Author: Tom Stinton
Financial services companies are deploying chatbots, most often in a customer service role. As chatbots gain acceptance in the industry, people are becoming accustomed to discussing their financial situations with these humanised web robots. A collections chatbot we call “Codee” has joined our team. I’d like to introduce her to you.
Before you meet Codee, a key element of our debt collection solution, I’d like to look at chatbots more generally. In “How chatbots could be the new face of collections” I discussed how they understand what we want, answer naturally and learn from their conversations with us. These intelligent computer programs depend on technologies like AI (Artificial Intelligence) and NLP (Natural Language Processing) to help them do that.
Codee reaches out
Chatbots can engage through a number of interfaces including messaging apps, web chat browser apps or even smart voice-enabled assistants such as Alexa. Codee engages through a mobile optimised website.
She starts by sending the user a friendly message that appears on a user’s smartphone, just as any message from their friends or family would show up. Friendly and accessible, it aims to put them at ease and encourage them to engage while, at the same time, reminding them their debt needs some action.
After all, users greeted in a friendly way, gently invited to talk about their debt and pointed in the right direction are much more likely to resolve the debt.
Simplicity and convenience is also key to increasing collections rates. Chatbots are not only easy and intuitive but also let users discuss their debt at an appropriate time.
Enhancing a familiar interface
Starting a conversation with Codee is as simple as tapping on the message she sent. She appears almost immediately, ready and waiting to chat in a simple mobile app with a familiar messaging interface.
While we built Codee with text input in mind; the user could conceivably use their smartphone’s voice-to-text capabilities to input their responses.
And Codee doesn’t just ‘chat’ to the user and wait for an answer; we have enhanced her messaging interface so it can display information graphically. More than that, she provides buttons the user can simply tap to show their choice when she needs them to select from different options.
Our chatbot in action
Let’s walk through an example.
Codee reaches out to me to remind me I have an outstanding debt and invites me to chat about it. I tap on her message. She instantly appears. Before we discuss my debt, Codee confirms I am how I say I am using a few security questions.
Those answered, she then asks me to confirm that my personal details are up to date. If they are, it’s a simple tap of a button; if they need updating, it’s a tap through to a screen where I can amend them.
She then tells me how much I owe and asks me if I want to pay it all off today. Tap on ‘Yes’, and I can pay with any convenient mobile payment method, including Apple Pay or by using my smartphone’s camera to scan a debit card.
Tap on ‘No’, and I am encouraged to create a payment plan.
Before we start on the plan, Codee helps me budget. If I know my monthly outgoings, she can give me a few boxes to fill those in. If I don’t, she can work them out for me.
Codee does open banking
This is where open banking comes in. If I give Codee access to my accounts, she can work out my spending patterns so I can understand my monthly outgoings. The three-step process is simple:
- Consent: Codee presents me with a short message, and I tap a button to give her permission to view my banking transactions from the previous three months.
- Authenticate: I select my bank from some icons, select which account(s) we need to look at and then type my credentials.
- Authorise: Once logged in, I tap a button to agree to share details of my transactions from the previous three months.
Now here’s the really interesting part. Within a matter of seconds, Codee builds a chart showing my typical monthly spending pattern. Behind the scenes, open APIs delve into my accounts and advanced analytics calculate my outgoings in various categories. If I don’t agree, I can alter the amount in a specific category.
We quickly come to see how much money I have available each month after paying my bills. Codee asks if I want to use this amount towards my debt each month. I can simply tap on ‘Yes’ or enter a different my monthly payment amount.
With that, she displays my payment plan, clearly showing how my debt will reduce over the months.
Helping the real agents too
For people who find phone calls intimidating and emails more tediously slow, Codee will provide a friendly, personal, accessible and helpful route to managing their debt. They know they’ll get an almost instant response when they chat with her.
Collections companies will welcome the rise in engagement, increase in transparency and reduction in costs. Their debt collection solution’s dashboard will not only allow them to see who is engaging with Codee but also how much they have committed to pay back and when.
Codee also ensures collection companies provide the modern tools tech-savvy Millennials expect while ensuring they have somewhere to turn any time of the day or night. She is particularly helpful during the early stages of debt, helping users ensure they pay back what they owe before they get any deeper into debt.
Collection companies that take advantage of new technologies such as chatbots are likelier to increase collection rates and halve collection costs. Will you invite Codee to join your team?