Consumers can tap new digital assistant to answer myGov questions

Department of Human Services launches its third customer-facing digital assistant as part of efforts to streamline FAQs

The Department of Human Services has brought on its third consumer-facing digital assistant to help streamline consumer queries around myGov accounts.

Nicknamed ‘Charles’, the new digital assistant is designed to answer common questions around creating a myGov account, linking new services to an account and what to do if an account is locked or suspended. It’s available 24/7 and is being delivered under the Government’s Welfare Payment infrastructure Transformation Programme.

The department said Charles is complementary to its two existing customer-facing assistants, Sam and Oliver, which came online in 2017 and have reportedly answered 2 million questions so far. Sam is focused on questions around the DHS’s website, while Oliver is designed to answer student claims questions and incorporates a Facebook-like thumbs up and down rating system.

Most frequently asked questions for Sam include whether an individual is eligible for parental leave pay and how to claim, how to apply for payment, and eligibility for student or apprenticeship payment. Oliver's top questions also eligibility for payments, as well as study period information.

In a similar vein, Minister for Human Services and Digital Transformation, Michael Keenan, said Charles frees up staff to focus on responding to more complex matters while improving response times on FAQs.

“Digital assistants provide enormous convenience to myGov account holders who are now able to access the information they need without having to pick up a phone or come into an office,” he said.

“The assistants are also helping to ease the strain on our phone lines, giving our staff more time to assist customers who need greater support with complex queries.”

A spokesperson confirmed the new myGov Digital Assistant uses Microsoft’s Azure Bot Service incorporating Language Understanding (LUIS), part of the Cognitive Services suite.

In addition, a virtual assistant, dubbed ‘Roxy’, which was rolled out two years ago, is helping the department process online claims. Sam, Oliver and Roxy are all based on Microsoft’s Cortana technology.

Virtual assistants are popping up thick and fast across Australian and New Zealand organisations as well as the public sector. Among the more innovative ones are Auckland International Airport’s ‘Vai’, which stands for virtual assistant interface and is being trialled in the airport’s biosecurity arrivals area.

Another is the now stalled ‘Nadia’ project, which aims to employ an artificial intelligence-based bot based on IBM Watson technology and voiced by Cate Blanchett, to help people navigate the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

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