Voice AI: The Answer to Every Major Auto Finance Collection Challenge

Auto finance companies dealing with collections face a pivotal moment of seemingly unprecedented activity.

Here’s what’s happening right now: car prices have hit a record high, interest rates are skyrocketing, and — as a consequence — the auto finance industry is facing a high number of delinquencies. As they find themselves with very high numbers of loans, lenders and collectors have to drastically scale up the number of outbound calls to borrowers.

While challenging times are not always fun, they also allow us to think outside the box and come up with innovative solutions. In this article, we’ll go over some of the major challenges related to auto finance collections and explain how Voice AI and call automation can solve each of these problems.

A growing number of auto finance companies are starting to look to Voice AI (the use of automated voicebots) as the go-to solution to handle both outbound and inbound calls with customers and borrowers. In particular, voicebots are used for collection calls and payment reminders.

Voice AI-powered Digital Voice Agents can handle human-like conversations with users, eliminating wait times and enabling a much larger number of calls to be handled at the same time. A Voice AI technology like Skit.ai’s Augmented Voice Intelligence platform allows auto finance companies to handle collection campaigns at a fraction of the cost.

Challenge 1: Scalability

Auto loan volume varies significantly depending on the year and the season. Anyone who has been in the industry for a while can tell you that they’ve seen very busy seasons as well as quieter ones. Because of the unpredictability of these changes, it can be difficult for an auto finance company to easily adapt and scale either up or down. When facing a particularly busy period, auto finance companies need the ability to quickly scale up to handle larger volumes of loans and customers.

How Voice AI can help you solve this challenge: Voice AI enables auto finance companies to scale up and down with just a few clicks, deploying as many Digital Voice Agents as they need depending on the year and season. As soon as loan volume goes down, the company can simply scale down its use of the Voice AI solution.

Challenge 2: Cost

Collections can be an expensive process. Agents or collectors typically have very large portfolios, with many accounts to reach out to; because the process still tends to be manual for the most part, it takes time. Additionally, if your collectors take a commission, that can also reduce profits.

How Voice AI can help you solve this challenge: By automating the collection process, Voice AI can significantly augment the work of your live agents on the floor, contact many customers simultaneously, and massively reduce costs. Additionally, an AI-powered Digital Voice Agent does not take commissions!

Challenge 3: Hiring and Training

A poorly-trained team of agents and collectors can be a recipe for disaster. As new loans pile up and many become delinquent, it can be tempting to throw new employees into the midst of the action; but if the agents are not qualified and they are not familiar with the existing laws and regulations, you might find yourself in trouble in no time.

How Voice AI can help you solve this challenge: A Digital Voice Agent requires minimal training at the very beginning of the deployment process. After that, you can easily tweak its conversational flows and capabilities with just a few simple changes to the Voice AI platform, either on your own or with the help of your provider.

Challenge 4: Talent Shortage

Since the pandemic and the Great Resignation, many industries, including the auto finance and debt collection industries, have been faced with a shortage of talent. The lack of human capital poses serious challenges to auto finance companies, whose teams and management need to deal with overwhelming workloads. Attracting talent can be a costly endeavor.

How Voice AI can help you solve this challenge: Automation is the answer to the human capital shortage. Voice AI can fill the gaps created by the lack of talent and help the existing team members handle the most repetitive and mundane calls. The adoption of a debt collection software like Skit.ai’s platform can solve this problem in a very short time.

Challenge 5: Agent Attrition

While it’s hard to define the exact attrition rate in the collections space, from talking to many companies operating in both the collections and the auto finance industries, we know that attrition is a real challenge for them. In a 2016 Consumer Financial Protection Bureau survey, large debt collection agencies reported an average turnover rate of 75% to 100%.

Agents and collectors are often dissatisfied, frustrated, and understimulated, so they hop on to the next job opportunity as soon as they find one, whether it’s because the pay is better or because they think the work will be more rewarding.

Every time your company loses one team member, you’ll have to undergo the process of recruiting, hiring, and training a substitute, which can be costly and time-consuming.

How Voice AI can help you solve this challenge: A Voice AI-powered agent never gets tired of handling repetitive and mundane tasks. With the help of Voice AI, you can also focus on retaining your existing talent, as you can ensure every team member has the opportunity to focus on more rewarding and complex tasks.

Challenge 6: Compliance

The collections industry is affected by so many laws and regulations that, if you haven’t been in this space for a while, it can be overwhelming to understand what you can and cannot do. How often can you call borrowers? Are there any times of the day you can’t call them? What do you do if a borrower asks not to be contacted again? How do you handle the privacy of your customers? How should you safely process payments?

These questions are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to compliance! Think about the TCPA, the FDCPA, the SCRA, PCI standards, and so many others. Additionally, some of these regulations vary depending on the state where the borrower resides.

An auto finance company pursuing collections must be well-versed in these rules and should stay up to date, as lawsuits abound and regulations change relatively often. Better safe than sorry!

How Voice AI can help you solve this challenge: Digital Voice Agents, unlike live agents, don’t go off-script, misspeak, or get confused. When they are trained to follow a set of regulations, they just stick to it. With the help of Voice AI, you can let the solution do the work while you handle other tasks.

Challenge 7: Recordkeeping

For an auto finance company, few things can be more disastrous than poor recordkeeping! Especially when it comes to collection efforts, notes, documentation, and records are crucial. That’s why total reliance on manual recordkeeping is at best risky and at worst harmful. Collectors should keep track of each interaction with their borrowers so that they can follow up and make progress with each new conversation.

