In today's news, Optus is cutting 440 jobs due to 'digitisation and automation'. This follows Telstra's overhaul announcement in June that the company's workforce will be reduced by a quarter.
"Will automation kill jobs?"
A quick online search shows tons of articles attempting to answer this pressing question. A report even predicted that by 2030, we could lose as many as 800 million jobs worldwide to automation. Though it seems counter-intuitive, InDebted's goal to reinvent debt collection does not involve replacing collectors with robots. Instead, our vision is to empower agents to engage debtors and recover debts with increased efficiency.
While preparing for his book on debt, author Jake Halpern tried being a debt collector for a day. He found debt collection was not an easy job. The most successful collection agents have a rapport with debtors. They also have "an innate sense of when to segue from courtship to the unpleasant matter of collecting". These are qualities that cannot be replicated through automation, yet.
We want to improve the quality of work for collection agents and everyone involved in the debt collection industry. Instead of spending time on countless unanswered outbound calls, technology can allow us to reach debtors in bulk in a short amount of time. Instead of pursuing debtors who can't pay futilely, technology can allow us to identify and focus on debtors who won't pay.
The "unfortunate reality" of the telecommunication industry, as coined by Optus chief executive Allen Lew, should not be a cause for alarm for the debt collection industry. It is evident that debt collection still requires a human touch, but we can embrace technology to help us be better communicators and persuaders.