Meet Alex – IP Australia’s next-generation virtual assistant

December 2016

By Patricia Kelly, Director General, IP Australia

In today’s digital world, IP Australia’s customers are seeking a more personalized, assisted customer experience with smart online tools available at any time. The digital economy has provided enormous opportunities for organizations to provide new innovative offerings that delight customers, reduce costs and deliver significant benefits. So we asked ourselves, how could IP Australia embrace these opportunities to support customer expectations? The answer: provide customers with a digital virtual assistant, available 24/7, all year round.

“Alex is our 24/7 virtual assistant that through machine learning
technologies, digital services and natural language can
provide ‘human-like’ responses to customers’ questions and support
them in better navigating the intellectual property system,” says
Patricia Kelly, Director General of IP Australia (above)
(Photo: Courtesy of IP Australia).

IP Australia has worked hard with its customers to embrace an accelerated digital service delivery journey. Since 2012, we have successfully transformed our business model. At that time, just 12 per cent of customers undertook transactions online. Now, in 2016, approximately 99 percent of the more than 800,000 customer transactions we manage each year are done digitally.

It is from this incredibly powerful digital platform that we planned to add value to our customers’ experience and business outcomes by introducing our new intelligent virtual assistant – Alex.

Who is Alex?

Alex is our 24/7 virtual assistant that through machine learning technologies, digital services and natural language processing can provide “human-like” responses to customers’ questions and support them in better navigating the intellectual property (IP) system. The virtual assistant technology allows us to offer support within our preferred online web channel with a simple, clear and timely service. We are using a next-generation digital asset to transform customer experience at IP Australia. It is also being deployed across a range of leading global private and public sector service delivery organizations.

IP Australia’s deployment of Alex is designed to add value for both customers and the organization. Alex was officially launched in July 2016, initially supporting IP Australia’s trademark services, which account for 76 percent of all contact center enquiries. We believed that given the high volume of enquiries and the generally limited knowledge that applicants have of the trademark application process, a virtual assistant in this area would be most helpful in assisting them to navigate Australia’s IP system. In September 2016, Alex was expanded and now also covers patents, plant breeder’s rights and designs. Over the coming months Alex will learn and expand “her” knowledge as customers continue to ask her more and more questions.

Does Alex make our customers happy?

On her first day of operation, Alex had 178 conversations.
Seventy-three percent of users said that Alex had answered
their question effectively. At present, Alex is able to answer
and manage 81 percent of customer interactions with success,
which is an industry standard for virtual assistant
technology (Photo: Courtesy of IP Australia).

On her first day of operation, Alex had 178 conversations. Seventy-three percent of users told us that Alex had answered their question effectively. That’s pretty impressive for a first day on the job. At present, Alex is able to answer and manage 81 percent of customer interactions with success. This is an industry standard for virtual assistant technology. As Alex expands and learns, she will further improve and add value for our customers.

Customer sentiment has been extremely positive and is reflected in strong engagement with Alex. Although it is still early days, since the introduction of Alex, IP Australia has already experienced an almost 10 percent reduction in calls compared to the same period last year. This tells us that our customers are embracing this new technology with enthusiasm, and is encouraging us to undertake further customer research to optimize Alex and explore new features to build on her success.

What’s next for Alex?

Alex’s future is bright as we continue to build her capability to improve support for our customers. IP Australia is now assessing the deployment of Alex within our authenticated digital e-services platform which will enable customers to transact and access tailored information about their IP rights securely. This will support a more personalized transactional service for our customers. Our ultimate vision is to work collaboratively across a range of government agencies to explore the possibilities of supporting businesses and innovators in a seamless, citizen-centric digital experience. 

For further information regarding Alex, contact Rob Bollard, General Manager, Business Futures, IP Australia: robert.bollard@ipaustralia.gov.au.

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