This century will be shaped by the human world reaching Peak People, immediately followed by populations beginning to get smaller. The future never turns out as the experts predicted. The problems we will have throughout the rest of this century, and well into the next, will not be ones of over-population but managing shortages of people in human societies across the world. Our economies will find it immensely difficult to change from an outlook of ever-increasing growth to one of shrinkage. However, we are resilient, creative, imaginative, adaptable. We will find ways to make a different future work. We have to.
First Demographic – Shrinkage
This concerns the sting in the tail of Capitalism: under this socio-economic system, people choose to have smaller families. This is currently the demographic of all developed capitalist economies: ageing populations and falling birth-rates, combining to ensure a shortage of suitably qualified, adequately skilled, experienced workers in sufficient numbers to maintain growth in a country’s economy. Attracting, inducting, skilling, training, managing, motivating, rewarding, developing, retaining, promoting and leading enough suitable employees is the business megatrend for the rest of this century . . . and beyond.
Population shrinkage is not something which can be rectified easily, cheaply or quickly. Immigration can ease some shortages. AI and robots will mitigate the problem, not enough to solve it. Women, still busy with the hard work of achieving equality in developed economies, and having distant dreams of it in the developing world, are unlikely to want to go back to being baby machines for the sake of helping the economy. We will have to learn to manage economies which do not have, as their main feature, the aim of untrammelled growth. We will have to start focussing on improving quality, increasing productivity, depth, profundity and other measures which we do not yet use to measure
economic success. We will have to begin to consider the concept of economic maturity.
For Credit the implications are immediate: how and where will you source the Credit Professionals of the future? The profession must be made more attractive, more high-profile and transferrable skills must be emphasised.
Second Demographic – Managing
Generally, management is getting worse. There are, for starters, fewer managers, they are less well-trained and are not supported enough as they start out. The prevailing development model for managers nowadays is Sink or Swim.
New managers are often thrown into a supervisory, team leader or management position because they are either technically able or they have been there longer than others. There is less mentoring and learning from others with experience of the company, of the sector/specialism or, simply, with hard-won experience of good, and bad, management practise.
Organisations are far too stretched and pressured to spend time and money in planned training and development of their managers. And it is beginning to show in major ways around the globe.
In addition, social media has heightened an emphasis on presentation and the surface impression, rather than on depth of experience, competence, achievement, ability, credibility and authenticity. You can fool some of the people – and with a multitude of PowerPoint presentations and an assured social media presence – you can go on pulling the wool over their eyes for a considerable amount of time.
Education, development and training is expensive . . . until you try the alternative.
Credit should focus on the comprehensive training of managers who are both technically and behaviourally outstanding. The recognition that these Credit Managers are outstanding professional managers will help the reputation of the profession, will attract people to train as Credit Managers as a sure route to managerial excellence and will raise the profile of Credit as an integral part of any successful business.
Third Demographic – Geopolitics
The world is not becoming less complex. Increased media for communication has not meant better communication between countries, power blocs, political entities, corporations, companies, organisations, groups, families and individuals. As the speed and ease of communication has increased, and the media have proliferated, the quality, depth value and truthfulness has been compromised.
Globalisation has encountered unexpected problems and there are myriad difficulties involved in trading internationally, offshoring, governance, regulation, competition and trust. War, cyber warfare, nationalist movements and political populism have ensured that movements to Make Wherever Great Again have been on the rise, although cost, incompetence, corruption and poor delivery will give these a short (ish) shelf-life. They are a clear sign that people want competent leaders, able to solve problems and lead decisively.
There is a massive lack of these.
Political leaders are visibly struggling to know what to do and visibly use all their energies for their own political survival. While thus engaged they are failing to lead their countries effectively. Life is likely to become more difficult before it becomes easier. On the plus side, it’s harder than ever, in this brave new world, to be a dictator or authoritarian leader.
The realistic parallels with George Orwell’s 1984 are more clearly visible now than 40 years ago in 1983, or even 20 or 10 years ago. This should worry us. There is a geographical arc of potential conflict, actual conflict and/or political and economic instability running down through Eastern Europe, the Middle East, through the Indian sub-continent and continuing to the Pacific Rim. Shared Service Centres located in or near these areas may be at risk of future disruption of various kinds.
