Go to Menu
Celebrating 25 Years of Voice! 🎉

Conversational AI for Citizen Services

January 27, 2021 by Gaea Vilage
People crossing the road in a city

Optimizing Resources and Enhancing Experiences

Conversational Artificial Intelligence, or conversational AI, is the technology behind automated speech-enabled applications like chatbots and voice assistants, self-service solutions, and omnichannel commerce. These types of technological solutions are revolutionizing consumer experiences. But are the increasingly humanlike interactions this technology provides destined for the private sector alone? Or, can we expect the public sector (e.g., our regional tax office, or local town hall) to offer similar services? What is the case for Conversational AI in citizen services?

The Gap Between Private and Public Sector Services

In many areas, the public sector lags behind the business world in terms of adopting technology and updating its services – whether these are passport and immigration, licensing and permit applications, service enrollments or local council affairs, etc.

Most of us have experienced scenarios like these… for instance, waiting for days to receive an email response confirming an appointment to renew your passport. Or queuing for a long time in person to obtain a building permit. And indeed, being asked to hold for an exasperatingly long time in a call center queue, merely to ask something about a new parking permit.

There is still a strong disconnect in many of our experiences, even though a great deal of the services we use regularly have embraced the latest technological advances. For instance, our favorite retailer’s mobile app, our insurance company or bank’s smart assistant – and a wide range of other services that we interact with, in our everyday consumer lives. A growing portion of the population relies on instantly available services that we can easily get things done with – through a simple, intuitive conversation. All thanks to the power of conversational AI technology.

However, when we interact with a local government body, agency, or department, the experience can often be in stark contrast with what we are starting to take for granted in the private sector.

Users Increasingly Expect Great Services

And when it comes to millennials, expectations tend to be even higher. This generation demands ease of use, transparency, performance, and speed – whether they are interacting with public services or a lifestyle brand. Needless to say, this will be even more accentuated with subsequent generations.

As a result, a growing proportion of public sector services have harnessed the power the new technology affords. Often, the shift includes the adoption of technology for public service delivery. Public service organizations often start their conversational AI journey by deploying conversational AI powered solutions like chatbots on their websites.

“Most chatbots are well suited to help citizens navigate through websites with lots of information, answer simple questions or conduct transactions. This removes the need for humans to answer the same kinds of questions over and over again, allowing human operators to spend more time on complex cases. Others even see the potential of Chatbots to radically improve the citizen experience, improve citizen engagement and enabling new forms of decision-making with the help of citizen’s interactions with Chatbots. Chatbots could be used to conduct surveys and gain feedback on public services in a more useful way as the Chatbot would be able to ask follow-up questions.”

New Wine in Old Bottles: Chatbots in Government, Exploring the Transformative Impact of Chatbots in Public Service Delivery by Colin van Noordt and Gianluca Misuraca.

Capitalizing on Experience: From Chatbot to Voicebot

Across sectors, chatbots have proven successful – and the public sector’s citizen services are no exception. However, even if a public service has a chatbot on its website, people will still keep contacting its call center. The bulk of calls will involve routine questions and requests, and people who need to solve complex issues will experience long waiting times.

However, by adding voicebots to their interactive voice response (IVR) systems, public bodies can easily provide automated services through natural language voice interaction. This type of interaction is the most accessible to a broader audience, and enables a whole host of self-service applications. Adding humanlike text-to-speech voices, like ReadSpeaker’s, makes the interaction extremely natural.

And the good news is that the data gathered from citizens’ interactions with chatbots constitute essential information for creating a voicebot. Indeed, deploying a voicebot that is ready to answer a whole host of caller queries through the most natural and intuitive means of communication, is substantially easier for organizations that already have a running chatbot.  

A Paradigm Shift for the Public Sector

According to McKinsey Insights – The global case for customer experience in government– agency leaders often believe they need to choose between customer experience and other top priorities. They tend to channel investment into areas that they have considered key in the past – such as mission results, operational efficiency, or implementing changes to services for citizens as a consequence of pressure from regulatory bodies or public opinion. Customer-experience may often be a budget item that is sacrificed for the benefit of other operational considerations.

McKinsey’s research however, indicates that By investing in customer-experience programs, (…) agencies can address the priorities that matter to every government leader.”

Increasing Use Cases

The case studies examined show that with fewer calls to answer, public offices providing service to citizens can focus their efforts on other priorities. And calls that cannot be served automatically can be answered in less time by human staff. The use cases are rapidly expanding:

“In Los Angeles, a city-built chatbot answers business-related questions for citizens. In Mississippi, people can use the Amazon Alexa artificial intelligence service to plug into government information about things like taxes and vehicle registration. In Utah, people can use the state’s driver’s license test studying materials through Alexa.”

Thanks to conversational AI, a great deal of the bureaucracy inherent to public services can be streamlined and automated. This means better use of public funds, a more positive citizen experience, and consequently, more favorable public opinion – and indeed, possibly an enhanced quality of life.

Moreover, citizens can interact with public service voicebots to obtain information or carry out a wide range of administrative tasks from their own homes. Public administration bodies can also benefit from having their own virtual representatives on platforms such as Google Home and Amazon Alexa, or other similar voice-first devices.

Ready to Enhance Citizen Services with Voice?

ReadSpeaker proudly offers over 90 humanlike text-to-speech voices in more than 30 languages to give conversational AI solutions the most natural interface ever.

Related articles
Start using Text to Speech today

Make your products more engaging with our voice solutions.

Contact us