Governments need chatbots for all the reasons that businesses do. They need chatbots to help employees be more productive and chatbots to help customers achieve their goals efficiently.
It is arguable that governments need chatbots even more than regular businesses for external chatbots because in general, their services are more intimidating and onerous for users of those services. External chatbots are chatbots that provide services to people external to the organization.
It is true that part of the reason that the services may be more difficult to use is because there is not the same incentive for governments to deliver the same quality of service that businesses have to provide. It is also arguable that governments are limited in terms of budget. For both these reasons, governments may not invest in technology and their services in general to the extent that a regular business would and therefore the quality of service delivered may end up being worse.
Other reasons why their services are more difficult to use is because they are actually more difficult to use! Specifically, these services tend to be used infrequently, once a year or once every few years, and also the concepts are not necessarily concepts that users may be familiar with in the way that they are familiar with business services.
For example, users may know they want to get a fishing license from the government, but they don’t know where to go to get it, what is involved or what to expect. This makes the whole task daunting.
For services offered by companies, consumers have normally encountered a similar service from other companies even if they have not encountered the exact service from the company in question. Buying products on the internet or from a store, or entering into a subscription, are very similar experiences across multiple companies.
It’s also the case that company services are generally less onerous because they are targeted at a specific market segment and don’t need the type of due diligence that governments require. Even something as simple as applying for a visa is very complex because of the security measures that governments need to implement to ensure that the applicant is not hiding negative information.
For all the reasons given above, government services are harder to use and therefore could benefit greatly from chatbots.
The quick win for governments would be having chatbots guiding users through the application process. It is generally not a good idea to use a chatbot to replace form filling, however, it can be very useful to the user for the chatbot to guide the user to the correct forms and answer any questions they have while completing the process. There can even be a two-way interaction between the chatbot and the webforms so that the chatbot can open the webform and be aware of what is happening.
Chatbots can be even more useful if multiple forms or multiple steps are required as they can guide the user from one step in the process to another.
As for any business, it is better for the chatbot to be backed up by a human agent (to the extent that the organization wants to give the end user the best service possible). This is because a chatbot is not capable of understanding everything a user may communicate to it and therefore it is better for the user to have a human back up that can intervene as necessary.
Another external use case for chatbots that can prove very useful for governments is a scripted chatbot use case. Scripted chatbots, that are purely mechanical and communicate with users through graphical widgets, can be very effective in gathering information from users (if the information is straightforward), in providing reminders or in allowing users to do simple tasks. Governments can for example send reminders to citizens that they need to do something and get the citizens to do the task inside the chatbot, without visiting the web or any other application.
The internal chatbot use case i.e. chatbots for employees, is the same for governments and any large enterprise. These bots are typically used for technical support, sales and HR functions, i.e. anywhere where the employee doesn’t frequently use the service in question or where it’s much quicker to ask the chatbot a question than to log onto the system in question.
Another important feature for every government is security. This often means that governments require the chatbot to be on-prem with no connection to the outside world whatsoever. This means that many governments cannot use SaaS or even private cloud implementations.
Ultimately governments can benefit more from chatbots than ordinary businesses can because of the complex nature of their services.
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