful CX. In this blog, we will explore the journey of Southeast Asia’s leading hotel bookings and management platform with Voice AI for transforming their inbound CX through seamless voice conversations. 

Explore how Voice AI Empowers Contact Center Agents 

Automating Inbound Customer Support Call with Voice AI 

Before adopting Voice AI, the hotel bookings company had an IVR system that was able to confirm only those customers with booking IDs before connecting them to the agents. The bots could not handle customers looking to fetch pre-booking and pricing details. Due to poor agent bandwidth, the company’s customer support hit its lowest point whenever the call volumes peaked, recording below-par FCR, call containment, and call abandonment rates.

After evaluating market-leading platforms, the travel bookings company chose Voice AI and predefined objectives to empower its customer support team to work across customer intents previously handled by bots. The platform’s powerful AI capabilities helped dive deeper and crystalize goals such as:

  • Automating inbound customer calls with simpler intents, like inquiries about booking status, to improve call containment rates.
  • Implement a solution that will allow the team to handle seasonal surges without hiring more agents.
  • Give customers a seamless experience that would reduce wait times and the likelihood of call abandonment.
  • Handle more query types, even involving customers without an active booking ID.

Discover How Voice AI Transforms Contact Center Automation

Reaching Customers Faster at Less Cost and Agent Workload 

The transformation began with inbound query areas like reservation status inquiries, booking cancellation and modification information, account information, and policies. After Voice AI deployment, the travel bookings company also identified critical areas that can be managed by their bots; new booking, refund status, pricing inquiry, and location details. This made their bots proactive and prescriptive and seamlessly scaled up the query volumes within two weeks of going live!

In the second phase of implementing Voice AI, the call containment rates gradually increased by 75%, opening new avenues in customer self-service. This meant more inbound callers could get their answers faster without impacting the agent productivity and call center costs!

Voice Automation helped the company to save nearly $200,000 on the annual staffing and recruitment budget. They improved HR efficiency and adopted more competent staffing without the additional costs of recruiting agents just for managing calls during peak seasons for the following year. 

Role of Voice AI for Insurance: Streamline Inbound Support

Voice-led Customer Support for Seamless Elasticity and Higher CX

Delivering elastic customer support is another driver for CX for digital brands and businesses. In the travel and tourism industry, especially during peak seasons when the customers are in the pre-booking phase, the bookings platforms and contact centers must be agile to keep up with their changing preferences and low attention spans. Elastic customer support means the platforms and their contact centers are scalable, and the customers do not face poor user experience from frozen applications or busy contact center lines.

To capitalize on the pre-booking queries that are not tied to booking IDs, the hotel bookings firm uncovered new automation angles within customer service and expanded customer support areas with Voice AI. This gave them the agility and flexibility to resolve over a hundred calls, of which the bots handled the majority. In turn, this increased agent productivity, allowing them to focus on answering questions over calls and improving customer loyalty and retention at the pre-booking stage. Local languages integration to the IVR was the additional enhancement using Voice AI that drove the platform’s net promoter score (NPS) up by 71% and reduced call abandonment rates by 54%. 

Our Takeaway:

In today’s pure-play tech world, automating inbound customer support is vital for the judicious disbursement of pre-sales/booking activities. As customer expectations increase, the opportunities for automation are endless. However, travel and tourism firms must create a realistic roadmap and flow route on their platforms for better customer experience and engagement across the entire booking value chain. With AI at work, brands can unleash automation in the right places to drive ‘conversion through conversations’ even with a lean team.

Voice Intelligent platforms, like Voice AI, help join forces critical to customer support, allowing an absolute human and machine partnership.

Are you interested in contact center automation to chart unique customer experiences with our Digital Voice Agent? Use the chat tool to schedule a call with one of our experts.

Phone Call for Debt Collection Still Works: Call Automation with Voice AI Reinstates its Value

Newer forms of communication, like email and instant chat tools, have replaced more traditional tools. The same phenomenon may seem to occur in the ARM space, with collection agencies and customers now interacting via email, text messages, chat, and IVR systems. But while each tool has its specific value, phone calls for debt collection and reminders are hardly dying! 

Why Phone Calls Are Better for Contacting Debtors

In the U.S., about 28% of consumers have at least one debt in collection. Debt delinquency has grown dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic, and collection agencies are tasked to chase after thousands of loan defaulters and slow-paying customers. Imagine persistently following up with debtors with back-and-forth emails to detail debt information that mostly goes unread or ignored at every stage! Or think of sending a combination of payment reminders via messaging systems that are usually one-sided and restrictive in terms of options to answer debt-related queries. Digital interaction methods unquestionably have their merits, and challenging them sounds flaky. But there are aspects to the good-old phone call which make it the best bet for high-performing collection campaigns:

1. It takes longer to text or type than to speak, and speech-based dictation is faster with speech recognition systems on mobile devices. 