Additionally, other team members — such as fellow collectors and managers — should be able to easily access the notes and track the progress made with each account. Automated notetaking is one possible solution to tackle this challenge.

How Voice AI can help you solve this challenge: A Voice AI platform automatically keeps track of all customer interactions, taking notes of every conversation and capturing payment disposition and propensity to pay. With Voice AI, you get to automate conversations with borrowers, and you can be fully aware of the background and context of each account. Whenever a live agent wants to take over, they can easily do so by looking at the record of the relationship between the auto finance company and the borrower.

Are you curious to learn more about how Skit.ai can transform your auto finance operations, customer interactions, and collection efforts? Schedule a free demo with one of our experts using the chat tool below.

Year in Review: Skit.ai’s Most Notable Moments in 2022

2022 has been a pretty eventful year for Skit.ai! In this article, we will re-live some of our company’s most notable moments in the U.S. in 2022, including media mentions, award recognitions, and more. This was an exceptional year for our company and the Voice AI industry at large. Get a cup of coffee or tea ready, and join us as we go down memory lane!

Skit.ai Establishes New NYC Headquarters

The year was marked by the announcement of Skit.ai’s new New York City headquarters.

In the announcement, Skit.ai’s CEO Sourabh Gupta said: “We’re continually listening to our customers, conducting market research, and making enhancements to our artificial intelligence system to deliver a best-in-class solution that helps contact center agents offer modernized and reliable customer service, leaving a lasting impression and positive satisfaction rate for their company. We look forward to expanding our U.S. customer base and building new relationships to help elevate the customer experience, optimize costs, maximize operational efficiency and increase company revenue.”

Skit.ai Mentioned in the Washington Post

In the summer of 2022, Christopher Elliott, a reporter at the Washington Post, quoted Sourabh Gupta in an article about customer service in the travel industry. The piece explained that Skit.ai develops an artificial intelligence-driven voice technology.

Gupta was quoted saying, “Travelers should look for companies that offer round-the-clock assistance and a way to reach key information, even when human support agents might not be available.” The article continued: “You can tell your travel company has this by looking for a ‘contact us’ feature on its site that offers 24/7 phone, chat and email support.”

Skit.ai’s Big Win at the CCW Excellence Awards

In July 2022, Skit.ai was given the “Disruptive Technology of the Year” award at the CCW Excellence Awards Gala held in Las Vegas. The event is part of Customer Center Week and recognizes “the most innovative companies and top-performing executives for their extraordinary contributions to the customer contact profession.”

Upon accepting the award, Gupta said: “We are thrilled to be recognized by CCW. This award underscores the reason for our existence – to improve contact center operations, so both the agents and customers have a more seamless experience. Being recognized for the most disruptive technology solution in contact center operations is a reminder of why we all come to work each day. We’re excited for what the future has in store for our company and the industry at large.”

Skit.ai India Certified as a Great Place to Work®

In August 2022, Skit.ai’s Indian branch was certified as a Great Place to Work® for the year 2022 in the mid-size company category.

As part of the Trust Index Employee Survey conducted by GPTW, employees ranked the company favorably on parameters such as Credibility, Respect, Fairness, Pride, and Camaraderie. The certification affirmed the company’s core cultural values of striving for excellence, being a learning organization, building a client-first mindset, exercising constructive disagreement, and fostering commitment at work.

Skit.ai Named Among Best Business Technology Solutions at the International Business Awards

In August 2022, Skit.ai was honored with yet another award in the United States. The solution was named a Bronze Stevie Winner in the Business Technology Solution: Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning Solutions category as part of the International Business Awards.

This award recognized Skit.ai’s Augmented Voice Intelligence Platform as an innovative technology solution that fuels effortless contact center conversations to manage customers’ needs more efficiently and painlessly.

The Stevie Awards are the world’s premier business awards that honor and generate public recognition of the achievements and positive contributions of organizations and working professionals worldwide.

Skit.ai’s Other Notable Media Mentions in 2022

CMSWire quoted Skit.ai’s CEO Sourabh Gupta in an article about the ways the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the Voice of the Customer. Gupta said: “Especially in customer service roles such as restaurants and stores — employees have reported that customers are more demanding than ever before. With many employees in this industry switching to better-paying industries, this only increases customer frustration as these establishments try to find help.”

In another article, CMSWire asked Gupta to share his insights on how AI is shaping the future of customer interactions. “With Voice AI, brands can cut down on customer wait times, shorten the time they spend on the phone, and effectively answer their questions faster,” said Gupta.

TechBullion published an extensive interview with Gupta, who shared his vision for the company and the conversational AI industry at large. “Our vision in creating the company is to elevate customer experiences and lay the groundwork for the future of voice interactions,” Gupta said.

Also VentureBeat featured Skit.ai in an article about the ways AI predicts hurricanes and answers calls for help in their aftermath. The reporter noted that, “with emergency hotlines, hospitals and utility call centers being inundated with calls, speaking with a voicebot during a time fraught with anxiety and fear can help.”

“In a sensitive or dangerous situation, Voice AI can be used to provide customers with crucial information in real-time, answer questions and redirect the more complex calls to a human agent,” Gupta told VentureBeat.

Last but not least, Authority Magazine published an extensive interview with Gupta conducted by Tyler Gallagher. In the interview, Skit.ai’s CEO discussed his personal journey, his vision for the company, and the AI industry’s current challenges.

