Leading companies have understood their customers’ changing expectations and have invested in service capabilities to create simple pathways across channels. Most companies, and now government agencies, are racing to understand how they need to evolve—all while new innovative capabilities, many of which are driven by AI, are reaching the point of market-ready maturity.

Government customer service leaders agree that both the scale and complexity of the issues that they must address are increasing. In many cases, employees are responding to an endless series of recurring customer requests that often require repetitive tasks and diminish their ability to focus on more complex, higher-value customer needs.

The result: an environment that satisfies no one.

And while there is much work to be done in integrating longstanding channels, new interaction models keep taking shape. Digital interactions are becoming increasingly valued over traditional voice exchanges. There’s also growing recognition that people particularly prize transparency and personalization, with experiences tailored to their specific preferences and choices, and easy access to accurate information showing status and progress of service requests. What distinguishes service leaders—from Amazon in e-commerce to Chipotle in quick-service restaurants and Uber in transportation—is the level of visibility and control that they provide to their customers.

Verizon Communications collaborated successfully with Accenture to take advantage of AI-powered digital assistants to help Verizon customers resolve issues more quickly and easily. This successful partnership was recognized as the "AI and Automation Initiative of the Year" at the 2019 Global Telecoms Awards.1

Expanding use of self-service is critical to meeting these challenges, but with a caveat. Historically, self-service options available from government were often limited to the simplest use cases, and even then, results have been mixed. Furthermore, some have inconsistently implemented self-service across siloed services, making it difficult both to find and to navigate. A common example is poorly designed and legacy IVR systems, which can fuel customers’ frustration when trying to complete even basic requests.

Fortunately, a new generation of conversational AI tools—think chatbots, virtual assistants, and intelligent agents that use NLP to engage and serve users—are increasingly ready to perform many tasks once delegated to human agents. With a natural language interface, access to deep subject-matter knowledge, and lightning speed, they can often serve customers both better and faster, making them a preferred customer service channel for some requirements. And given their commercial pedigree, they are increasingly available today for a variety of roles at varying levels of sophistication.

Ninety-four percent of consumers are satisfied with standalone intelligent virtual assistants, with two-thirds using their smartphone less as a result.2

Despite the successes to date, a number of disappointing pilots have shown that conversational AI isn’t an off-the-shelf technology. Rather, significant thought and planning is required to embed the context needed to respond effectively to a wide variety of requests. Furthermore, conversational AI shouldn’t be viewed as a cure-all, as many requests are still best served by humans. As a starting point, Applied Customer Engagement+ works to segment these queries to the most effective channel and ensure a smooth handover from bot to live agent, where needed.

The long-term potential is to build “collective intelligence”—with customer service reps (CSRs) and automated systems working together seamlessly to deliver better service than they could achieve independently. In this context, conversational AI tools can be viewed as peers that extend the reach of the customer service workforce by performing similar tasks. However, they can also be used to enhance contact center performance. This might encompass conversational AI tools that assist agents by monitoring calls to prepopulate forms, provide real-time agent recommendations or alerts, complete tasks to finish transactions, or provide ongoing quality assurance and coaching.

In the face of rapidly changing expectations, shifting channels, and emerging models, the private and public sectors alike recognize that there must be a better way to engage with the people they serve.

1 Accenture and Verizon Win Global Telecoms Award for Intelligent Customer Engagement Solution

2 2018 Accenture Digital Consumer 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 – Accenture Federal Services, Digital Government

David Nation

Senior Manager – Customer Service Transformation, Accenture Federal Services

Chris Zinner

Managing Director – Accenture Federal Services, Digital & Customer Experience


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