Credit should think carefully about where it locates itself geographically to ensure stability and to be in a position to leverage maximum influence over the responsible stewardship of successful companies which want to perform financially, deliver consistently impressive results, grow their products and services . . . and still be around in 50 years.
Copyright © 2023 Nick Kell – The author adopts a robust approach to any form of copyright infringement and will seek, at their election, appropriate remedies for breach of their copyright including injunctive relief, costs and a public apology.
On the back of the gloomy forecast for global economic growth by the IMF, the high profile failure of Silicon Valley Bank, First Republic Bank, Signature Bank, and the controversial takeover of failed Credit Suisse by UBS, stubbornly high inflation and subsequent interest rate rises, the main question that goes through my (admittedly Credit-focused) brain is, “are we headed for another Credit Crisis?
Banks, believe it or not, are generally risk-averse. Oh, when times are good they throw money around like confetti but when times get tough, they (and Credit Insurers) are the first to pull back and tighten up lending policies, reduce credit lines or even worse, pull debt cover entirely. This was how they behaved during the 2009 crisis and I’m concerned that history, as it often does, will repeat itself.
This would have a disastrous impact on the global economy. Governments, businesses and consumers, used to a decade of historically low borrowing rates, have managed to rack up unprecedented amounts of debt but have also helped fuel global economic growth. If sources of funding dry up or are constricted, government and business investment would be severely impacted, revenue opportunities minimised, crumbling infrastructure left to deteriorate, the markets would stagnate and we would enter a global recession.
I am (somewhat) hopeful that the lenders and governments have learned some lessons from the last financial crisis. As the macro-economic data, albeit mixed, points to an easing of inflationary pressures by the end of this year and while a recession is still likely, it may be shorter and less severe than originally forecast. Governments also seem poised to be more proactive to act when necessary to avoid the worst case scenario. However, things move rapidly and we must prepare for all potential outcomes.
As I said in my last article, do not despair! These are career-defining times for all Credit professionals. The trials and tribulations that we face now only serve to bestow the fortitude, knowledge and experience that we all require to perform well in our roles and give us the confidence to face further challenges in the future.
“Out of adversity comes opportunity” – Benjamin Franklin
AICDP is delighted to welcome Martyn Brooke to our Executive Committee who works hard behind the scenes in shaping the agenda for international Credit Professionals. Martyn’s appointment follows on from the arrival of Esker as a Corporate Partner and we welcome Martyn to the team.
Our Executive Committee has been designed to bring a wealth of expertise, training, and experience of working at all levels within the Credit industry to shape the agenda of our members, our events, and our knowledge bank and offer specific industry support to our members.
Martyn joined Esker in 2022 as a Credit Management Specialist. He offers a wealth of key advice to end-users on the application of order-to-cash processes. Before joining Esker, Martyn was a popular facilitator and speaker at credit industry events and ran his own successful credit management and advisory service.
Bill Dunlop, President of AICDP added: “With over 30 years of practical experience, Martyn is a respected authority within the credit industry, and we are delighted to welcome him to our Executive Committee. We already have several AICDP events and training schemes planned throughout the year and Martyn will be on hand to support our members.”
For further information on AICDP please visit – https://www.aicdp.global.
According to 75% of customers, speaking with a real customer service agent takes too long. Customers anticipate being catered for around-the-clock and getting the help they need as quickly as possible. However, the call handler can only handle one enquiry at a time. In comparison, artificial intelligence can manage multiple jobs with minimal or
Do chatbots offer better client care than people? What impact does AI have on client customer service? Businesses are debating whether offering their customers human or AI-powered chatbot-based support is preferable. In this article, we examine both options.
Benefits of ‘human’ Customer Service
1. Empathy goes a long way
Humans are exceptional in every way, with their ability to respond quickly and empathise with others. Because people are inherently emotional creatures, more than 40% of customers prefer live chat to any other means to address their concerns. Customers are happy when their issues are handled with care and a personal touch.
2. Live agents can react better
Chatbots use a more systematic line of questioning to grasp the problem and provide answers that closely fit the issue. If the inquiry becomes too complex for the chatbot, it must re-route the ticket to an open customer service assistant, which slows the resolution of the issue.
