The curse of the Tin Man – why technology will forever be in search of a heart

It has long been prophesised that one day robots will render human labour obsolete. However, rather than plunging society into the unknown of universal unemployment, artificial intelligence has the potential to revolutionise business while working alongside humans.

This is because technology lacks one vital possession that means it can never replace humans entirely: a heart. A curse made famous by the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz – robots will forever lack the qualities of emotion, compassion and empathy. And, like the Tin Man, regardless of how far technology searches or how hard it tries, possessing truly human behaviour is unachievable. In fact, not even a wizard can help.

In regards to credit management, this couldn’t ring more true. Automation has fundamentally revolutionised the sector and there are many processes that simply shouldn’t be taken on by an employee. Heavy lifting tasks including measurements, metrics and complex calculations such as invoice ageing can now all be executed by an algorithm. Where an employee would take half a day to analyse one set of data, a computer can filter it in minutes.

However, many elements of credit management rely on a social bond and a heart is what makes it an efficient and effective process. Without it, a business runs the very real risk of failing. So exactly what aspects of credit management can automation and its heart of velvet and sawdust struggle to improve?

Building and maintaining relationships

Let’s start with customer relationships. Both building new relationships and maintaining old (and often very valuable) ones is crucial. But machines lack an understanding of the intricacies of social interaction. Therefore, a human on the end of the phone or on the other side of an email is vital. They can pick up on subtle hints, understand problems and react to them in an efficient and considered manner. The moment an automated client management system makes a customer feel like a debtor; your business will begin to suffer.

Take the supermarket industry as an example. It is currently torn between human and self-service check-outs and while the supermarkets are pushing for full automation, customers are pushing back. In fact, Morrison’s last year decided to pull the plug on robotics by replacing 1000 self-service machines with staff members. Two-thirds of consumers felt ‘scared’ by the machines and yearned for friendly, human interaction rather than the bark of an automated till. There is a fine balance, and no supermarket has made the plunge to full automation in fear of consumer outrage.

Human insight

Alongside building and maintaining relationships, the insights that a credit management expert can obtain are extremely valuable to the business. Personalised relationships with customers can be formed when an employee can have a conversation. They understand the pressures a client faces, their preferences, and how to collect payments without isolating them as a consumer. Big companies already wait on average 47 days for payments, and poor relationships will only exacerbate this.
These insights can then be reapplied into the company’s processes, enhancing the quality of service, improving the customer experience and ultimately moving the business forward. Without this information, relationships are doomed to stagnate and with a fully automated team, these small gestures and behaviours wouldn’t exist. A machine can’t personalise responses to personalities or invite a particularly stressed client to the office. Credit management is built on relationships and so a company risks its future without them.

The future of the business

The value of these insights is not just isolated to customer relationships. While machines are unrivalled at the brunt work, it still takes an experienced employee to strategise and solve problems that need a big picture view. This is because you can only get quantitative analysis from automation, but qualitative from people.

Therefore, with a human at the frontline of the business, an organisation can respond to both outward-facing and internal change as they happen, building resilience and refining the company’s external and internal strategy in the process. If this is removed then senior management are disconnected from the heart of the business – and the company will suffer in the long term.

Think of technology as a Formula One car. It’s extremely fast, effective and impressive, but without a Lewis Hamilton at the wheel it is doomed to crash. Facebook learnt this the hard way when it replaced its entire news editing team with an algorithm. It was a disaster and after a number of fake and highly offensive news stories filtered through, the need for human overview became clear. As a social media giant, Facebook survived this lesson, but such a mistake could have easily destroyed other businesses.

While technology will define the future, too much automation can be fatal for a business. In the UK alone there is currently £40bn owed to companies, and businesses can’t afford to alienate their customers in regards to credit management. 82 percent of business failures are down to cash flow and late payments have the potential to cripple an organisation. Therefore, striking a balance between the right techniques and the best professionals is needed to ensure prompt and regular payments.

Ultimately, with credit management, the most effective formula is one where robots provide the brawn – allowing humans to provide the heart.


Contact or more information?

Do you want to know more about how OnGuard credit management software can help you? Please contact OnGuard via +31 (0)294 256666 or Follow @OnGuardHQ on Twitter to stay up to date.

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