Many chatbots today offer a conversational experience that’s less than enthralling. In my previous blog, I looked at the frustrations that many citizens experience when dealing with automated services. Chatbots frequently can’t provide the answer that people want and are unable to escalate an enquiry to a human agent that can help. But as technology, notably AI, continues to improve, organisations in the public sector have the opportunity to create next-generation chatbots that will be able to offer citizens much more rewarding interactions.

Today, only five percent of customer interactions with contact centres globally are powered by AI technologies, but Gartner estimates that by 2021 this will rise to nearly one in six. Fortunately, government agencies have access to a new generation of AI-enabled chatbots, capable of detecting caller intent and responding to the root causes of customer inquiries, considerably reducing call volumes.

One intent, thousands of versions

Customers can signal the same intent in many different ways. For example, a bank’s customers may have more than 2,500 ways of asking for an account balance. By capturing all of those, a customer’s enquiry can be routed to a virtual agent that can provide the right response. Understanding intents enables organisations to build a business case for each channel strategy. For example, it can determine which calls are suitable for automation by understanding what the caller wants and whether their needs can be served by a virtual agent or require the attention of a human agent.

As chatbots become more intelligent and learn from citizens’ queries, they’ll also be able to shift more callers to self-service options, which are less expensive for agencies and preferable for citizens. Additionally, the information collected and analysed by AI during these interactions will provide new insights to customer service agents and to the wider organisation.

Talking beyond the contact centre

And the applications for intelligent voice assistants reach far beyond the contact centre. Conversational AI is being used with great success in education. For example, one professor created a virtual teaching assistant to support students over the course of the semester. The twist? He didn’t tell his students. At the end of the semester, the satisfaction rating given to the virtual assistant were higher than those given to human TAs. Other examples include virtual assistants that help students  find out about their schedule, teachers and other information about life in campus. Of course, that doesn’t mean that human administrators become surplus to requirements. AI won’t replace people. It will, instead, augment their capabilities and enable them to focus on higher-value work.

Connecting technology, people and processes

To secure the benefits of AI, government agencies need to consider more than just the technological capabilities of the AI tool they want to deploy. They must ensure that technology enhancements go hand-in-hand with developing people and creating new organisational processes to support AI-powered citizen services. Only then will they be able to improve the overall citizen experience and reap the rewards of greater operational efficiency.

How are you progressing with your use of conversational AI? Get in touch if you’d like to discuss how we’re helping organisations to develop and implement  the next generation of chatbots.

Eyal Darmon

Managing Director – Strategy & Consulting, Public Service

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