2. Phone calls are great for establishing an immediate connection within seconds of calling.

3. Voice calls are direct, personal, and confidential.

4. Phone calls allow for effective two-way communication. They are suitable for active listening, asking questions, troubleshooting, clarifying and sharing relevant debt-related information, and even reaching an agreement.

5. A phone call is an active way of engaging with debtors, unlike text messages, emails, or notices which are passive at best.

Manually Calling Each Debtor is Impractical

Typically, debt collection follows through a sequential flow of interactions across different modalities. Voice calls are not the first step of debtor contact. Collectors must tread carefully with a list of ‘avoidant’ defaulters to emphasize the immediacy of calls and prompt a favorable response without annoying them. Without digital tracking and real-time dashboards for delinquent lists, keeping a tab of debt statuses is challenging. This makes phone calls somewhat of a hit-and-miss method.  

As for the debt collection agencies, even after scaling their collection teams, it becomes difficult to maintain speed, cost, and quality consistencies and also achieve conversion goals with just phone calls. Manual phone calls are expensive and exhausting. Here’s what a daily debt collection humdrum looks like:

  • A large part of the collector’s JD is a relentless pursuit of debtors over manual calls.
  • A significant chunk of time is lost in pre-call verification, cross-referencing the debt and debtor details, and segregating overdue accounts and their statuses. 
  • The collectors must be fully prepared for challenges like wrong numbers, customers dodging their calls, or disagreeing with the debt details.
  • Time and task management just to comb through debtor contacts separate the ones with call back and ‘never call again’ requests.

How Call Automation with Voice AI Amplifies Your Agency’s Debt Collection Efforts

To address the scalability and cost factors involved in manual debt collection calls, some firms choose an automated route that can be restrictive and risk missing out on the core purpose—debtors’ promise for payment. Automated debt collection systems with complex IVRs menus or robotic voices communicating debt information are generally an instant turn-off for customers. Therefore, the need of the hour is a combination of automation and human-like intervention to manage very high-volume debt collection calls while also empathetically reminding and aligning debtors to debt-related conversations.  

Voice AI technology helps elevate the significance of phone calls as an effective debt recovery tool. Skit.ai’s purpose-built and domain-specific Voice AI platform helps debt collection agencies to adopt meaningful approaches to customer interactions over phone calls with strikingly accurate and intelligent multi-turn conversations. 

Dive deeper: How Call Automation Impacts Debt Collections

The intelligent Digital Voice Agents are modeled on human interactions and plug into contact centers to automate responses for repetitive, zero-value queries. These voice agents can hold human-like conversations and resolve tier-1 caller/customer queries without needing any intervention by a human agent. Only complex customer/caller queries that the Digital Voice Agents cannot handle are transferred to human agents. Augmented Voice Intelligence focuses on expanding the collection agencies’ workforce by combining the power of human voice and machines. 

Buyer’s Guide: Digital Voice Agent for Debt Collections

Voice AI works with the adage that voice interactions are the most natural communication forms. With the platform built, designed, and optimized for voice interactions, collection agencies can realize the full potential of their debt recovery initiatives by automating calls and augmenting the workforce to involve only in complex scenarios that need detailed articulation and communication parameters that go beyond basic texts, emails or automated responses. 

13 Ways Voice AI Elevates the Role of Phone Calls for Debt Collection 

  1. Call Automation: Debt collection agencies can reduce manual efforts by automating up to 70 percent of calls with Voice AI.
  2. Cost Savings: With Digital Voice Agents taking over the calls instead of human agents, collection agencies can achieve cost savings of up to 50 percent on their debtor outreach.
  3. Personalized Debt Collection Calls: Auto-dialers with pre-recorded messages are great for mass calls but lack personalization. Voice AI adds value here as it can tailor to the use case. Human-like conversations with Digital Voice Agents make the debt recovery calls more personal. Also, with multi-language support, it makes it easier for call customization. 
  4. Foster a Dialog with Debtors: Built ground up for voice interaction, the Voice AI platform makes debt collection interaction conversational and two-way, unlike IVRs, chatbots, and automated messages. This helps steer clear of confusion and assumptions by allowing agents to listen to the debtors’ complaints or situations and clarify when necessary. 
  5. Always-on, 24/7 Support: Digital Voice Agents function independently of human agents to make debt collection voice calls without being impacted by time-zone differences.  
  6. Live Interaction and Support:  Voice agents answer or call debtors to interact and provide real-time support. This is better than pre-recorded IVR messages or time-consuming conversations with a debt collector.  
  7. Intelligent Collab between Collectors and Collection Systems: Augmented Voice Intelligence allows for collaborative intelligence between humans and machines by transferring only complex queries to human agents. 
  8. Enhance Collectors’ Productivity: Voice AI platform analytics dashboard and caller history, along with automated features for call routing and authentication, impact collectors’ productivity, making them more proactive.
  9. High Scalability: Agencies can ramp up collection outreach and handle peak call volumes without increasing the size of human-agent teams by leveraging call automation. 
  10. Reduce Average Handling Time: The prompt responses and high engagement via the Voice AI platform reduce hold time and the chances of customers abandoning the calls. Collection agencies can leverage this platform to reduce the average call handling time by 40 percent. 
  11. Right-Party Contact: Often, debt collectors can dial the wrong numbers or reach the wrong party while making the debt collection calls. Voice AI’s unique value proposition is the accuracy that helps collectors land the right contact.
  12. Better Call and Caller Insights: Debt collectors can improve their performance and call quality by tracking relevant metrics for debt collections, such as payment propensity rates, the success of their debt collection campaigns, and targeting risky accounts with real-time insights with the Voice AI platform. 
  13. Better Compliance: When the debt collection calls are manually driven, it is tricky to check every item on the to-do list. The scope for human errors and unruly behaviors is high when the calls are handled by the human team. Voice AI platform can be tailored according to the various stages in the debt recovery process and ensures every adheres to compliance best practices.

