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INDUSTRY INSIGHT

3 ways intelligent virtual assistants will drive citizen services delivery

The COVID-19 pandemic changed -- and the recovery will further change -- just about every facet of American life. Customer service and how people interact with companies and government agencies is merely another example.

For many, the most apparent impact of customer service issues came from how long it took to handle their requests. A Washington Post story from early in the pandemic reported that “people hoping to defer mortgage or credit card payments, collect unemployment, cancel airline flights or locate missing shopping orders are all running into unprecedented waits for customer service by phone."

Based upon that experience, it is no surprise that one of the key facets of the American Rescue Plan is to ensure funding for modernizing technology across the federal government, a key priority for the Biden-Harris administration.

The art of the possible

It’s said that necessity is the mother of invention, and the pandemic proved that point as government contractors and agencies alike created new best practices that are likely to endure well beyond the end of the global pandemic.

These include remote federal technology responsiveness, effective and secure citizen services at a distance, and greater access to accurate information without physical presence. Technology modernization is essential to the agenda of the Biden-Harris administration, especially with agencies needing to meet the high demands for citizen services.

Today, most citizen service needs fall into these five categories: answering questions, filling out and searching for documents, routing requests, translations and drafting documents. Whether it's filing taxes, renewing a driver's license or receiving health and human services support, intelligent virtual assistants can facilitate most of these service delivery needs. Most citizens want to interact with government easily and on their time, and IVAs provide 24/7 service without requiring a fully staffed contact center, giving citizens the information they need anytime, anywhere.

In many government agencies, IVAs that integrate their technologies with conversational artificial intelligence to personalize the citizen experiences (CX) achieve much more. Conversational AI improves service delivery, increases government workforce effectiveness and enhances the relationship between citizens and government.

Here are three benefits to IVAs:

1. Personalized CX that drives operational efficiencies. Citizens are ready for government to deliver the superior customer service often found in commercial companies. IVAs can boost the overall quality of any citizen’s interaction with a government agency, as well as deliver operational outcomes like increased efficiency and reduced costs. When deployed correctly, IVAs connect people, technology and processes, overcoming the limitations of less sophisticated technologies, like the dreaded "phone tree" experience.

IVAs, powered by conversational AI, aren't just getting citizens the essential information they need; behind the scenes, they're also feeding human agents and analysis applications to deliver better and faster outcomes while providing personalized and positive CX. 

2. Reduced wait times. When citizens have a question, they could be relegated to long hold times via phone. IVAs can drastically improve citizens access to real-time answers and could even be used to formulate and fill out documents, especially for routine tasks. By deploying IVAs powered by conversational AI, government can deliver citizen services that automate everyday transactions.

3. Support for live agents to deliver more efficient services. Some federal agencies handle over 1 million calls every month from citizens. IVAs are expected to handle 20% of all citizen service requests by 2022. When citizens speak with a live agent these days, IVA tools are bringing agency representatives up to speed before they get on the line. Live agents that are complemented with an IVA already know who’s on the line, what they need, and, in most cases, how to get it.

IVAs have the potential to have a significant impact on the way citizens experience and interact with government. While an IVA may not be a solution to all citizen service delivery problems, it is one powerful tool to increase CX outcomes and contact center efficiency. Implementing IVAs in citizen services may also help agencies leverage other emerging digital tools.

With increased use of IVAs and enhanced legacy systems, agencies can bring citizen services delivery  up to consumer expectations and open up a new technology roadmap for the public sector.

About the Author

Andy Beamon is vice president of strategic innovation at Maximus.

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