The public is ready for government chatbots to deliver the high-value customer experience often found in the private sector, according to a survey. The benefits are significant, but developing new technologies will take work.
Today, in most countries, an array of digitally enabled government services are available for citizens to access online or over the phone. Many agencies have also started using virtual agents (or chatbots) to answer basic questions and information requests from citizens. However, too many agencies view virtual agents as simply a “plug-in” tool to increase efficiency and drive down costs, rather than as an instrument to increase citizen engagement and provide more efficient services. When deployed correctly, conversational artificial intelligence (AI) can achieve much more, such as personalizing government services, improving service delivery, increasing government workforce effectiveness and enhancing the relationship between citizens and government.
Recent Accenture research — based on a survey of over 6,000 citizens across 11 countries — found an opportunity now exists for governments to deliver “next-generation” citizen experiences by deploying their use of virtual agents. More than three-fourths (78 percent) of respondents to the survey said they see benefits to using virtual agents to receive services from government agencies and almost half (47 percent) said they would like to complete certain transactions using virtual agents. However, bridging the gap between the types of services citizens expect and what they receive requires a complete rethink of the government’s customer experience strategy and often far-reaching changes to an organization’s operating model.
Whether filing taxes, applying for social security or updating personal details, citizens need to contact public services. Virtual agents can facilitate most of these service delivery needs by offering a 24/7 on-demand channel not bound by the availability of human agents. Our study found that most citizens interacting with government want ease of access to their personal information (74 percent), a quick response time to their queries (73 percent) and increased visibility into the progression of their application through its administrative stages (64 percent). These needs are easily addressable by virtual agents capable of reducing waiting times, personalizing interactions and supporting human co-workers to deliver more efficient and personalized services:
Citizens still need to be convinced of the value of virtual agents, as many have not yet seen their benefits. Our research found that only one in seven respondents (16 percent) have used virtual agents in their interactions with government, and fewer than half said the agent was effective in meeting their needs (44 percent). Government agencies must take actions to improve citizen interaction with virtual agents if they are to unlock the operational benefits of AI chatbots. Offering next-generation citizen experience using virtual agents requires organizations to make far-reaching changes to their legacy operating models and data management infrastructure.
Thankfully, most government agencies are reviewing how they provide citizens with information, how they manage and analyze citizen data, and how they can personalize services to empower citizens. These steps will ultimately leverage virtual agents to transform government services for the better.
Eyal Darmon is managing director at Accenture Health & Public Service. Eyal helps government clients take advantage of the digital innovations transforming the delivery of citizen experiences, specifically the implementation and delivery of conversational AI technologies.