Hungry for more? Follow our page on LinkedIn and stay tuned for many more updates in 2023. Happy New Year!

Why Auto Finance Companies Are Looking to Artificial Intelligence for 2023

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, massive supply chain delays, and the ongoing recession, auto finance companies have had to be as competitive and forward-thinking as possible. As they close an unprecedented year, many companies are looking to invest more in technology, specifically artificial intelligence, in 2023.

What’s Happening in the Auto Finance Industry Right Now

As we approach 2023, four facts are defining the auto finance industry:

  • Car prices have never been as high as they are right now
  • Record car prices are leading to higher auto loans debt
  • Auto loan interest rates are climbing
  • Auto loan delinquencies are increasing

Let’s break these statements down with the help of a few data points.

Car prices are record-high: According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the average price for a new car reached a record-high price of $48,182 this past summer. Also used car prices are nearing a record high, as they have been averaging $28,219.

High car prices = higher auto loan debt: The total dollar value of outstanding auto loans increased by $33 billion from Q1 to Q2 in 2022.

Interest rates are climbing: In Q3 of 2022, interest rates climbed to 5.7% for the first time since 2019.

Delinquencies are increasing: Loans started in 2021 and 2022 show higher delinquency rates than the ones started in previous years. This is likely due to the increase in loan size, interest rates, and monthly payments.

Financial institutions, in general, have been eager to adopt AI solutions to process loans and vet borrowers. But AI can do much more than professionals in the auto finance field might expect.

The Different Uses of AI in the Auto Finance Industry

With the high demand for auto loans, providers have been adopting new solutions to streamline operations. One of the biggest focuses in auto finance right now is the digitization journey—starting with digital contracting. Digitization makes operations more efficient and scalable, helps to improve compliance, and enhances the customer experience. Yet, artificial intelligence can achieve much more than just “going paperless.”

AI can expedite many processes, saving time, money, and other resources; it can generate data-driven predictions much faster and more accurately than humans. While AI can be extremely helpful, it does not substitute human work but rather augments and simplifies it. Paired with human expertise, AI can be an incredible asset for auto finance companies.

Here are some of the applications of AI:

Document management with AI: Document management with AI enables companies to classify, process, and cluster documents, extract data, secure sensitive information, and recognize signatures. This can be useful when processing applications; it helps reduce errors, improving the consistency and accuracy of the data.

Decisioning with AI: AI can assess risk and help auto finance companies in the approval process. While AI should not make irreversible decisions independently, it can help companies to make data-driven decisions.

Predictions and behavioral models with AI: Predictive models allow auto finance companies to better understand their customer base and its behavior as they identify patterns that can be useful for future decisions.

Customer service and communications with AI: Chatbots and voice bots have the ability to transform and streamline customer service, improving the company’s customer experience and providing a distinct competitive edge.

Collections and payments with Voice AI: Conversational Voice AI can also help auto finance companies in the collection process, as it automates outbound calls to customers, reminding them of outstanding payments and collecting payments over the phone.

Agent intervention with AI: Thanks to AI-powered predictive models, auto finance companies can flag accounts that require additional communications and facilitate agent intervention.

Voice AI Could Be the Big New Auto Finance Trend in 2023

Of all the existing trends we’ve mentioned, Voice AI seems to be the one that will get a spotlight in 2023. More providers are turning to Voice AI to automate customer service calls for both inbound and outbound use cases.

Voice AI companies like Skit.ai develop voice bots to augment the activity of human agents, handling the majority of repetitive, mundane calls.

Collection calls and payment reminders are one category of customer interactions that a Digital Voice Agent can easily handle from start to finish—from dialing the number and establishing right-party contact to engaging in a conversation with the customer and collecting payments via gateway.

The Voice AI platform enables auto finance companies to call thousands of different customers simultaneously, sending them reminders and collecting payments on-call or via a third-party gateway. The Voice AI platform can be easily integrated with multiple tools and applications, such as telephony platforms, CRM systems, payment gateways, and messaging tools; all while complying with the latest laws and regulations.

Context is critical: The Digital Voice Agent keeps track of the information obtained from the customers, feeding the data to the CRM in real-time and providing helpful analytics for future action.

As a result, companies adopting Voice AI can collect payments more efficiently, saving a lot of time and money they would otherwise spend if they did everything manually.

Voice AI can be adopted for many use cases, not just payments and collections. Voice bots can be employed for both inbound and outbound use cases, customer service, and other types of communication.

Interested in learning more about how Voice AI can transform the auto finance industry? Schedule a call with one of Skit.ai’s experts using 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.

How ARM Companies Can Boost Right-Party Contact with Voice AI

What Are Connect Rate and Right-Party Contact (RPC)?

Debt collection agencies invest time and resources in getting in touch with consumers. In theory, all it takes for a collector to speak with a consumer is to hit the call button, but in reality, it’s not that simple; oftentimes, the number is wrong, the consumer does not answer the phone, or the wrong person picks up the phone.

Connect rate and right-party contact rate are two metrics that significantly affect the outbound operations of a contact center.

Connect rate measures the percentage of successful attempts a collector makes in which someone picks up the phone. Right-party contact rate is the percentage of calls in which an agent is able to connect with the target consumer, which could be either the debtor or a relative who has been given permission to handle the debt. Right-party contact (RPC) is the most accurate measure of the effectiveness of an agency’s outbound calling efforts.

