March 17, 2022

Quick path to online tax information, thanks to DOR/GTA effort

A partnership between the Department of Revenue (DOR) and the Georgia Technology Authority (GTA) aims to make it easier for Georgians to find the tax information they are looking for.

Recognizing that its call center agents were stretched thin in responding to constituent inquiries, DOR invited GTA to help examine the challenges and devise solutions for enhancing customer service. Keith Perry, GTA Chief Development Officer, was the first point of contact. Perry heads up GTA's new strike team, which seeks to connect state agencies and local government entities with GTA resources to help them solve problems.

"We were excited to work with DOR," Perry said. "Our team was eager to listen to their needs, help identify challenges, and aid in plotting a roadmap."

After initial discussions with Dr. Georgia Steele, DOR's Assistant Deputy Commissioner for Agency Operations, Governance, and Planning, Perry reached out to GTA Chief Digital Officer Nikhil Deshpande and the Digital Services Georgia team to join the effort. "We began by looking at various customer channels," Deshpande said. "We talked with call center agents, and we reviewed analytics for the DOR website."

They found that call center volume was high, wait times grew long, and staff were answering many of the same tax-related questions repeatedly. In addition, DOR website metrics, available through the Georgia Analytics Program dashboard managed by GTA, indicated that visitors to the site most often sought tax refund information.

The data confirmed an approach DOR had considered - an automated customer service channel. A chatbot could be deployed on the DOR website to answer the most common questions with accurate and up-to-date information. Connecting constituents with the answers they need online would also lessen the need for phone calls, freeing staff to assist callers whose inquiries require personalized service.

GTA's Digital Services Georgia (DSGa) team, led by Deshpande, has a solid track record with chatbots and was ready to assist DOR with deployment. Since 2020, the team has helped four state agencies launch chatbots which answered more than 7 million questions for 2.4 million users in the first year alone.

The DSGa team worked with DOR on question-and-answer pairs, drawing on information gained from DOR and capitalizing on DSGa's chatbot experience.

The DOR chatbot was introduced in early February and appears as "ASK DORIS" on nine popular pages on the website. It's equipped to answer a broad range of questions related to state taxes and refund status. As Georgians use the new tool, GTA is supporting DOR in monitoring and evaluating queries and updating the knowledge base. Perry expects that additional innovations will result from the collaboration.

Revenue Commissioner Robyn Crittenden sees value in the new tool and the joint effort. "I want to thank GTA for their invaluable partnership in developing the DOR chatbot," she said. "This innovative feature will further assist the department in fulfilling our mission by increasing our accessibility to taxpayers and improving the overall customer experience."

Perry hopes other state agencies and local government entities will call on GTA's strike team for assistance. "We have several projects underway, and we're always ready to put GTA's consultative and technical resources to work to help meet new challenges."

Perry can be reached at [email protected].