AI-powered search and digital customer experience go hand in hand

AI Powered search and digital customer experience go hand-in-hand

When you think about how you first engage with a website, it typically begins with a search engine or an organization’s website. In other words, the user journey starts with a search — meaning that artificial intelligence (AI)-powered search is foundational to excellent digital customer experiences. As more and more services are offered through online channels, how can citizens’ and residents’ online experiences be addressed appropriately? With Adobe and Yext, governments can transform their websites to give citizens and residents personalized, seamless, equitable experiences — and the answers they seek.

Consumer behavior has shifted, and the turbulence of the past two years has left citizens interacting more with government websites and asking their questions there. People are now expecting the same level of quality websites from federal, state, and local governments that they’ve become accustomed to experiencing with many online retailers. This translates to giving citizens immediate answers or results and providing access to common services like business licenses and permits, unemployment benefits, visa and passport requests, or providing critical information during emergencies or natural disasters. The list of citizen queries is lengthy and diverse, but the risk is always the same — if citizens cannot get answers quickly or find basic information on their own, frustration levels go up, support costs rise, and public trust plummets.

Recent mandates like the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act and the Executive Order on Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government have put the spotlight on government agencies to improve the customer experience (CX) on government websites. A report from Forrester highlights the wide disparities that exist in the quality of US federal CX — 10 out of 15 federal organizations have scored in the lowest categories of the CX Index.

While some organizations have improved the user experience (UX) recently, the way citizens interact with the sites still hasn’t changed. Nothing illustrates this more than the use cases for state unemployment agencies and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

For example, for state unemployment agencies, the answers to 99% of citizens’ queries already exist in each state’s agency. However, the data is siloed in systems that are inaccessible to citizens. The IRS also suffers inefficiencies as a result of its lower quality UX. Each year, the IRS responds to calls from 116 million citizens — and it’s clear why. If you search “How do I request an extension for filing my taxes?” on the IRS website, it yields 0 results, even though the relevant answer exists on the website. The best the IRS website can do in response to such a search query is provide a blue link to a keyword, but this does not offer a complete answer.

Because citizens cannot self-serve, there is more pressure on frontline support to answer calls and respond to tickets. This isn’t just inconvenient for citizens — it’s also inefficient and expensive for the government. According to the IRS, in-person visits and support calls to public bodies cost between $40 and $60 per incident. Self-service costs, on the other hand, come in at 22 cents per incident — which is 272 times less expensive than in-person or call center interactions. While chatbots and virtual assistants have become popular ways to facilitate self-service and answer questions 24/7, they cannot understand the human context. This leads to more frustration and, ultimately, more calls to frontline support for help.

How can public organizations democratize information and deliver better CX?

Technology is the great equalizer and force multiplier that can improve the quality of a person’s life dramatically through the click of a button. An ever-evolving force, it continues to remove barriers that emerge due to a person’s social characteristics, geographic location, or physical or sensory abilities. For public organizations, technology can be leveraged to democratize information and deliver better CX.

For example, search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing a website’s technical configuration, content, and information relevance to raise its search engine ranking and, ultimately, increase its online visibility. Consumer search has evolved over time by leveraging AI and AI-powered search technology, but enterprise search has not. In fact, most enterprise search is powered by outdated keyword-search technology that only scans content for keywords and then delivers a list of hyperlinks to pages that are supposedly relevant to the query, but this process does not always provide the citizen with a proper answer.

Suppose you search for “Glasses that protect against UVA rays.” An AI-powered search engine (e.g., Google) will deliver a direct answer at the top of the search engine results page, along with a panel of glasses that block 100% of UVA and UVB rays with which people can immediately interact. It provides a fast answer to a question.

Unfortunately, most public organizations don’t provide this same level of high-quality CX. On average over the last 90 days, there have been more than 5 billion government website visitors that did not experience this Google-like search experience.

Why are public agencies failing to provide citizens with search experiences that are on par with consumer search experiences? Why can’t AI-powered search be similarly leveraged on official government websites, so citizens don’t have to wade through ads and irrelevant search results before getting the answers they need?

Let’s revisit the previously mentioned IRS example. With AI-powered search, the IRS website would be able to understand a question and then give the citizen the answer they need. This means that instead of yielding no results, the search "How do I request an extension for filing my taxes?" would return with something like, “You can file an extension for your taxes by submitting Form 4858 with the IRS online.”

Beyond improving search results, CX can be further enhanced on government websites with complete digital journeys that take citizens from query to answer to service completion.

The pivot point for the dynamic and customized exchange of information

Adobe believes that success is predicated on the belief that digital transformation starts by reimagining the entire customer journey. It’s all about making the digital economy personal. This begins with engaging customers on the channel of their choice and then moving them from one stage of the customer journey to the next via a fulfilling, seamless experience. Yext powers natural language, AI-based search that delivers answers to citizens’ questions — not just links to web pages. Together, Yext and Adobe power personalized digital experiences at scale, reduce the cost of customer support, and provide a new source of analytics.

