Why AI Could Be The Answer As Companies Chase Down Debt
Any business with a credit and collections function will recognize the “promise to pay” phenomenon. It’s the tendency of customers, when chased by a collections agent, to exaggerate how much they will pay of a debt and how quickly. But while it is a natural human instinct, when confronted by someone making demands of you, to tell them what they want to hear, this makes it difficult for businesses to manage their debts; they don’t really know who will pay what and when.
Irish start-up business Webio, which is today announcing a $4 million Series A fund-raising round, thinks the possibility of confronting the promise to pay problem could be just one benefit of its communications technology. “People feel much more able to be honest when they’re communicating in text form, rather than having a voice interaction,” explains co-founder and CEO Cormac O’Neill.
Launched in 2016, Webio has built a workflow and communications platform aimed at businesses such as utility companies, financial services firms and e-commerce merchants, all of which have to put significant resources into debt collection. The front end of the platform is a machine-learning driven chatbot through which these businesses can automate their conversation with customers via channels such as text messaging, WhatsApp and web chat.
Simple queries – such as when payments are due and how to make them – can be solved without human involvement. More complex issues are automatically routed to the company’s agents, with Webio’s technology able to identify such cases through analysis of the chatbot conversation.
“Conversations about debt are very stressful for both the borrower and the agent,” says O’Neill. “Having those conversations through a textual interface can reduce that stress – then you refer customers with particular problems or vulnerabilities to someone who has the expertise to help.”