Jenifer BondOctober 26, 2020

Can Chatbots Really Deliver a Better Citizen Experience?

Each year in the United States, the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) surveys 50 state CIOs to capture a consensus on the top 10 policy and technology priorities. The association’s 2020 survey of state IT leadership shows that digital government services moved up to second place, confirming that improving the citizen experience is very important.

The survey also shows that 65 percent of state CIOs believe that artificial intelligence (AI) is the emerging technology area that will have the biggest impact on citizen experience in the next three to five years. This includes using machine learning (ML), robotic process automation (RPA), and chatbots to advance digital government. As state IT leaders look to the future of digital transformation, chatbots offer the perfect opportunity to dip their toe into the waters of AI.

To be more specific, chatbots are a great way to offload some of the basic tasks that call center agents handle. By automating information delivery in a conversational manner, citizens get the information and services needed and call center employees can concentrate on more complex questions that require greater effort.

Exceeding Citizen Expectations with AI and Chatbots

Citizens expect to receive the same customer experience from government agencies as they do in their daily digital experiences with the private sector. They expect seamless, user-friendly, and personal experiences across different devices, platforms, and channels. They don’t want long wait times or to engage with complicated interactive voice or numeric-based response (IVR) systems, websites, mobile apps or chatbots that don’t understand their needs.

When government contact center response systems can’t determine intent, citizens often get sent in circles, ending in frustration. In contrast, AI-enabled chatbots can become more intelligent and learn from each question that citizens ask, shifting them to self-service options that quickly provide the answer needed or routing their question to a live agent with specific experience. Due to the detailed data collected during these interactions, agencies can gain valuable insights that lead to refining the process to provide better results and ultimately, a better citizen experience.

The Case for AI-enabled Chatbots

COVID-19 has undoubtedly changed how state and local governments now serve citizens. In NASCIO’s report, The Agile State CIO: Leading in a time of uncertainty, 76% of state CIOs confirmed that chatbots or virtual agents were first introduced in their states in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The goal was to alleviate the overwhelming number of calls being received at government call centers – particularly at state unemployment and public health agencies – and to respond to online citizen requests more efficiently. A NASCIO whitepaper, Chat with Us: How States are Using Chatbots to Respond to the Demands of COVID-19, provides examples of how states are using chatbots to respond to millions of citizen requests, making the case for using chatbots within state and local agencies to enhance citizen involvement and improve service.

There are many applications for chatbots within state government, enabling a computer powered by AI to directly answer citizen inquiries. They can be used to increase citizen participation in government through surveys that gather direct citizen feedback or by providing information about voter registration. They can also be used to expedite the filing and payment of taxes; remind patients of their appointment with a public health agency; reduce wait times and congestion at DMV offices by assisting with drivers’ license renewals or license plates; and provide contact tracing notifications, to name a few.

When the state of Arizona went through a recent upgrade for an internal human resources system, they used a chatbot to assist with the employee password resetting process. Within the first few months of implementing the technology, roughly 45,000 automated password resets were accomplished. If this process had been handled by live agents, it would have taken about five minutes per person or up to 250,000 minutes of employee time to complete. Instead, chatbots enabled call center employees to be redirected to other tasks that require more expertise than completing a password reset. This is a perfect example of how chatbots can save time, resources, and money.  

Chatbots have been extremely helpful to state unemployment agencies. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the Arizona Department of Economic Security used chatbots to handle an increase in inquiries –from 15,000 to over 2 million in a matter of days – to get applicants to the right queue, call center, and agent. Similarly, the Texas Workforce Commission developed a chatbot that covered the top 10 questions that citizens ask. After several months of processing inquiries, the agency expanded their repertoire to more than 100 questions, helping more than two million citizens to obtain unemployment benefits.

To further enhance service to the citizen, the Texas unemployment agency also developed a form within their chatbot that allows citizens to request a call back, preventing frustration from long wait times. Another chatbot form allows citizens to notify the commission if they think they are victims of identity theft.

To learn more about how IT leaders in Arizona, Massachusetts, Texas and West Virginia are using chatbots to provide a better customer experience, watch this session, Innovation and the Future of Technology: Artificial Intelligence and Bots, from the 2020 NASCIO Annual Conference, held October 12 – 15.

Integrating AI into Contact Center Communications

Avaya is pioneering the integration of AI capabilities in contact center communications solutions. By partnering with Google Cloud Contact Center AI, the two companies are accelerating better service to the citizen and enabling a more efficient government workforce. By embedding Google’s ML within Avaya conversation services that power the contact center, AI capabilities are easily integrated regardless of channel to provide citizens with more personalized, intelligent, and insightful interactions in these key areas:

  • Effortless Self-Service: With the power of AI, you can deliver great self-service experiences that provide citizens with the right information at the right time.
  • Agent Assistance and Productivity: Empower agents with AI-driven guidance, that includes relevant content, suggested next-actions, and real-time coaching to stay ahead of the citizen engagement.
  • Smart Matching: Leverage advanced machine learning models to pair the best agent with each citizen interaction.
  • Smart Interactions: With powerful AI technologies, you can create smart, conversational citizen interactions that yield improved business results.
  • Empowered Agents: Agents are empowered by AI-driven guidance for content and suggested actions. Summarization tools help agents expedite after-call processes.
  • Simplified Operations: Reduce complexity for citizens and agents alike by using AI models to select a self-service experience, automate a process, or pair with the best possible agent.

Together, Avaya and Google Cloud are delivering true omnichannel experiences with AI. By providing citizens with increased flexibility, efficiency, and scalability in deploying powerful and simple communication and collaboration solutions, they are truly improving the citizen journey.

Learn more about how we can change your customer experience with Avaya Conversational Intelligence. 

Can Chatbots Really Deliver a Better Citizen Experience?

Jenifer Bond

Jenifer is the Area Sales Leader, US SLED (State, local and education government agencies) at Avaya. She is an accomplished, high energy sales leader with over 20 years of proven success. Jenifer has been consistently recognized for exceeding sales goals with a customer centric approach. She has a passion for building high performance sales teams.   

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