Hoist Finance UK is one of the first in the debt collections sector to use Rich Communications Service (“RCS”), a new messaging technology replacing SMS on Android smart phones that provides customers with a two-way conversational and transactional interaction with which to better manage their debt and their interaction with Hoist Finance.
RCS, where adoption is growing in the retail sector, enables Hoist Finance to better engage with its customers via automated chatbots to propose settlement offers, issue payment reminders, and other conversational communications using a channel with which many customers are becoming familiar and prefer to use.
Part of Hoist Finance’s omni-channel strategy, the early adoption of RCS complements the company’s commitment to provide a full digital customer experience.
“Services that were once only available through the call centre or self-service portal can now be delivered through RCS, giving customers the choice in how they wish to engage with us in a way that is most convenient to them. In the retail environment, customers take it for granted that they can interact in this way and they expect us to offer similar solutions. Furthermore, the ability for a customer to self-serve in both our portal and through our messaging channels leads to some customers engaging who would not normally do so,” says Peter Mounsey, Group Head of Digital for Hoist Finance.
“For many of our customers who have originated their loans in a digital environment we believe we need to maintain and further enhance that experience for them with our Digital by Default strategy.”
Customers who engage with Hoist Finance through RCS can make immediate payments, for example, if prompted to do so via a payment arrears notice. Similarly, Hoist Finance is able to ‘push’ offers, such as early settlement, if it will achieve the best outcome for the customer.
The chatbot has been deployed on RCS first because RCS will incorporate various payment mechanisms including Google Pay to allow customers to make payments ‘inside the chat’ offering an ‘in-app’ experience. Android currently has 72% of the mobile device market in Europe, and Hoist Finance already sees that 76% of its customers that interact digitally do so over a smart phone. As WhatsApp and Apple Business Chat mature then the bot will be deployed to those channels also.
The omni-channel chatbot has been developed in partnership with Esendex, a global technology provider of multichannel messaging solutions.
Michael Power, Future Messaging Product Manager at Esendex said: “Hoist have used our new chatbot platform to create a fantastic and personalised customer experience that is available to customers 24/7. Companies like Hoist that put customer experience at the heart of their communications strategy are driving the debt collection industry forward, and it has been very rewarding to work with them on this critical project.”
To complement the release of the RCS messaging channel, Hoist Finance has also deployed a chatbot enabled Web Chat. This is the first phase of providing conversational chatbot technology behind all omni-channels to support customers 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This AI powered chatbot uses the latest Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Natural Language Understanding (NLU) technology and is provided by Norwegian Fintech company Boost AI.
“Analysis of the content of our inbound calls and existing two-way omni–channel interactions have highlighted that a significant percentage of our customer conversations are information-only requests. It has therefore been a natural part of our Digital Strategy to find ways to automate this. This both provides a quick and efficient service to the customer as well as allowing our agents time to be more focused on the more complex customer interaction and needs,” says Peter.
Within the first month of being launched in the UK, the chatbot has engaged customers with 65% completing without any agent intervention. The chatbot provides the customer with answers to a range of questions including help on accessing and logging-on to the Hoist Finance self-serve portal. Any chats that cannot be successfully handled are automatically routed to the appropriate agent during contact call centre operating hours. AI trainers review and monitor all chats through the Boost AI platform to support the continued expansion in the complexity and breadth of chats that can be successfully accommodated.