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Persuade me that AI technology works for debt collection

Mark Oppermann

This is the last in this series of AI in Debt Collections posts. Previously I talked about AI and Automation being be used for debt collection and how customer conversations automated or not are your greatest asset and the information/data gained should be used to help engage more effectively and efficiently with your customers.

Now it is time to get down to the nitty-gritty. To recap, AI-driven customer engagement is all about finding out which customers should be contacted at what time and in what manner both from a channel perspective and the actual words used to increase overall contact and engagement performance.

The actual words you use is an area that isn’t given enough attention in my view; from experience getting this right will mean your message will resonate with your customers in their current circumstances fostering that willingness and desire to engage with you.

I wouldn’t recommend you jump in at the deep end and rush into deploying AI into your collections operations, it’s just another technology that can be used to help you and your business. But as with any aspect of new technology deployments in any part of the business including collections, best-practice concepts have been developed, which deserve consideration, and when followed ensure a higher level of success is achieved.  This success almost certainly will be achieved quicker and with fewer resources if followed. Here are some that have really worked for clients that we have engaged with:

  • Start simple and slowly develop towards complexity.
  • Work with a technology partner you trust and who understands your business.
  • Build/Support an internal champion and their capability to make decisions in this area.
  • Work on specific outcomes that are measurable and understand the before and after state.
  • Think about AI in tandem with your data strategy, what data do you already have that would be useful.
  • Understand the appropriate risk and de-risk your projects by slowly building up the size of customer groups you're engaging with over a period of time with regular reviews.

Persuade me that it works

AI isn’t different to any other technology, there will be a certain amount of scepticism and caution about using it and what benefits it will deliver. The classic rules do apply here about new technologies invariably over-promising at their launch with results and adoption being underwhelming in the initial periods. It’s fair to say we passed this initial period and the results that are being delivered to all businesses including ones in the collections industry are real, tangible and significant, which you can’t afford to ignore any longer.

AI isn’t magic it’s just another technology that you’re using lots and lots today already so why not bring it into your business.

  • If you use Google search you are using AI.
  • When you show your smartphone and Apple Pay “pings with paid” you have used multiple forms of ML/AI including facial recognition in a payments process.
  • When you go to a website chat and ask it “where is my order” and receive details in the back and forth, that is conversational AI.

So, should you let AI manage your debt-collection process?

In truth, no. Rather, you should let it augment your collections process. You should apply the AI and automation that has a “high probability of being successful” before trying other forms of AI (early wins will build confidence) but be sure that AI can definitely help you with processes.

AI and automation are tools that if put to their best use can really have significant impacts on not only the operational side of the debt collection process but also the customer relationship. In this environment of rising consumer debt levels and people exhibiting vulnerability, those businesses can shift the focus from being processes driven to a customer-first approach using technology to predict conversation outcomes and guide customers on highly personalised journeys that are specific to their circumstances. 

AI and automation have permeated the collections space, they are here, they are working. So starting to think about how your business can use them and ensure that you do not get left behind.

One important metric I will leave with you is that our clients typically double the number of processes they apply our technology to within the first year of operations. Because it works.

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