3. Take a more experience-driven approach.
People learn from experience, and as customer service reps, they can react to various situations and use their knowledge and skills to provide outstanding service. Humans are better at coping with dissatisfied, unhappy, or even anxious customers to obtain the best possible result.
What benefits do chatbots bring to Customer Service?
As a customer you can now enjoy access to customer service 24/7 and, at the same time, get the right help needed with the minimum of fuss or delay, but what happens when your client base grows bigger? You need more employees. The more clients who call your helpdesk, the longer it takes them to reach a representative. After all, they are only human with limited abilities to handle the calls.
Artificial intelligence, on the other hand, can operate indefinitely while making occasional errors. Chatbots are computer-programmed software that enhances the customer experience and responds to client inquiries by utilising machine learning and artificial intelligence.
Chatbots are gaining popularity globally because of the following:
1. Available 24/7
Chatbots, by definition, do not require (lunch, comfort etc.) breaks and can operate for unlimited hours. Consequently, you can reach the service provider whenever you want. The chatbot will answer certain basic enquiries, but if the query becomes more complicated, the bot will (via natural language processing – NLP) connect the customer with an agent who can manage their request. So, not only does this provide the ideal answer by reducing reaction time, but it also provides real 24/7 customer support, which translates into higher customer happiness.
2. Low overhead costs
It’s easy to see how attractive robots might be to a company looking to reduce costs by 20-30% because there’s no need to provide vacation or illness pay or manage costly hiring and training requirements as they only need to be trained once! Hiring individuals is rather different. Recruitment, training, and trial periods are all expensive and do not ensure the company will have a great customer service agent at the end of it.
3. Better response time
When choosing to call a customer support team, receiving a prompt response and solution to an issue, or resolving a problem is always appreciated. AI Chatbots are expected to save over $10 billion in yearly costs for the retail, banking, and healthcare industries this year (2023), up from $6 billion in 2018.
4. Customer insights & personalisation
AI customer service solutions gather and analyse data on purchase history, providing businesses with useful insights to adapt their marketing strategies and enhance customer service. All of this information allows for a more personalised client experience. More than 50% of shoppers think that personalisation, favourably influences their purchasing choices.
What are the challenges associated with chatbots:
1. Installation can be costly
Businesses must integrate custom-built software into their current IT systems for AI chatbots to be successful. However, the cost of bespoke software creation may be prohibitively expensive. A recent Gartner 2021 CMO Survey, found that technology accounts for 26% of their expenditure to support client retention and development. Despite the high return, some tiny or micro companies may not have big enough budgets to install an AI system.
2. Lack of creativity
An artificial intelligence machine is only as creative as its programmer. As it learns, it does not become more creative. As a result, delegating duties requiring ingenuity to the programme is difficult.
3. Problems with accuracy
Programs, like people, can make mistakes, and how they are designed has a lot to do with it. This means that it is still necessary to double-check an AI’s output to ensure that no errors have occurred. Summary: Artificial or Human Intelligence in Customer Service Hopefully, this article has helped you assess the strengths, weaknesses, of each to determine which would bring your business the most significant financial benefits and rewards.
Is artificial intelligence the future of client service? AI development services increase productivity, reduce administrative costs, better processes, and procedures, and increase revenue – all of which are music to the ears of any company!
Live chat has become a revolution in customer service, with the capacity of a chatbot to manage a large number of enquiries inexpensively. Humans, on the other hand, continue to play an important role as customer service representatives because they will always provide the distinct personalised touch that consumers value.
Dan Hancocks, CEO of CoCredo Credit Reference Agency says: The business credit industry will face numerous exciting opportunities in 2023, allowing us to play a more prominent role in providing unique end-to-end solutions that will deliver better advice and insights to business leaders, assisting them in making critical decisions that improve their cash flow and efficiency. It also taps into worldwide consumer demand for a more streamlined data-consuming experience, accelerated by the COVID pandemic.
These emerging technologies will drive user experience initiatives and shape more comprehensive business strategies, providing a competitive advantage to the credit sector. However, there is a clear need to strike a balance between technology and an authentic and personalised customer care experience. As an industry, we must strike a delicate balance between automating systems and processes when possible and delivering in-person support when necessary – determining the difference is a major part of the challenge.
