IA solutions can help agencies manage short-term COVID-19 response and build capacity for the future, ensuring vital government services are provided to taxpayers.
The COVID-19 outbreak has forced federal, state and local government offices to close and people to work remotely -- and in some cases to be redeployed to handle emergency operations. Agencies are scrambling to keep government running as the citizens they serve face unprecedented fear, uncertainty and doubt.
Closed or thinly staffed government offices means a heavy reliance on self-service government. More than ever before, citizens are receiving essential services through call centers, websites and digital apps. However, the huge surge in these interactions is overwhelming aging systems and infrastructure. We’ve all seen stories lately about laid-off workers unable to file unemployment claims despite calling their state employment agency dozens of times at all hours of the day and night.
While no one welcomes a crisis, times like these do force agencies to rethink their operations and re-examine long-held assumptions. For example, many organizations are discovering that remote working can actually work, and this has implications for the way they’ll operate in the future. In addition, continuity of operations planning is forcing agency leaders to make clear choices about which activities are truly essential and which are not.
Clearly, actions taken today during the crisis can pay off during normal times -- and can also help agencies be better prepared for the next pandemic, hurricane or black swan event.
Intelligent automation (IA) is one important element of an agency’s crisis response strategy and recovery that deserves immediate attention. Agencies can take action today to create or augment capacity in their current operations to deliver higher quality information and services at a greater speed -- something taxpayers will appreciate in the face of a crisis.
We recommend that agency leaders think strategically about IA during the current crisis and beyond. Applying IA now to solve for the immediate needs will provide longer-term benefits from increased citizen engagement and higher satisfaction. Here are our recommendations:
Enable a remote workforce and service delivery model. Remote work can’t be effective without the supporting infrastructure, systems and processes. With the proper infrastructure in place, agencies can make up for redeployed workers by using robotic process automation to handle a range of simple workflow tasks such as reviewing applications, validating information, data retrieval, etc.
Automate citizen self-service capabilities. Agencies can quickly stand-up virtual agents or chatbots to automate the handling of incoming COVID-19 specific requests to redirect calls away from overburdened call centers into a self-help scenario. For example, chatbots can handle FAQs, check status of claims, triage requests and expedite applications for services.
Deploy an intelligent interactions approach. Agencies can harness the power of data and analytics to more effectively address individual needs and improve contact resolution rates. Capturing data (actions, sentiment, intent) in a citizen interaction model can produce powerful insights that can deepen relationships between government and residents and deliver a better experience. This approach can help agencies determine which critical needs should be handled by staff and which less-critical contacts can be addressed through automation.
Ramp up cybersecurity and governance. These practices are more important than ever and should be an integral part of any IA planning and implementation. Keeping cyber threats at bay should not be relegated to a bolt-on solution after automation is deployed. Despite the need for speed, establishing a governance model can help ensure bots are properly configured and updated as needs change.
IA can help agencies become more efficient during normal times. In a crisis, these solutions can be deployed rapidly to ease burden on workers and help ensure vital government services are provided to taxpayers. No one knows when normalcy will return, but government leaders can act now to employ IA to address short-term needs while planning for how IA can transform their operations far into the future.
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