ERC Collects Better Information with Interactions’ VCA
Enhanced Resource Centers (ERC), a business process outsourcing company specializing in contact center operations, debt collection, back-office support, and tech solutions, is “a 20-year-old start-up,” says its CEO and president, Marty Sarim. “I describe the company that way because innovation is always in our blood.”
As part of that ongoing commitment to innovation, the Jacksonville, Fla.-based company continues to look for new technology that will help maximize operations and employee efficiency.
“Keeping pace with emerging technologies that help streamline the customer experience has always been a top priority. Over the past few years, we recognized that automation was no longer a ‘nice to have’ in our industry; it was a requirement for addressing demand,” Sarim says.
As part of that effort, the company began a years-long quest to deflect costly and time-consuming Tier 1 and Tier 2 calls from live agents to automation. These calls typically involve correcting addresses, phone numbers, and other contact information, according to Sarim. “Companies spend millions of dollars in manual labor to complete those tasks, so we were looking for ways to remove those tasks from agents.”
The search for the best technology to do just that started five years ago. ERC eventually settled on Interactions’ Virtual Collection Agent (VCA), an artificial intelligence-powered virtual assistant designed to meet the unique needs of the collections industry.
Though Interactions didn’t release the VCA product for general availability until this past July, ERC began piloting the technology as a launch partner in late 2019. It took a few months to customize the product to ERC’s unique requirements. ERC named its VCA implementation “Eva.”
Interactions’ VCA offers streamlined contact center operations with intelligent voice inputs, a repayment plan negotiation engine, and omnichannel customer care.
“There was no other competing product out there that could deliver what we wanted,” Sarim says.
In addition to automating the simplest calls so agents could concentrate on the ones needing human interaction, VCA also automates compliance disclosures, which are essential in the collections industry. That process can be complicated because federal and state regulations require very specific information to be included in collections calls. “Once it’s programmed, the virtual agent will provide the same information over and over again,” Sarim says.
Powered by Interactions’ conversational AI, VCA is equipped with Interactions’ Adaptive Understanding technology, which blends conversational AI with real-time human intelligence. It also features automated negotiation, with a customizable negotiation engine that can personalize payment plans in real time. It integrates with key systems, such as outbound dialers, CRM systems, payment processors, and other knowledge bases. VCA operates within a secure, scalable, cloud-based infrastructure.
ERC’s Eva has reduced inbound call volume to agents by 27 percent and the number of wrong numbers handled by agents by 60 percent. Customers now are 30 percent more likely to reach the right person.
“The response we’ve seen from both our customers and live agents has been encouraging, and the efficiencies we’ve been able to build into our business have put us in an extremely competitive position,” Sarim says.
“VCA is fantastic,” says Brian Doran, an ERC agent. “Talking to us is not always comfortable for people. [Self-service] enables the people who don’t want to talk to us to keep from talking to us. It introduces [the company] before we get on the phone so that people don’t think it’s a scam.”
Sarim expects to continue working with Interactions to enable VCA to handle even more calls.
After installing Interactions' Virtual Collection Agent, ERC has seen the following results:
- a 60 percent reduction in wrong numbers handled by agents;
- a 27 percent reduction in inbound calls directed to agents; and
- a 30 percent increase in the probability of speaking with the right person.
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