Universal Credit SUmmary
Universal Credit is part of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), a department of the UK Central Government. It’s an attempt to merge many of the UK’s welfare benefits into a single payment, but it been beset with problems since its launch in 2013, beginning with the £2bn initial implementation estimate ballooning into an eye-popping £18 billion.
Five years after its rollout The National Audit Office (NAO) said it was unlikely UC will ever to be value for money, and numerous impartial reports describe a system awash with serious issues; from fraud, to long waits for payments, a lack of transparency, vastly insufficient benefits, a poorly targeted employment service, digital overwhelm for many users, and a customer service reputation that can go no lower.
UC has gone too far to be reversed without unacceptable costs. So the system remains a life-line for the most vulnerable in our society. The Conversation Consultancy can help by creating a strategy for the deployment of Empathic Tech (M-Tech) Conversational Applications.
THe universal credit m-tech strategy
I didn’t set up the The Conversation Consultancy to aimlessly kick the ball around midfield, so I chose Universal Credit as a proving ground, precisely because it’s a tough nut to crack.
LONG TERM GOAL: More teamwork TO improve THE SYSTEM
Universal Credit seems like a very good match for a range of empathic technology apps, giving users the option of a conversational UI, designed to make the UX more engaging, responsive and cooperative. On the UC side, the goal would be meaningful, automation-driven efficiencies and higher productivity improvements. The “teamwork” theme would be set by early and ratchet up as the entire strategy is rolled out.
SHORT-TERM GOAL: THE VANGUARD
The UC ‘vanguard’ conversational application should be developed and shipped fast, to make the strategy real, and set the tone for the rest of the rollout. It should also be simple, easy to implement, and have the potential for real impact. The UC vanguard is a direct response to a top-level recommendation from the recent House of Lords report “Universal Credit isn’t Working“.
“Claimants must be at the heart of its design and involved in devising solutions to problems”
MEDIUM TERM GOAL - PLOUGHBACK
If the ‘vanguard’ of the strategy does its job – which requires a commitment and reward for both sides of the conversation, it could set the tone for more cooperation over time and potential for a UC commitment to ‘plough back’ savings from improved “teamwork” for the benefit of all UC account holders. The rest of the rollout could then help solidify the insights of the Vanguard into genuine change.
The Empathic Tech (M-Tech) Conversational formats follow the UC workflow and address weaknesses, and are designed to deliver win-wins for both sides of the conversation. Here are some baseline components for each app.
M-Tech output blends into subtle motivational dialogue (a technique in most successful goal-driven therapy bots), guided by one of a series of key themes such as “Teamwork”, “Keeping to Promises”
A NOTE ON NUDGES
Empathic Tech Convo Apps are well equipped to deliver a wide range of targeted nudges to users. If not over-deployed, these behavioural pivots could be very effective.
THE UC M-tech TEAM
Here are my 10 ideas for M-TECH Conversational Apps in rollout order.
M-tech conversational app OUTLINES
Short descriptions of each Convo-Apps’s structure and goals, in rollout order.
1. ASK THE MINISTER CONVO-APP
Converts the online form to the DWP Ministerial Correspondence Team to ask policy questions into a priceless feedback gateway to UC users, making them part an integrated and valuable of the policy team.
We’d recommend promoting the new bot widely and then locate start to build a balanced cohort of 1000 Expert Feedback Providers, plus a larger survey cohort, to extend elements. Involve members of digital, policy, benefit, and fraud teams as required. Elevate key discussions to video meetings. Show concrete examples that “UC Listens” with news releases of meaningful changes suggested by users, in discussion with senior officials.
2. ACCOUNT HOLDER BONUS CONVO-APP
A finely balanced bonus or reward system for valuable feedback, and other cooperation structured in a way which is completely fair and transparent. Depending on the UC legislative and regulatory framework, could include coupons, discounts, extra coaching sessions, early access to new features, etc.
3. FAQ convo-APP
The default layer would be a simple, button led, system with closed navigation and no fallbacks. It would be upgradable by feedback. The Knowledge Base Layer would be navigable by a hybrid of button and text, or free text only for frequent to power users.
4. UC APPLICATION CONVO-APP
We’d try and simplify the application, if possible. Carefully tested with various motivational dialogue sets to improve inputs and completion rate.
5. UC BENEFIT CALCULATOR CONVO-APP
Consolidation of the current, complex, hard to navigate three calculator system, into a simpler user-friendly calculator bot under the department banner. EM-bots ready to deal with disappointed users.
6. UC ACCOUNT CONVO-APP
An empathic reworking of a fintech online banking conversational agent, with balances, notifications, and easy to understand conversational sequences based on current and future DWP account features. Syncs with web instances.
7. UC CARE CONVO-APP
A multi-purpose bot, available to account holders in good standing, with conversational pathways for different claimant types: i.e. With disabilities, sleeping rough, victims of domestic abuse, caregivers etc. The Bot is part-therapist and part Central-Local Government resource finder.
8. UC JOB COACH ASSISTANT
Would handle issues that don’t require a human judgement call, and also could play good cop’ to the real-life Job Coache’s ‘bad cop’. Big opportunity for UC to improve its service UC account holder through positive notifications, that can get the user some extra coaching, motivation and advice on commitments and other obligations.
9. JSA JOB MATCH CONVO-APP
Feature unlocked + use mandated for certain streams of JSA claimants, to encourage more targeted search for work by jobseekers, matching the jobs on the app to the user’s profile. Productivity boosting win-win for employers and job seekers.
10. FRAUD PREVENT CONVO-APP
Last in the rollout would be a Fraud Prevent Bot, that would look for irregularities and contact suspected account holders, as if they’d made a mistake, and suggest they resubmit their applications or justify them to the ‘good-cop” Fraud Bot.
This post is a proposal ready for implementation. To everyone at DWP, Cabinet Office, and Number 10, I look forward to hearing your thoughts. You can reach me by email at email@example.com or call me on +44 020 7097 8720.