☎️ Factors that affect connect and right-party contact rates
❌ Wrong number
⛔️ Busy line
💬 No answer
📩 Voicemail
🙅🏽‍♀️ Wrong party answers the phone

Why Right-Party Contact Can Be a Challenge for Collection Agencies

Collectors know it very well: reaching consumers can be tricky.

Given the limitations imposed by the TCPA and the FDCPA, collectors can’t call debtors at any given time of the day. While timing is everything, even a well-staffed agency can only contact consumers so many times in order to reach them, as the number of available collectors is limited and you don’t want them to spend too much time trying to reach the same numbers too often.

Right-party contact can be a serious challenge for collection agencies. Collectors (and their managers) want to spend as much time as possible actually speaking to consumers and collecting payments — and as little time as possible trying to reach people on the phone. Calls not resulting in RPC don’t lead to a collection (nor a commission for the collector), and result in an overall waste of resources.

This is where automation and artificial intelligence come into play.

Dive deeper: What Is Call Automation and How Can It Impact Debt Collections?

How Voice AI Solves the RPC Issue for ARM Companies

With rising costs, high attrition rates, and a looming recession, ARM companies are looking at digital transformation and automation as valid solutions to their operational challenges.

Contact centers in all industries have been relying on automatic dialing systems (or auto dialer software) for decades. These systems make the dialing process faster and easier, boosting agent productivity; in addition to queueing calls and dialing the target number automatically, they also screen out inactive numbers, busy lines, and answering machines, drastically improving the contact center’s connect rate.

But what about right-party contact? 

Once the collector reaches a person on the phone, they must establish whether the person they are speaking to is the right party (the consumer or debtor) or not. The right party could also be a third party (a person authorized to handle the debt or an attorney representing the debtor). This process can take a few minutes.

With a Voice AI solution like Skit.ai, a Digital Voice Agent (DVA) handles the actual call — rather than just the dialing process. Once someone picks up the phone, the DVA can easily confirm right-party contact and engage with the debtor, offering ways to pay off their debt. If needed, the DVA can transfer the call to a live agent, who can assist with more complex queries.

The entire process is faster and cheaper and allows the collection agency to save time and money. Below, you can see a step-by-step summary of how a Digital Voice Agent handles a debt collection call:

Learn more: ​​What to Look for When Purchasing a Voice AI Solution for Debt Collections

Are you interested in learning how Voice AI can transform your collection agency’s results? Schedule a call with one of Skit.ai’s experts using the chat tool below.

What Is Call Automation and How Can It Impact Debt Collections?

Let’s face it: third-party debt collection agencies often sit on high-volume portfolios of accounts, as they lack the capabilities and resources to contact all debtors. Ultimately, some agencies give up on reaching all those accounts, focusing solely on the larger ones.

ARM companies usually acquire thousands of new accounts each month, but many of those accounts might be left untouched due to the lack of bandwidth. For each account, collectors need to establish right-party contact (RPC), remind the customer of their outstanding balance, and offer ways to help them pay off their debt. More often than not, customers are not available right away, and the collector has to call them back at a different time. It’s not an easy job!

What if I told you that you could automate this entire process?

Yes, you heard that right. A conversational Voice AI solution can handle your collection calls on your behalf. Think Siri or Alexa, but for collections.

What Is Call Automation?

Contact centers in all industries — from banking to e-commerce and, of course, the ARM (Accounts Receivable Management) industry — are turning to automation as a strategy to overcome the challenges of managing both inbound and outbound calls with customers. While there are a variety of software applications out there, conversational AI technologies are booming right now. These tools are capable of handling conversations with customers without the need for any human intervention.

Gartner predicts that conversational artificial intelligence will reduce agent labor costs in contact centers by $80 billion within the next four years.

Voice AI technologies may sound “new” to you today, but they are set to become the industry standard in the collections and payments space within a few years. Early adopters will likely reap the benefits as they’ll be ahead of the learning curve.

When they hear “call automation,” many people tend to think about IVR (interactive voice response) technology. Think, “To make a payment, press 1…” In recent years, voice automation has significantly evolved with the emergence of conversational Voice AI, which is a more sophisticated technology than IVR.

A Digital Voice Agent (read: voicebot) can handle a human-feeling and effective two-way conversation with a customer, answering questions and providing context-specific information.

When integrated with your collection management software, the Digital Voice Agent can reach your customers, remind them of their outstanding balances, and offer them ways to pay via select payment gateways.

Learn more: What to Look for When Purchasing a Voice AI Solution for Debt Collections

How Does an Automated Collection Call Sound Like?

Are you curious to hear what an automated outbound collection sounds like? Here’s a demo of Skit.ai’s Digital Voice Agent calling a debtor to remind them of their due balance and collect the payment:

The Voice AI platform follows these steps:

  1. Triggers the outbound call based on pre-determined criteria
  2. Establishes contact with the customer (RPC) and reminds them about the payment
  3. Collects propensity data and reasons for potential non-payment
  4. If the customer is interested in making the payment right away, the Digital Voice Agent guides them through the process via a payment gateway
  5. Persuades the customer to pay at the earliest, or offers alternate payment plans
  6. Feeds data to the CMS (collection management software) and provides analytics for further action
  7. Performs auto-callback on request, auto-retries, hot transfer to agent

Is an AI-Powered Collector Compliant?