From design and creation of content to measurement, delivery, and commerce, Adobe Experience Manager makes it possible for every organization to make, manage, measure, and mobilize those experiences — all from one integrated cloud. The Yext + Adobe integrations sync content between Yext and Adobe products, make it easy to add Yext AI search to Adobe-powered digital experiences, share data and insights between Yext and Adobe, and uncover opportunities for optimizing content to match customer intent.

In the above IRS example, a complete digital journey can be realized with Adobe Experience Manager Forms. Services can be improved from a wide variety of workflows, such as ServiceNow, with a special focus on the citizen experience in submitting content. Through analytics, agencies can determine whether anyone gets stuck on a particular field, understand that information, and then improve the form. Meanwhile, agencies can also use Adobe Acrobat Sign to complete complicated transactions with legal electronic signatures. And through RESTful, data to be entered can be integrated with practically any existing third-party systems (either directly to a relational database or through systems like Microsoft Dynamics 365 or Salesforce). Because numerous systems already exist within government agencies and departments, reliance on these systems prevents any casual idea of a costly rip-and-replace process.

Using data and analytics to create highly personalized experiences

The Yext Knowledge Graph provides a single place for organizations to manage all the public facts that power answers to citizens’ questions. It can correlate data from disparate sources effectively and refine the connections among different parts without rebuilding the entire structure. Governments can then amplify the data they are storing in Experience Manager across the Yext network, either to power Yext Answers or another endpoint. Ultimately, by integrating the Yext Knowledge Graph with Adobe Experience Manager Assets, governments can leverage their assets within Yext to create seamless experiences.

Search analytics and insights captured by Yext Answers can now be accessed from Adobe Analytics, giving marketers a single dashboard to view advanced insights about their users’ intent. Yext Answers can be deployed on owned experiences (e.g., website or mobile web), even if powered by Experience Manager Sites (i.e., web pages). By using Yext Answers and Adobe Analytics together, organizations can ingest data from multiple sources to create real-time consumer profiles. Yext Answers Analytics will demonstrate exactly what questions people are asking, allowing organizations to gain a better understanding of which kinds of changes they might need to make to improve the overall CX.

Once government employees understand citizens’ consumer intent better, they can make educated decisions about both search and their business strategies and then implement the necessary changes. Over time, this will create a flywheel that will serve as a key source of business analytics for the government. Learn more in the video below.

Organizations changing experiences for citizens and residents

Private-sector organizations have successfully improved CX in ways similar to those that can benefit the public sector. FedEx is an excellent example of this.

FedEx: Shipping and delivery have always been crucial to the ecommerce journey. Then came COVID-19, and online shopping saw unprecedented growth overnight. Suddenly, FedEx became an engine for ecommerce like it never had before.

With increased online shopping, people wanted more transparency in the status of their shipments. In response, FedEx not only expanded its facilities and capacity to accommodate the deluge in shipping rapidly, but it also reoriented its business to support a more personalized customer journey with greater levels of visibility and predictability. For example, FedEx created separate customer paths for individuals, small businesses, and retailers. Customers gained more insight and control through FedEx Delivery Manager, and the company increased the number of notifications for each shipment.

The FedEx actions were timely. In the face of the pandemic, unique visitors to the company surged by 51% and individual visits went up 69%.

To keep pace with continuing demands for more shipping, FedEx continues to harness the power of digital and data science to better connect manufacturers, warehouses, and other touchpoints — all the way to customers’ doorsteps.

FedEx services customers in more than 220 countries and territories, and there are significant differences between regions in terms of market maturity. For example, while the US is very established, markets are less mature in Latin America and the Caribbean. “FedEx is responsible for managing over 50 countries — each with its own degree of penetration, perception, and brand recognition,” said Natasha Alarcon, manager of digital access marketing and CCA marketing operations. Large enterprises typically engage with FedEx through existing relationships. Individuals and small-sized and medium-sized businesses, on the other hand, often discover FedEx through search engines by typing queries such as “shipping near me.” It’s search engines like Google that determine how results are ranked according to factors like relevance and prominence. This search engine ranking is particularly important in Latin America and the Caribbean, so FedEx instituted a more comprehensive SEO program to boost organic discoverability.

Since FedEx launched Yext in November 2020, reviews for its 725+ locations in Latin America and the Caribbean have surged. For example, the total review volume has risen by 64% over a 2-year period. This would typically present an operational challenge for just a small number of employees, but with Yext’s efficient platform, Alarcon’s team has been able to consistently respond to over 90% of the received reviews while also cutting the average response time in half. Users are now more likely to find FedEx listings when looking for services. When they do, they often perform high-intent engagements. With a flood of positive reviews alongside heightened prominence in local search, it’s no surprise that the FedEx website and “Get Direction” clicks have increased by 19% and 32%, respectively.

Yext + Adobe equals a search with lasting impact on experiences

As governments continue to adjust to today’s “new normal,” Yext and Adobe will share best practices for governments to optimize their websites to give citizens and residents personalized, seamless, equitable experiences that lead to the answers they seek. A website can’t just look good. It also needs to be a workhorse that has a meaningful impact on government services, from driving citizen engagement and transactions to reducing support calls. Yext and Adobe are continuing to innovate in search — and together, they are transforming the standard of digital experiences that people expect from organizations.

Learn more about how Yext and Adobe can help supercharge your website.