RESEARCH REPORT

In brief

In brief

  • Expanding self-service is critical to meeting citizen expectations for seamless, personalized, omnichannel experiences.
  • A new generation of conversational AI tools are increasingly ready to support better self-service—but only when implemented thoughtfully.
  • Agencies can use Applied Customer Engagement+ to enhance user experience at scale while improving speed and accuracy and lowering costs.


Customer expectations are rising dramatically. They increasingly want to interact and transact 24/7 via frictionless, connected experiences spanning every possible channel. They expect organizations to immediately recognize them (while also respecting their privacy), anticipate and be responsive to their unique needs, and engage them in more relevant and personalized ways.

This level of customer service inevitably raises the bar for all, as consumers have liquid expectations: Their best experiences become their benchmark for every encounter. In other words, the standards set by customer service leaders—whether Amazon or Uber—quickly become the norm across all industries.

This presents both challenges and opportunities for federal customer service leaders. According to Accenture research, 85 percent of the American public already expects government to deliver digital services equal to or better than their commercial counterparts. And while government faces unique constraints in serving the public, it also has the ability to change the game by capitalizing on commercial innovation and emerging technologies.

Artificial intelligence (AI) solutions for customer service are maturing rapidly as potential gamechangers for federal agencies. Powered by machine learning with underlying natural language processing (NLP) and intelligent automation capabilities, these solutions have the potential to support the full life cycle of requirements—from engaging citizens and answering questions to processing requests and optimizing decisions.

Combining and integrating these capabilities as a platform to serve customers and citizens enables what Accenture calls Applied Customer Engagement+. This approach can achieve the rare feat of not just scaling operations through automation for greater efficiency and potential cost savings, but also delivering a more convenient, intuitive, and desirable user experience.

Eighty-five percent of the American public already expects government to deliver digital services equal to or better than their commercial counterparts.1

For many high-touch commercial services—such as banking, hospitality, telecommunications, and insurance—Applied Customer Engagement+ is serving as the cornerstone of their service strategy. These forward-leaning organizations are using innovative offerings and seamlessly enabling and integrating channels that offer both high personalization and cost-effectiveness. In doing so, they can deliver a highly differentiated, individualized user experience, at scale, for every customer engagement. Commercial leaders applying Applied Customer Engagement+ have experienced a 30-percent reduction in operating costs and a 2-3x improvement in customer satisfaction alongside reduced customer churn.

Of course, most federal organizations are not vying for market share. Their issues are often more complex, and their audiences more diverse—frequently encompassing the entire American public. In this context, Applied Customer Engagement+ can help federal agencies address unique and particularly complicated needs, including meeting the needs of underserved populations more consistently and effectively—leading to better outcomes that are at the core of the mission.

This report makes the case for Applied Customer Engagement+ and explores how federal organizations can use it to deliver services at scale with improved speed and accuracy while also decreasing costs and enhancing the user experience for both citizens and the federal workforce. It also identifies ways to start—and progress—on the journey to reinventing customer service and experience with AI.

1 Accenture Digital Citizen Experience Survey

About the Authors

Jonathan Alcabes

Managing Director, Lead – AI Enhanced Interactions, Accenture Federal Services


Jen Baird

Manager – Customer Strategy, Accenture Federal Services


Kathy Conrad

Director – Digital Government, Accenture Federal Services​


David Nation

Senior Manager – Customer Service Transformation, Accenture Federal Services


Chris Zinner

Managing Director, Lead – Digital & Customer Experience, Accenture Federal Services

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