Compliance is one of the most common pain points for those who manage debt collections. There are so many regulations at both federal and state levels, and it’s common for consumers to file lawsuits against ARM companies, which can amount to major expenses on the agency’s part. Additionally, regulations often change, and collectors sometimes struggle to keep up with the new changes.

It’s actually easier to ensure that an AI-powered collector is fully compliant with local laws and regulations related to collections and phone calls. This is because a Digital Voice Agent:

  • never goes off-script
  • only calls customers at permitted times
  • always honors do-not-call registries
  • never resorts to threats or aggressive language

Dive deeper: Meeting Debt Collection Compliance With AI-Powered Digital Voice Agents

If you want to learn more about call automation for collections and payments, schedule a call with one of our experts or use the chat tool below.

Customer Success for Voice AI: Building Lasting Partnerships

For the second article of our “Meet the Team” series, we sat down with Joseph DeMarzio, one of our Customer Success Managers for the U.S. market. Joe lives in Staten Island, New York, and joined Skit.ai earlier in 2022.

Hi, Joe. Tell me a little about your professional background.

I’ve been working with start-up companies for the last seven years. I’ve specifically worked in the hospitality and travel industry, introducing a suite of tech products tailored to the hotel industry. Within the start-ups I’ve worked with, I’ve taken on many roles, including sales, customer success, technical integration, partnership development, building internal teams, and more.

What is your role at Skit.ai?

I maintain our relationships with our U.S. customers. I manage the onboarding process, product deployment, pilot testing, and KPI achievement. The overall goal of my role is to convert the pilots into long-term customers for Skit.ai; this is done by building a strong relationship. Additionally, I also work on partnership development. This includes managing discussions and integrations with third-party vendors — who help us enhance our product — and third-party sales organizations — who can help us by selling our product on our behalf.

What do you enjoy the most about working for a start-up company?

A CEO once told me that working at a start-up is like flying a plane while building it. That is very much true, as every day is a new challenge, and days are filled with both wins and losses. With that being said, the idea that my work contributes to the long-term success of the company is unrivaled. I love the fact that my input is heard and helps shape the product we are building. Start-ups also allow you to craft the company culture from the ground up. Start-ups grow at a rapid pace and thus it’s key to hire the right people also from the perspective of company culture.

What does a day in the life of a customer success manager look like?

A customer success manager’s responsibility is to bridge the gap between a client and the internal departments within the organization. A typical day starts with going through inquiries from our delivery team in terms of what is needed from the client, as we are responsible for both client onboarding and the life cycle with Skit.ai. Our job throughout the day is to understand and manage our clients’ expectations. We are responsible for keeping the client informed throughout the technical onboarding of the Digital Voice Agent. A customer success manager also focuses on the overall experience of the client through onboarding, testing, and ultimately live periods. We want the client to have financial success with our product as well as enjoy the experience of working with us along the way.

What do you think are the key factors that lead to a successful partnership with a customer?

Communication, transparency, and availability.

  • Frequent communication is healthy in normal relationships as well as business relationships. There should be an open flow of communication throughout the entire life cycle.
  • Transparency is key as you must always be honest with a client. If you are honest they will work with you instead of you feeling like you work for them.
  • Availability in the sense that the client knows they have someone they can always talk to. The experience of working with a “real” person should never be underestimated.

Tell me a fun fact about yourself.

Just one? I have an identical twin brother, my family owns a pizzeria restaurant, I have a JD (law) degree from Touro University, and I am an avid sports fan (specifically the Jets, Nets, Yankees, and Rangers).

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

What Are the Most Important Integrations for a Voice AI Platform?

You are ready to adopt a Voice AI solution for your contact center, or you are in the process of adopting one — congratulations! Now is the time to think about integrations. In this article, we’ll discuss the benefits of integrating your Voice AI platform with various tools and applications, and we’ll offer some guidance on where to get started.

What are Voice AI integrations? They are the APIs that connect your Voice AI platform with other tools and applications you may already be using, allowing you to view and control data from multiple sources in one place. Integration augments the system’s capabilities, as it ensures a more unified view, allows you to personalize your automated calls, and helps you automate a lot of work that you would otherwise have to do manually.

Integrations are critical — but they vary significantly depending on your industry, your use case, and your specific needs. For example, voicebot integrations for a bank’s customer service will be very different from those for a debt collection agency. Additionally, integrations can be tricky from a technical standpoint sometimes, so you want to make sure that your provider has the necessary experience and tools.

Integration with internal systems is the top criterion considered when selecting a conversational AI platform provider, according to research by Gartner.

The most common types of integrations for Voice AI are with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems and ticketing platforms, payment gateways, speech analytics tools, and messaging tools. In this article, we’ll explain the role and importance of integrations and go over the most common types for various use cases.

What Are the Benefits of Integrating a Voicebot Platform with Other Tools and Applications?

For a seamless collaboration between human agents and voicebots, an Augmented Voice Intelligence solution requires various tools that perform different functions while working well together. Through integration between tools, the entire process can be as smooth and efficient as possible.

