Voices from Accenture Public Service

Chatbots, virtual assistants, AI – whatever we call them, the pensions industry needs to embrace them.  When was the last time that you interacted with a chatbot or virtual assistant? If I’d asked that question a few years ago, you’d perhaps struggle to think of even one example. Now, more and more of us are having interactions with smart machines all the time.

The spread of AI that can respond and understand our commands in natural language is rapidly creating not just acceptance but expectation that it will be available. We are increasingly talking to and interacting with appliances, vehicles and digital services – and getting answers and responses that are both useful and make our lives better.

Chatbots, virtual assistants, smart assistants are supporting more and more of the services that we depend on.  And they’re achieving some impressive results. But it’s when they work together to augment people that the outcomes are really outstanding. For example, take the example of screening biopsies for cancerous growths. One study found that human researchers were able to make accurate diagnoses in 92 percent of cases and AI could spot 94 percent. But combined they achieved 99.5 percent accuracy. And in the field of cancer that apparently small margin could make a world of difference.

What the above highlights is that people are not going to be wholesale replaced by machines. Instead, they enable people to do a better job, provide better service and focus on the things that they, as people, are uniquely well qualified to do.  And for the pensions industry that means being able to provide more consistent information and deliver ‘right first time’ results, every time. A chatbot provides information that is reliable. It can also be available 24/7 and 365 days of the year. And once it’s trained, it never forgets how to do its job.

The combination of people and chatbots working together means that routine tasks and enquiries can be handled faster, more accurately and cheaper. We’re seeing some organizations achieving savings of between 60-80 percent across a wide range of administrative tasks. What’s more, that speed and efficiency does more than save money – they have a tangibly positive impact on customer experience and engagement. And people are freed to focus on the activities that require empathy and creativity – qualities that not even the smartest bots are likely to acquire for a very long time.

Pensions agencies need to start, if they have not done so already, introducing the benefits of bots to their members and their employees. Remember, we’re only at the beginning of this revolution in how we use and interact with technology. A couple of years ago, The Accenture Technology Vision coined the phrase “AI is the new UI”. That’s a world where all the input devices we use today – from keyboards to touchscreens – give way to smart interfaces that can take our commands verbally or even visually by a gesture or a facial expression. And we’ll soon also see chatbot-to-chatbot conversations, where our own AI converses with others, negotiating and managing on our behalf. All of us need to get ready for that now.

Learn more at www.accenture.com/pensions.

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