Intelligent Assistant ‘Alex’ brings customer engagement into the 21st century

IP Australia’s integrated intelligent virtual assistant, ‘Alex’, uses Datacom’s award-winning Artificial Intelligence integration, and customer experience expertise, to better engage its customers. IP Australia and Datacom achieved an Australian Federal Government first when they combined Alex with the web-chat digital experience.

IP Australia is the Australian Government agency that handles Intellectual Property rights and legislation around patents, trade marks, designs and plant breeder’s rights. It plays a key role in fostering innovation, investment and international competitiveness.

IP Australia embarked on its digital transformation journey back in 2012. Datacom has been an important strategic partner for IP Australia throughout the last four years.

Following detailed analysis and user research by Datacom and IP Australia, Alex was launched on IP Australia’s website in May 2016, in collaboration with Nuance, a global provider of virtual assistant technology.

Alex helps streamline the customer experience through a consistent digital presence on IP Australia’s website or social media and electronic correspondence. Alex engages customers directly with over 50,000 interactions to date, and provides answers to their queries while continuously learning from this input.

Datacom built the platform infrastructure and integration for Alex, and worked closely with the agency to design the conversation strategy and develop the core content that underpins Alex’s dialogue and personality. Datacom’s Intelligent Assistant Optimisation ensures that Alex continues to learn and evolve with IP Australia.

In 2012 only 12 per cent of IP Australia’s 850,000 annual customer transactions utilised digital channels. Since then the percentage has grown to a current level of 99.6 per cent and Alex has been instrumental in shaping the customers’ online experience. Alex has also contributed to a significant reduction in service delivery costs for the agency.

Alex is not just another technology investment, she integrates with business processes and combines Datacom’s expertise in human-centred design with analytics to enable evidence-based decision making.

In July 2017, Alex’s learning tools were accelerated with an additional machine learning technique to extend beyond the continual Intelligent Assistant Optimisation in place. Alex’s evolution took a big step with the implementation of HAVA (HumanAssisted Virtual Assistants powered by Artificial Intelligence) technology delivered by Nuance.

As the first build in APAC, Nuance’s ‘Nina Coach’ (known to IP Australia as ‘Alex Coach’) helps Alex seamlessly bring in a customer service representative to assist with tricky questions Alex hasn’t had a chance to learn yet. This data is then recorded, analysed, and fed back into Alex’s ‘brain’; the natural language processor that enables Alex to become smarter and more accurate over time. Powered by Datacom’s knowledge experts, Alex learns from each interaction, at a rate of over 60 new pieces of information a day.

The combination of learning techniques,  Intelligent Assistant Optimisation and ‘Alex Coach’ provides a roadmap of continual learning opportunities for Alex.

While Datacom Connect’s historical business has been founded around contact centre operations, this model has successfully evolved to include the entire customer experience, including Artificial Intelligence solutions such as Alex.

An Intelligent Assistant is not a stand-alone technology; it is a key ingredient in transforming the customer experience. Alex has demonstrated that Artificial Intelligence is a cornerstone in innovative customer experience and can meet customer needs 24/7. Indeed, approximately  36 per cent of the interactions Alex supports occur outside of business hours.

IP Australia is committed to continually improving Alex to be a more inclusive, creative and customerfocused solution. Alex’s continuous development is aligned with behavioural economics techniques and other investments in digital channels to accelerate IP Australia’s digital-first agenda while maintaining an exemplary customer experience.

Alex demonstrates a huge success story for IP Australia, Datacom and Nuance, and stands as a great model for applying Intelligent Assistant technologies to a greater extent in the Australian Federal Government landscape.

Datacom’s ground-breaking implementation of Alex was recognised with an award win at the 4th Annual Intelligent Assistant Awards in San Francisco in September 2017. This followed a 2017 Silver Stevie Award win for Innovation in Technology Development, received by IP Australia.

“This renowned international award reflects IP Australia’s commitment to digital transformation that is designed to provide customers with access to our services on a 24/7 basis. The number and quality of award submissions reflects the growing importance of virtual assistants to global companies focused on improving customer service delivery. With our established and committed partners Datacom and Nuance, IP Australia is pioneering the Australian Government’s digital agenda for all citizens and businesses.”

Robert Bollard, General Manager Rio & Business Futures, IP Australia (In response to Alex’s win at the 4th Annual Intelligent Assistant Awards in San Francisco)