The main benefits of integrating your Voice AI platform with other tools and applications are:

  • Ensuring a better customer experience, as the Digital Voice Agent will be able to perform multiple tasks and better serve the customer
  • Maximize call personalization, as the Digital Voice Agent will be able to address customers by name, easily access their records, and base its interactions on context
  • Automating several tasks, freeing the contact center’s staff of the administrative burden
  • Generating automated metrics to track the performance of calls and maintaining records of all customer interactions

Dive deeper: The Unique Advantages of Skit.ai, a Speech-first Voice AI Platform

3 Things To Consider When Thinking about Voice AI Integrations

Stay lean at first. The number-one tip for companies adopting a Voice AI solution is to avoid focusing too much on integrations at the beginning of the adoption process. This is because when you adopt a new technology, it’s important you focus on gaining experience with it and fully understanding how it can benefit your business before you invest a lot of time and money in integrating it with several other tools and platforms. First implement the solution with the most basic and necessary integrations, and then you can start investing in the heavier ones.

Your Voice AI solution might be hybrid at first. If your contact center already has an automated response system in place, like an interactive voice response (IVR) system to take inbound calls, you might choose to have the Voice AI solution work hand-in-hand with the existing system at first. That would result in a hybrid approach—in which the first node of the call is handled by IVR, and then, depending on which option the caller selects, you may transfer them to the new Digital Voice Agent (voicebot). If this is the case, you’ll need to integrate the two systems so that they can work with each other. Once the Voice AI has been fully tested, you are likely to fully remove the IVR and let the Digital Voice Agent handle all inbound calls.

Data privacy. Data privacy and data protection are elements that you should always keep in mind when integrating different systems. You want to secure the data against unauthorized access, adopting processes like encryption, secure communications protocols, and relevant security policies.

The Most Important Integrations for a Voice AI Platform

Voice AI Integration with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Systems

Companies use a CRM software to gather, organize, and manage customer information. The primary benefit of integrating your Voice AI solution with your CRM system is to easily personalize all calls, whether they are outbound or inbound, and automate the calls end-to-end.

For outbound calls, for example, the Digital Voice Agent can gather the customer’s information from the CRM and address them on the call by first name: “Hi John, this is a Digital Voice Agent calling from…” The CRM also feeds the DVA more detailed information and context on the customer’s existing orders or accounts depending on the use case.

For a debt collection agency, for example, the Digital Voice Agent can gather not only the name of the customer it’s calling, but also the balance of their account.

For an ecommerce company, the Digital Voice Agent can quickly gather the information on existing orders, shipping, etc.

This integration also allows customers to open new tickets with the company’s customer service. At the end of the call, thanks to the integration in place, the Voice AI solution will feed the new information based on the interaction with the customer to the CRM system. Therefore, the new data will be stored and will be on file.

Examples of CRM systems are  HubSpot, Salesforce, Zoho, Freshdesk, and Zendesk.

Voice AI Integration with Payment Gateways

Integrating the voicebot platform with payment gateways or payment applications can make the customer experience significantly smoother and ensure the completion of various transactions during the call without the need to involve human agents. Examples of payment gateways are PayPal, Stripe, Amazon Pay, 2Checkout, Apple Pay, and Square.

Customers can easily pay a bill — for example, a telephone bill — during the call without the need to complete the transaction by opening a link or logging into an online portal.

For debt collection agencies, this integration can be very useful, as customers can make a payment during the phone call with the Digital Voice Agent, making the collection process fully automated, cheaper, and smoother.

Without this integration, in order to complete a payment, a customer needs to change the communication channel, moving to text message, email, or having to access the company’s website.

Voice AI Integration with Messaging Channels

For an omnichannel experience, it’s best to integrate the Voice AI platform with various messaging channels, at least those that your company uses the most to interact with its customers. Examples of messaging channels are email, text messaging (SMS), WhatsApp, Viber, Signal, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram.

Messaging integrations can be used both for inbound and outbound messages.

Outbound messaging:

  • Confirmations and receipts. After a customer has made a payment during a call with the Digital Voice Agent, the company can send a payment confirmation and receipt to the customer. Confirmations can also be sent for any other type of transaction or request, such as a travel reservation change.
  • Payment link. The company can send a link to an online payment portal via text message (SMS) or email during an automated call with the Digital Voice Agent.
  • User authentication. While a user can be easily authenticated on-call by the Digital Voice Agent, authentication in other instances can also take place in a chat tool before or during the call.

Inbound messaging:

  • Collection of images or other information from the customer. During a customer service call, the Digital Voice Agent might ask the customer to send an image or the photo of a receipt via SMS. This integration can be used to allow customers to send any type of information to the company during a call with a Digital Voice Agent.

Voice AI Integration with Telephony Platforms

Many companies might already have a telephony system in place when they decide to adopt a Voice AI solution. Examples of telephony and call center platforms are Genesys, RingCentral, 8×8, Five9.

Integrating the Voice AI platform with your company’s existing telephony platform will certainly make the adoption of Voice AI smoother, especially if you already have some level of call automation or IVR in place.

If the adoption of the Digital Voice Agent is gradual, and the system is hybrid at first, this integration allows your company to align both IVR and Voice AI solutions side-by-side.

Voice AI Integration with Speech Analytics Tools

Many businesses also use speech analytics solutions to analyze the phone conversations they have with their customers. These tools transcribe the text of the phone call and then analyze the voice of the customer, discern their feelings, identify emerging issues, and further your understanding of the customer experience (CX).

Examples of speech analytics solutions are CallMiner Eureka, Salesken, and Genesys.

If you have further questions on Voice AI integrations or you’re ready to start exploring how a Voice AI platform can take your contact center operations to the next level, contact our experts using the chat tool below!

How Debt Collection Agencies Can Rely on Voice AI To Prepare for a Recession

A version of this article was first published on the website of RMAi (Receivables Management Association International).