At CoCredo, Customer care is at the core of everything we do, with a client retention rate of 99%. So, if you want to speak to people who can provide the business credit report solutions you need that AI platforms cannot, please get in touch on 01494 790600.
One thing most commentators agree is that we are in for a difficult time in business in the coming year, and as you are reading this, you are most likely the person responsible for the credit function in your business and as such you are charged with protecting your business from the twin threats of late payment and non-payment, while maintaining a pro-business approach in a competitive and fast moving world. To make this happen, you now have to be more vigilant and proactive than ever.
New threats bring new challenges that require new methods. There are a number of pointers I would like to give you to help you along the way: Most credit professionals look at overdue accounts and accounts that are over the agreed line of credit allocated to each customer and make their decisions based on this.
Going forward you need to think in three dimensions – the past, the present and the future.
The past is what is described above, The present is any imminent order the customer is about to place with you and, The future is a picture of your estimated exposure, should the current trends persist. Failure to act in this way will result in a future of putting out fires and bouncing from one crisis to another.
Relying solely on financial information that is between one and two years old, is not the best way to manage the risk, particularly where your exposure is high. You must become more proactive. As a member of AICDP, block off time to network and to tap into the wealth of knowledge and experience within the Association. Seeking help, is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength!
Building a strong network of trusted professionals around you is important in business at any time, and even more important in difficult times. Current trends of either working from home or working in the office, staring into a screen most of the hours in the day, is not enough to proactively manage credit. You have to develop strong working relationships with the key people in your major customers, and this cannot be done effectively, sitting at a screen or firing off emails.
With so much of your life currently online, you need to strike a balance between electronic and personal communications, and while the phone and Zoom serve their purpose. In person is so much more effective and as you are planning the weeks and months ahead, build in time to spend with your key customers and with key people in other departments within your business.
It is only with an in-depth knowledge and understanding, that you can make the best decisions for your business, and this is always better in person.
AICDP Welcome Esker As Our New Strategic Partner
The Association of International Credit Directors and Professionals (AICDP) is proud to announce that Esker Northern Europe has joined AICDP as a Strategic Partner and we look forward to welcoming the Esker team to our membership.
Martyn Brooke, Credit Management Specialist at Esker, will also be joining the Executive Committee of AICDP and further information will be announced shortly.
The AICDP is celebrating its 10th Birthday in 2023 and can report that it’s now bigger, better, and healthier than ever before! The Association has emerged from the Covid years virtually unscathed and is looking forward to a bright future! Welcoming new Strategic Partners to join our expert partnership base is important in our anniversary year to ensure members continue to get the information and support they need to meet the challenges of credit head on. As our strapline says – shaping the future of international credit.
Esker is a global cloud platform and leader in AI-driven process automation solutions for finance and customer service functions. Esker’s Order-to-Cash suite enables businesses to seamlessly manage customer interactions through a single, centralised solution. The solution is designed to accelerate the cash collection cycle, eliminate repetitive tasks, improve accessibility and communication, and strengthen customer relationships.
Sam Townsend, Head of Marketing – Northern Europe at Esker said “‘We are delighted to be partnering with the AICDP and helping contribute to its ongoing success. We look forward to fostering close relationships with AICDP members, sharing experiences and insights into all aspects of the credit and cash collection cycle.”
Commenting on the partnership, Bill Dunlop – AICDP President added ”We may only be in the first few months of the year but already there is a real appetite from our members to get support, learning and training opportunities and networking with peers. The challenges faced in the order-to-cash cycle are high on our member’s priorities and we look forward to welcoming Esker to our membership. We know that their respective knowledge and expertise will be valuable for our members. Here’s to an exciting 2023!”
For further information please visit: www.aicdp.global
Esker is a global cloud platform built to unlock strategic value for finance and customer service professionals, and strengthen collaboration between companies by automating the cash conversion cycle. Esker’s solutions incorporate technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) to drive increased productivity, enhanced visibility, reduced fraud risk, and improved collaboration with customers, suppliers and internally. Founded in 1985, Esker operates in North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific with global headquarters in Lyon, France, and U.S. headquarters in Madison, Wisconsin. For more information on Esker and its solutions, visit https://www.esker.co.uk/. Follow Esker on LinkedIn, or on Twitter, and join the conversation on the Esker blog at blog.esker.co.uk.