Automation vs a live agent—Which do you prefer?

The financial services industry is continuously evolving, and it is essential to optimize collections strategies to maintain liquidity and minimize risk. One of the most critical choices for credit unions is whether to use automation or live agents for their collections processes. Both approaches have distinct advantages and considerations. This article will explore key points to consider when making this crucial decision.

Leveraging the strengths of both worlds

When discussing the integration of automation and live agents within collections teams, it is crucial to approach the conversation with a balanced perspective that acknowledges both the benefits and challenges of each approach. First, automation can significantly enhance efficiency by streamlining routine tasks such as data entry, payment reminders, and account updates.

By outlining the goals, you can begin a conversation focusing on leveraging the strengths of automation and live agents to create a synergistic approach that maximizes efficiency while prioritizing customer satisfaction and engagement.

Automation vs. live agent

Credit unions must constantly explore new and innovative ways to stay ahead of the competition. To achieve this, having a fresh perspective and considering automated or live agent models can be crucial when driving growth and navigating change.

Collections departments that rely on automated collections models aim to increase efficiency and save costs. They want to ensure the model can handle a large volume of accounts with minimal human intervention. It is essential to have data that shows the model can execute predefined workflows quickly. These workflows may include sending payment reminders, generating automated calls, or initiating email communications. When the model can efficiently handle accounts without significantly increasing operational costs, it becomes more scalable and cost-effective.

Live agents may not be as fast as automation, but they offer a valuable service by providing personalized assistance tailored to each client’s needs. They can have meaningful conversations, negotiate payment plans, and address complex inquiries. However, scalability can be challenging as hiring and training more staff to handle increasing collections volumes is required.

Member experience

Credit unions often face a dilemma about offering digital banking services or sticking to traditional banking methods. They fear that offering one option might impact their relationship with members, but they do not want to miss out on providing convenience to members who prefer digital banking.

Automated collections processes offer the benefit of consistent and round-the-clock availability. However, the absence of human interaction can result in impersonal experiences, which may be frustrating for members dealing with sensitive financial matters. On the other hand, when dealing with live agents, some members believe they can expect empathy, understanding, and the ability to address unique member situations. Nonetheless, waiting in a queue to speak to the next representative instead of being able to handle the matter on their own can cause some frustration.


Automated collections models are a cost-effective solution that may save you money in the long run by reducing the need for manual intervention and simplifying workflows. Once set up, automation requires minimal ongoing maintenance and can efficiently handle routine tasks without incurring additional labor costs.

However, live agents provide personalized assistance to members but sometimes need a larger budget. This is because various operational costs, such as salaries, benefits, and training, are associated with employing them to meet growing collections volumes.

Before investing in either side, credit unions must align the benefits of either option with their goals to determine if it is worthwhile.

Balanced approach

Choosing between automation and live agent models for collections in the member credit industry requires careful consideration of efficiency, member experience, compliance, and cost-effectiveness. While each side offers pros and cons for your financial institution to take it to the next level, finding a balance may be the best solution. Combining automation with live agents, collections teams can provide a personalized and comprehensive approach to debt recovery, ultimately enhancing the collection’s effectiveness while meeting the diverse needs of members and regulatory requirements.


Preferred CollectTM is SWBC’s comprehensive managed service for outsourced collections. SWBC’s solution enables credit unions to use a self-service portal for an automated strategy, a live-agent strategy, or a blended solution that leverages the best of both worlds: a digital-first approach and the use of compliance-trained live agents. The Preferred CollectTM automated and blended solutions, integrated with FICO’s omnichannel communication software, allow for easy and convenient resolutions of past-due loan payments and the deployment of best practices communication strategies. To learn more about Preferred CollectTM and schedule a presentation, visit our website at


Contact SWBC

Contact SWBC

Jeff Mortenson

Jeff Mortenson

Jeff Mortensen is a Senior Vice President of Product for SWBC. He is responsible for driving the vision, strategy, and execution for SWBC’s Financial Institution Group Collections and Contact ... Web: Details