Improving taxpayer experience: Revenue’s voicebot
Meeting customer needs for an on-demand service with conversational AI technology
Tax. Known for complexity over customer service, it’s not the first place you look for innovation inspiration. Unless you’re The Office of the Revenue Commissioners in Ireland (Revenue). In a world first, Revenue saw the opportunity to better meet customer needs using new technology—delivering game-changing outcomes.
With telephone the most common channel for contact, Revenue receives more than three million calls a year. They’re not all complex enquires, but they all require, time, attention and friendly assistance.
For John Barron, CIO at Revenue, this customer service demand represented the perfect chance to take advantage of artificial intelligence (AI) automated services, as well as cutting-edge natural language processing. Revenue took a subset of calls related to tax clearance, to pilot a fresh way of managing customer calls.
The aim of this pilot was to prove the technology and offer a 24/7 automated service, providing the most efficient, effective experience for customers.
With the majority of taxpayers looking for more flexible interaction with their tax agency, and most being familiar with AI, a virtual agent is a suitable tool for Revenue agencies to meet customer demands.
Of taxpayers want to interact with their tax authority when and how they choose.
Of taxpayers use phone calls as their primary source of contact with their tax agency.
Of taxpayers know what artificial intelligence is.
From the beginning of Accenture’s voicebot partnership with Revenue, it was crucial that the customer stayed at the centre of this innovative approach to services. Revenue wanted an AI-powered, conversational virtual agent that could actually take a call, understand the caller and answer the questions to the customer’s satisfaction—talking the way the customer does.
As part of the development process, Accenture’s Liquid Studio London provided expertise on both AI and Voice Experience Design—which enabled the project to run smoothly and quickly. The team used the Accenture Conversational AI platform as an accelerator to reduce the time to market to only a few months, and improve the flexibility around incorporating new innovations in the future.
The solution ended up comprising over 200 unique dialogue steps, addressing 18 possible use cases and the capability to recognise 21 intents. It drew together speech detection, text-to-speech and natural language processing technology.
And at every stage, our North Star was the needs of the customer, and how those could best be accommodated.
"Despite what people think, having something answering the phone is not that common—most of the AI work is with chatbots where people type in something. We're taking actual calls."
– JOHN BARRON, CIO – The Office of the Revenue Commissioners, ROI
The voicebot was built on Accenture’s technology-agnostic Conversational AI platform, an accelerator for rapidly building virtual agents.
The voicebot was integrated into Revenue’s telephony stack and backend transactional system, enabling instant availability and updating of customer cases.
Within the first six weeks the voicebot had already handled over 2,000 calls, but more importantly, it was popular with customers.
The bottom line: This world first answered Revenue’s needs and is delivering improved customer service, reduced costs and increased efficiency.
As citizens demand more from public agencies, including intuitive and responsive "living" services that fit seamlessly into their lives, organisations will need to drive digital transformation forward. This project is a prime example of how future systems can be designed to adapt to humans rather than expecting humans to adapt to technology.
Revenue has not only achieved its vision, delivering a one-of-its-kind capability in the public service space, it’s now in the position to innovate across the organisation. By embracing adaptable, dynamic and above all human-centred technology, Revenue is ensuring it is ready to serve the ever-changing needs of its customers, now and in the future.
Revenue demonstrated that voicebot technology can offer a 24/7 automated service, providing an efficient, effective experience for customers.
Of calls are being handled from start to finish by the virtual agent.
Of first-time applicants engaged with the voicebot when submitting their application.
First virtual agent being used by a Revenue agency anywhere in the world.