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Can Chatbots Transform the Unemployment Claim Experience?

A glimpse into the future of claims handling as Wisconsin works to apply generative AI to a UI chatbot to provide customers with a more responsive experience. Meanwhile, Nevada plans to use a chatbot to help understand equity challenges and increase application accuracy.

Closeup of a person tapping two chat bubble icons.
The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development is currently in the development stage of a new feature for its evolving unemployment insurance chatbot — equipping it with generative AI.

Mattie Moo, a chatbot created with the image of a black and white spotted cow, first launched on the Job Center of Wisconsin in 2021 after being developed under a partnership with Google. At the time, the DWD announced plans to make Mattie Moo smarter through machine learning from previous interactions with customers and DWD staff.

In March of 2022, Mattie Moo was expanded to DWD’s unemployment insurance webpages, providing informational support answers to frequently asked questions such as how to receive benefit payments, cancel claims or check the status of a claim in English, Spanish and Hmong.

The number of calls the UI Benefit Help Center has received to assist claimants with questions not answered in the portal has decreased in the last few years, but it's not clear if the reduction is directly related to the chatbot. According to the latest data from the Wisconsin Unemployment Insurance Dashboard, the center was presented with a total of 13,569 calls in the first week of 2024, compared to 15,163 in 2023 and 21,799 in 2022.

DWD Secretary and Wisconsin’s Task Force on Workforce and AI Chair Amy Pechacek announced in a recent video update about UI modernization efforts that there were “plans in the months ahead to make Mattie Moo even smarter.”

“This is perhaps the most exciting development in the evolution of Mattie Moo,” wrote Mike Mosher, deputy communications director, in an email. “DWD is looking to apply generative AI using information currently available at DWD to provide customers with more responsive accounts beyond the FAQ format Mattie Moo uses today.”

According to DWD, in 2023 Mattie Moo responded to more than 39,000 chat inquiries in 2023. She was able to respond with information to 80 percent of the questions asked; the other 20 percent of the time she asked for a different question or suggested the person contact UI staff for assistance.

The expansion of Mattie Moo to include generative AI capabilities is part of DWD’s modernization efforts to enhance the user experience.

Meanwhile, Nevada unveiled a chatbot in July of 2023 on the state’s Unemployment Insurance page.

The tool was created to help answer questions, simplify complex language and help users understand unemployment programs. It offers Spanish language support and offers to answer general unemployment-related questions to website users, including prompts for “how to file a claim,” “qualifying for unemployment,” and “how to recover a username, password or PIN.”

“The chatbot will allow more people to receive their benefits in a timely manner and reduce the number of calls at our call centers,” said Employment Security Division Deputy Administrator Nancy St. Clair in a press release. “While it will not look up specific claim information, it will make the experience much easier for those looking for help.”

The Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation also predicts that the chatbot will increase application accuracy, as well as become an outlet to monitor questions received to help the division understand the equity challenges that need to be addressed through customer feedback.
Nikki Davidson is a data reporter for Government Technology. She’s covered government and technology news as a video, newspaper, magazine and digital journalist for media outlets across the country. She’s based in Monterey, Calif.