How TCPA Impacts Voice AI in the Collections Industry?

Our Two Cents:

In reality, it is tricky to remind people to repay their debts. In the current stage of piling deliquescent debts in the U.S. adoption of Voice AI is necessary to create strategies that convert potential conflicts and confusions into meaningful conversations on outstanding loans and payments.

Voice AI will continue making a strong impact in the debt collection industry by transforming a simple phone call into a prolific tool to manage debt-recovery cases without going overboard with time, cost, and human effort.

To learn more about how call automation with Voice AI can transform your debt collection agency, schedule a call with one of our experts or use the chat tool below.

How Skit.ai Tackles Positioning and Marketing for Its Voice AI Solution

For the third article of our “Meet the Team” series, we had a conversation with Vignesh Ramalingam, our Director of Product Marketing & Demand Generation. Vignesh (a.k.a. Vicky) is based in Bangalore, India, and manages over 12 team members across Product Marketing, Content Marketing, and Demand Generation.

Hi, Vicky. Tell me about yourself and your professional background.

Hi, Simone. I’ve always been curious about technology and human-centric design. For over a decade, I’ve been working in marketing for software companies, and I really enjoy being immersed in this space. One of my favorite aspects of Skit.ai’s Augmented Voice Intelligence solution is that it can be used for many verticals and use cases.

Voice AI is a very hot space right now, and many vendors that previously focused on other AI technologies are now tapping into it. How do you ensure that Skit.ai emerges as an industry-leading voice-first company?

Our clients see how advanced our technology is and how committed our team members are to quickly delivering seamless voice interactions with customers. I think that the quality of our technology and the commitment of our delivery team are two defining factors of our success.

While it’s true that more companies are starting to explore Voice AI, we believe that being a voice-first company — which has been focused on developing industry-leading voice technologies for several years — gives us a great advantage.

Without a competent marketing team, selling even the most exceptional solution would be challenging. What are the key ingredients for a B2B SaaS marketing team to succeed?

We certainly rely on talented and passionate team members across all teams to deliver an ever-evolving marketing strategy and help our sales team explain what our solution can do for them and what our technology capabilities are. Our team includes professionals in product marketing, content marketing, demand generation, and graphic design.

A key ingredient for success is ensuring that the marketing team is aligned with all the other teams — such as sales, delivery, product, etc.

One framework I’m fond of is “GACCS,” an acronym that stands for “Goals, Audience, Creative, Channels, and Stakeholders.” I encourage my team to take a minute to think about these five principles before diving into a new project:

  • Goals: The OKRs and KPIs towards which the project contributes.
  • Audience: The prospects or customers the project targets.
  • Creative: The creative elements and the value they add to the project
  • Channels: The channels used to distribute the work.
  • Stakeholders: The team members involved in the project.

What were some of the challenges that companies might face when they expand into new regions, and what are some of the lessons you’ve learned along the way?

New York City has been a great home for Skit.ai in the United States. The company has focused on hiring some of the best talent to join the team at our Madison Avenue office.

When it comes to expanding into a new region or industry, taking the time to do research is one of the most critical tasks for the marketing team to undertake. You have to understand your target audience: who they are, what they’re looking for, and what type of content they consume. Only then can you invest resources in developing strategies and assets.

While the technology we build is very complex, one of the tasks of the marketing team is to simplify it. What are your thoughts on this, and what strategies do you find to be most effective?

Sometimes it’s important to take a step back and look at the solution and technology with the eyes of an outsider. Many people who may benefit from our Augmented Voice Intelligence platform might not be familiar with the intricacies of Voice AI, spoken language understanding, and the integrations needed for our solution to be effective. Our mission is to explain how our technology works and how it can transform a company’s customer service and customer experience.

Do you want to learn more about Voice AI? Check out our blog.