If you visit the Australian Taxation Office website today, virtual assistant Alex will help with your general taxation enquiries. You’ll also be able to use a chatbot soon on the Singapore government website to help you access the services you need, as part of the country’s Smart Nation initiative.
Conversational AI platforms – chatbots, virtual assistants and messaging-based applications – are opening new government service delivery channels. These platforms consist of multiple related artificial intelligence (AI) technologies that support an interactive and intuitive style of communication.
Dean Lacheca, research director at Gartner, says government CIOs need to quickly determine the role of these channels and extend their digital government platform to exploit them.
By 2020, 25% of customer service and support operations will integrate virtual customer assistant technology across engagement channels.
“Citizens have a growing expectation of being able to access government services via conversational applications,” says Lacheca. “However, most government services, particularly those that involve care or case management, will require human involvement for the foreseeable future.”
Gartner believes that by 2020, 25% of customer service and support operations will integrate virtual customer assistant technology across engagement channels.
Why conversational AI?
Conversational applications have many uses and benefits in the public sector. They can increase customer satisfaction by reducing the need to navigate a complex website or transactional portal. At the same time, they reduce the wait time and resources needed to respond to basic inquiries.
Service provider and government-to-government interactions can also be delivered through conversational applications. Large departments and agencies can use virtual employee assistants to offer more consistent and efficient internal services such as IT help desk, legal, HR and financial services.
Where to start
1. Educate IT and customer experience leaders
Conversational applications suffer from negative perceptions based on older technologies and poor implementations. Customer experience leaders need to have confidence in the service delivered by the conversational applications.
Educate these leaders on the potential for conversational applications and establish vendor showcases or workshops to offer firsthand experience. Then implement an internal pilot of a virtual employee assistant to develop technical skills and create an example to help guide decisions and future strategy.
2. Identify and prioritize opportunities
Implementing a conversational application is a significant investment and should only be considered for services that are used frequently.
Start by preparing a list of conversational application opportunities based on potential uses and the services delivered by your agency. Work in partnership with your customer experience leaders to refine and prioritize this list based on the complexity of the responses, the demand for the services and the demographics of the target audience, including language background.
3. Revise your digital government strategy
Citizens already engage with government across different channels, and their expectation is to receive the same quality of service across all channels. Unfortunately, many agencies struggle to see service delivery channels beyond traditional digital channels like websites and portals.
“A digital government strategy should make multichannel citizen engagement a foundation of service delivery,” Lacheca says. “This now needs to include conversational applications. CIOs should develop a business case to secure funding for further AI research and projects.”