The U.S. economy has been shrinking, with many experts already pointing out that technically we have already entered a recession, as the economy has now contracted for two consecutive quarters. Fears of a recession have dominated most sectors of the economy over the last few months, and the ARM (Accounts Receivable Management) industry is no different.

The economy is slowing, inflation is high, and the Federal Reserve has been increasing its interest rates, and yet the data suggest that we find ourselves in a more complex and nuanced situation. Unemployment is still very low and the economy has been adding hundreds of thousands of new jobs each month, suggesting that it’s not all doom and gloom.

The latest reports, however, predict there will be a “mild recession” between 2022 and early 2023, with inflation being a major indicator of the direction the economy is headed towards, according to authoritative institutions such as Bank of America and Wells Fargo.

How can debt collection agencies prepare for a recession, and what do we know from previous economic crises that can guide us through the uncertain period ahead of us?

What Happens to Collection Agencies During a Recession?

Times of economic uncertainty are a mixed bag for collection agencies.

During a recession, the consumers who have the ability to be more conservative with their spending habits may choose to be more careful than usual. This might result in less borrowing. However, accounts might start increasing significantly as soon as the economy recovers.

On the other hand, for the people who already owe money, it might be more difficult to pay off their balances with jobs and income in jeopardy—leading to more defaults.

Additionally, the agency itself might need to take measures to cut down on costs. This may result in a reduction in staff, which will directly affect collection rates.

How Did the ARM Industry Fare in Previous Recessions?

Data gathered by the advisory firm Kaulkin Ginsberg shows how the ARM industry reacted to the last two major economic crises in the United States.

During the Internet bubble bursting — also known as the Dotcom crash — the ARM industry experienced a boom, with its revenue increasing from $8.2 billion in 2000 to $9.3 billion in 2001—a 13.4% increase. Between 2002 and 2005, the industry experienced continued growth at a similar rate.

The Great Recession of 2008, however, put the ARM industry to the test. The revenue fell by 14.4% from 2007 to 2009. Debt collection agencies struggled to collect payments, as consumers did not have the ability to pay off their debts. Many lenders scaled back their operations, leading to less accounts for collectors to manage.

And yet, just like in the previous crash, the years following the Great Recession were pretty good for the industry. While growth rates did not resemble the pre-recession boom, the industry still grew at an average rate of 4.16% per year.

5 Steps Collections Agencies Can Take To Prepare for a Recession

Optimize All Processes

To make your organization recession-proof, the first step is to optimize all of your internal processes and workflows. Analyze the existing processes and the customer journey and ask yourself: Can you identify any pain points? Where are resources missing and where are they abounding? Are there any workflows that can be shortened or reshuffled? Are there any tech tools to add to your stack that can help with any of the issues you’ve identified?

Invest in Agent Retention

Agent attrition in collection agencies is very high, and this creates additional expenses, as agencies need to cover recruiting, hiring, and training costs each time an agent leaves their job. Investing in agent retention is a must for agencies preparing for a recession. You want to keep your agents happy and make sure they don’t feel overly stressed or overwhelmed with calls. Consider adopting tech solutions that could take over some of the most repetitive and tedious agent workload.

Prepare for Account Volume Fluctuations

As account volume gets more volatile, agencies may experience more fluctuations in volume of outbound calls, needing more or less resources depending on the time. Agencies should develop a strong plan to address these scenarios; plan ahead even if you might not be experiencing this issue yet.

Offer Plenty of Payment Options

Once a customer is ready to pay, you should make it as easy as possible for them to pay using the method they prefer, including mobile payment apps. Collection agencies have started adopting PayPal and Venmo as payment methods, and the first data suggests that adoption is very successful.

The majority of Americans (79%) use mobile payment apps, according to a survey by NerdWallet. When looking specifically at the younger generations, the numbers go up: 94% of millennials use mobile payment apps.

Invest in Customer Self-Service

The existing data on customer service and customer experience indicates that customers expect companies to offer self-service customer care options. 39% of U.S. consumers find it very important to have access to a fully self-serve customer care option available to resolve their issues, according to a report by Emplify.

Self-service for a collection agency includes the ability to easily make payments and solve smaller issues by using the agency’s website, a mobile application, or an AI-powered Digital Voice Agent. More on that in the next section!

How Debt Collection Agencies Can Rely on Voice AI To Prepare for a Recession

Looking ahead and adopting technological solutions that can help you automate processes and improve the customer and employee experiences is one of the best ways to future-proof your collection agency, especially as we prepare for a likely recession.

Voice AI — AI-powered Digital Voice Agents to perform your outbound calls and collect payments from your customers — is becoming more and more popular and common among collection agencies in the United States.

In a recession, you not only want to save money, but you also want to ensure you maintain a competitive edge over your competitors. Looking into the adoption of artificial intelligence technologies that can automate your operations is key to securing a competitive advantage.

The benefits of Voice AI for collections include:

  • Automation: The Digital Voice Agent calls all of the customers on your portfolio and it then filters out the complex cases that need human agent intervention.
  • Coverage: The Digital Voice Agent can be scaled up according to the agency’s needs, so you can have optimal coverage of your accounts.
  • Recovery: The Digital Voice Agent can easily schedule follow-up calls, honoring the regulatory guidelines, spread over weeks/months, and ensure better recovery rates.
  • Compliance: Minimize errors and abide by existing laws and regulations by adopting a fully-compliant technology.
  • Cost and speed: Digital Voice Agents are efficient, effective, and cost significantly less than human collectors.
  • Customer experience: Offer a smooth and pleasant experience to your customers.
  • Scaling: Scale up and down as needed with just one click.

