Irish start-up Webio, a leader in Conversational AI in the credit, collections and payments industry, has today announced a series A funding round led by Finch Capital.
Webio is primed to scale-up following the digital shift during the pandemic and the uncertain economic climate to make difficult conversations about payments easy through their Conversation AI.
Webio’s technology has enabled leading UK and European companies to communicate conversationally with customers throughout their credit and collections journey. Customers can ask questions, change payment dates, or organise a new repayment schedule, all tailored to their circumstances, all done through Conversational AI and automation. Customers experience the assurance that they have been engaged with, listened to, and interacted with fairly and appropriately and in turn, are more likely to be able to keep to their repayment schedules.
The jewel in the crown is Webio’s ability to ‘move the needle’ in predicting conversation outcomes by analysing what is said and how it is said. Identifying characteristics such as a person’s potential vulnerability early and accurately, and then guiding that customer conversations through a range of best next steps dynamically is an example of a critical capability in this market. Webio clients can manage their collections conversations on a level like never before. They can know faster, act sooner, and do so with confidence.
“Conversations about money are stressful and difficult, not only for the customer but also for agents tasked with having these conversations. Going digital means companies can create a whole new set of digital experiences that help customers feel more confident in having those difficult conversations and ultimately, stop them from falling into unnecessary and significant financial difficulty. And we are excited that Webio’s conversational AI is enabling companies to engage with customers in a more empathetic manner, at scale”, says Cormac O’Neill, Co-Founder and CEO at Webio.
“We are growing at more than 100% year on year, and we are targeted to double our headcount with this investment in the next 6 months. I am confident that Webio will maintain its rate of growth and may look to raise additional capital to enter new markets.
There are very exciting times ahead for us. We are certainly in the right market and at the right time. All I can say is watch this space” added Cormac O’Neill.
Historically, the credit and collections functions have not received much technology attention, but now digital transformation is a necessity. During the pandemic, companies had to sell services online and provide customer service entirely digitally. Taking a call at the kitchen table was not practical where sensitive financial conversations were involved, so companies moved to digital messaging over WhatsApp, SMS, and Webchat.
A recent Deloitte study states that 60% of organisations reported progress on connecting service channels during this time, with 11% reporting that they can transition customers across channels and experiences seamlessly. The number of financial services organisations implementing conversational AI and digital assistants doubled over the pandemic and the privacy-first custom assistant model provided by Webio is finding resonance in the collection’s world.
As customers move their spending online there has been a corresponding growth in the consumer appetite for alternative payment options such as open banking facilitated payments, digital wallets such as Apple Pay, and buy now pay later (BNPL) offers. The BNPL market is worth $23bn today and is projected to grow to $91bn by 2028. Even the mighty Apple has announced the availability of Apple Pay Later, so most analysts expect even further growth in this sector. However, BNPL Companies such as Klarna and Afterpay, with other alternative consumer finance companies, are now coming under pressure from customer past due payment behaviours, and this is leading to increased levels of bad debt.
The economic environment continues to undergo a seismic shift. Inflation is running between 8 to 10% and significant interest rate rises are predicted by the end of the year. ONS Data finds that almost half of adults find difficulty in paying for electricity and gas, and by October 2022 over 1.5 million UK households will struggle to pay food and energy bills. Paying every creditor on time, and in full, will stretch many to breaking point. All companies will experience more late payments, bad debt, and resultant pressure on cash flows. Companies are now seeing that they need a plan to service these customers with care and empathy, not only because this is mandated, but if treated well, these customers will continue to buy from the brand in the longer term.
Webio will use the new funds to deepen their capabilities in conversational AI and additional digital offerings. They plan to triple the company’s R&D team, expand the sales and marketing teams, and expand its customer success teams to address the market demand in the UK and European markets.
“Webio is reimagining the way customer credit conversations take place in the collections industry. This sector is ripe for disruption, its approach to its customers is outdated and it’s an extremely large market which is set for significant growth. Webio has established itself as an award-winning provider with triple digit growth in this market and is well positioned to help the sector overcome key challenges around digital transformation and the adoption of AI. Finch Capital is delighted to continue to support this experienced team with its ambitious plans for rapid growth and expansion”, says Mike Brennan of Finch Capital.