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conversational AI messaging for debt collection

Self-Service in Debt Collections: Why Conversational AI is the Missing Link

Mark Oppermann | Chief Revenue Officer

When new technology takes off and starts delivering on its promises, nobody wants to be the odd one out and expose where it’s falling short. 

In recent years, customer service has swung from being heavily phone-focussed to promoting online self-service options to customers. Without a doubt, self-service portals have many benefits going for them, such as providing an instant way to resolve queries and complete tasks without waiting on hold. And customers have happily embraced self-service as it empowers them to manage their own finances. But there remain some areas of customer engagement that still need the human touch that phone calls give.  

The snag is, providing phone-based customer service is costly, requires a sufficient number of agents and is time-consuming, and so businesses often rather opt for self-service to save on costs.   

Another glaring problem is how difficult it is for contact centres to find and retain agents to operate the phones. 

The Problem with Over-Reliance on Self-Service 

Losing customer intimacy 

No-one can argue that self-service isn’t cost effective and efficient. It relieves the burden from agents and automates many of the tasks customers perform. However, by jumping too far to the self-service side, many businesses have lost the customer intimacy that phone-based customer service brings.  

digital channels
digital messaging channels
Statistics from the report: Customer Connections The New Conversation Rules for Credit Collections & Payments

The overlooked middle  

When looking at the numbers, there is a large cohort of customers in the middle that is being missed. On the one hand, as the stats above reveal, many people prefer to speak to a human when it comes to more complex scenarios like when they have difficulty paying a bill. Talking to a person gives customers the reassurance that a personal connection provides.

On the other hand, self-service is popular for simple queries that would eat up an agent’s time, like making a payment and checking a balance. And self-managing debt is a relief for people who are too embarrassed to talk about their financial problems with a person. However, according to the figures above, 24%-35% still choose the phone route even for simple queries. So, why is that? 

Humans are intricate and debt is an emotional issue 

As humans, we can be sensitive and complicated people, prone to emotional rather than logical responses. We like to feel heard and understood, and feel confident that our problems are taken care of, which talking to a live agent provides. But this level of reassurance is difficult to get with a digital self-service channel.  

Difficult, but achievable with the right technology. 

How Do You Have Both Customer Intimacy AND Operational Efficiency? 

There is a way to have both the customer intimacy of a phone call and the operational efficiency of digital self-service. That way is with conversational AI. It blends the relational connection of the phone with the efficiency of digital self-service.  

The problem with self-service is that not everyone completes their journey due to various hiccups and they may need help along the way. We cannot assume that everyone finds self-service easy and that nobody ever falls off the journey.  

But the good news is that conversational AI helps to bring the two worlds of live agents and self-service together by layering the efficiency of automation over what businesses gain from phone calls. The conversational element in self-service provides customers with the affirmation they need and helps businesses to engage with customers in a more relational way.  

Customers benefit from having 24/7 and immediate access to the portal, but they are not left to fend for themselves as the conversational chatbot is always present to help. 

Good Conversational AI Chatbot Design Brings in the Human Touch 

If designed well, conversational AI chatbots provide a unique solution that covers everything from customer intimacy to operational efficiency, making them a powerful tool for businesses.  

You can create the feeling of a human connection when you design a conversational AI chatbot to interact empathetically using natural-sounding language. The AI technology available can understand what’s being said and respond appropriately (see: How do AI Chatbots Work?), and can even predict the outcome of a conversation using propensity guidance and so lead a person down the best route – including to a live agent if that’s the best option. 

The secret to success - chatbots need to be conversational 

For customers to welcome using chatbots, they have to be designed properly. And designing bots to be conversational rather than merely transactional and commanding is the golden key to digital customer engagement.    

AI chatbot testing


Conversational AI provides a unique solution that delivers customer intimacy and operational efficiency all rolled into one, making it perfect for customer engagement. By embracing conversational AI, businesses can provide customers with a helpful channel to successfully complete their customer journeys. 



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