For more information and a free demo, you can schedule a call with one of our collections experts. We’ll be happy to help!

Contact Center Automation Trends: Don’t Overlook Call Automation

Running a contact center has become an increasingly expensive and challenging operation. Costs are up, agent attrition rates are high, and hiring new agents has been difficult; all of this has resulted in longer wait times and a decline in resolution rates, which ultimately lead to a poor customer experience. 

Whether their customer interactions are mostly inbound or outbound, more and more contact centers are looking into digital transformation and automation as the ingredients for a winning strategy to overcome the ongoing crisis. These technologies and solutions may look “new” today, but they are set to become the industry standard within a few years. Early adopters are certainly going to reap the benefits and be ahead of the learning curve.

As you map out a strategy to automate your contact center channels, you might face the question of which channels are worth investing in the most. Which channels should you be focusing on as you plan a digital-first approach to customer interactions?

In this article, we’ll explore the ramifications of contact center automation and explain why you should not overlook voice-first channels and call automation as you plan the future of your contact center.

Which Contact Center Channels Can Be Automated?

Contact center automation is the process of adopting technological solutions that process and respond to customer service queries automatically. Of course, many internal workflows within the contact center can be automated; but, most importantly, the channels that customers use to interact with the contact center can be automated using artificial intelligence.

Learn more: Contact Center Outsourcing vs. Contact Center Automation

Automation of chat contact channels: Chatbots are available to customers 24/7 and can easily source the answers to frequently asked questions. A chatbot is usually available on the company’s website, but they can also be integrated with popular social media and messaging platforms such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

Automation of voice contact channels: Call automation for call centers is not an entirely new concept. It became popular in the 1980s with IVR (interactive voice response) technology and the use of DTMF responses (dual tone multi frequency). In recent years, voice automation has significantly evolved, with the emergence of conversational voice AI (artificial intelligence), which is a more sophisticated technology than IVR.

Conversational AI Is Booming Right Now

Conversational AI is one of the biggest trends to monitor right now. A new report published by Research and Markets estimates that the conversational AI platform market will reach $13.2 billion by 2027, with North America leading the market, followed by Europe and the Asia Pacific region.

The report suggests that 36% of enterprises will shift their customer support function entirely to virtual assistants—such as voicebots and chatbots—within the next decade. AI-enabled interactions allow for hyper-personalized experiences across multiple channels and platforms, while servicing customers around the clock.

Voice-led tools and technologies are booming—also thanks to the prevalence of voice assistants and smart speakers like Apple’s Siri and Amazon Echo. Deloitte estimates that, by 2030, there will be a proliferation of voice-led technologies all over the world.

In customer service, voicebots like Skit.ai’s Digital Voice Agents can handle conversations with multiple back-and-forth, contextual interactions, which have a much more natural feel and can actually lead to a problem resolution.

The Benefits of Voice Calls as a Contact Channel

Text-based contact channels — such as live web chat, chatbots, and social media apps — are particularly popular among younger users, such as millennials and Gen Z customers. Many people are used to both texting and speaking on the phone, but younger people generally prefer texting, while adult and older people prefer voice calls.

One possible limitation of chat-based tools for customer service and customer interactions in general is that they require some degree of familiarity with the chat tools themselves. Users who are not tech-savvy and are not familiar with these tools — such as older users — may find these channels more difficult to use.

Additionally, some users prefer the immediacy of phone calls, which can feel more personal and more suitable to discuss complex issues.

The Voice Automation & Customer Experience Metrics You Should Know

If you think your company might be overlooking voice calls as a contact channel, you should take a look at these statistics about voice-based communications:

  1. A report on contact centers and customer experience published by CFI Group in 2020 showed that phone calls are still the preferred customer service channel, with 76% of respondents saying that they seek customer service over the phone.
  2. A Stanford Study conducted in 2016 revealed that speech recognition software writes text messages more quickly than thumbs. According to the study, dictating a text in English is 3 times faster than typing; speech-to-text (STT) also has an error rate 20.4% lower than typing. The researchers got similar results when they conducted the experiment with Mandarin Chinese: dictation was 2.8 times faster than typing.
  3. Another study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology indicated that talking by phone or over a computer creates a stronger social bond than communicating by text or email.
  4. Smoother interactions with a company’s contact center and a faster resolution contribute to a positive customer experience; we know that customer experience contributes to fostering a customer’s brand loyalty and willingness to spend more.
  5. A study by Gartner indicated that artificial intelligence was the most prevalent technology for investment to improve customer experience in 2021. Among the most common uses of AI to improve CX, the study highlighted:

Learn more: The Unique Advantages of Skit.ai, a Speech-first Voice AI Platform

The existing data indicates that, despite the emergence of new technologies over the past decades, voice is still a winning channel. That’s why companies should not overlook voice calls, as they are still a powerful and popular channel to interact with customers.

Call automation enables a call center to take and initiate an unlimited number of calls at the same time, assisting customers in need with inbound calls and reaching consumers with outbound calls, and escalating the more complex calls to human agents. As you prioritize voice, investing in call automation is key.

Do you want to learn more about how you can adopt Voice AI? Use the chat tool below to book a demo with one of our experts!