My Aged Care is dedicated to providing information about and access to aged care services and is the entry point to Australia’s aged care system. The website is a vital source of help to those looking for aged care services and includes a range of dynamic tools to assist users to self-serve, including the ability to apply online for an assessment and search for and compare providers that can best meet their care needs. With the older population growing rapidly and around five million hits on the My Aged Care website each year, there’s huge demand for easily accessible information.

To achieve this, the My Aged Care team decided that it would be helpful to add a virtual assistant (VA) to the website and began looking at options.

“The My Aged Care website has been running since 2013, and we were getting more and more feedback through surveys that people wanted a chatbot – and we decided this was the right time,” explains Kylie Sauer who directed the project. “For us, it’s not about engagement metrics. We had two objectives. First, the VA would make our website easier to navigate. Second, the VA would help us continuously improve the website.”

A screenshot of the My Aged Care website
When users access the My Aged Care website, Mac is there to help them navigate it, so they can find the information they need.

A/B testing shapes Mac, the virtual assistant

The virtual assistant project began in October 2021, with the team working alongside Datacom and Nuance, and went live in March 2022. The timeframe allowed for testing and identifying the right questions and formatting to ensure the VA was a success.

“We had a strong bank of frequently asked questions on the website, so we didn’t have to start from scratch,” says Sauer. “But it was a lot of hard work.”

The My Aged Care website already featured a range of possible avatars on the site that users would already be familiar with if they had visited the site previously. The internal team voted on which one they thought would make the best virtual assistant.

“Some early testing feedback indicated that people might prefer a younger version of the avatar, so we did some A/B testing,” Sauer says. “We found the engagement rate was the same for both, so we stuck with the originally chosen avatar.”

The avatar has been named ‘Mac’, incorporating the website’s initials: My Aged Care. When Mac was first released, her initial pop-up included an introduction and a request for visitors to ask questions. The open format didn’t work for everyone, so the My Aged Care team evolved Mac’s approach.

“We learned that a lot of people didn’t know how to ask their questions, so we did some A/B testing and worked with Datacom to create four main buttons that appear when you select Mac,” says Sauer. “Now over 50% of people use one of those buttons, and it has led to a significant increase in understanding and clarity, which has had a big impact on the success of the VA. The buttons also help us educate people on those introductory topics.”

Queries through Mac help the team improve the site

“The questions that come through Mac enable us to see what people are asking,” Sauer says. “It’s a barometer of what’s happening in the aged care sector; when reforms come through, for instance, we see the chatter coming through on the VA.”

A screenshot of the Frequently Asked Question screen on the My Aged Care website
By providing insights into the questions visitors are asking, Mac has helped My Aged Care identify areas for improvement and make helpful changes to better user experience.

By monitoring the type of questions being received through the virtual assistant, it helps the My Aged Care team identify points of information on the site that might be difficult to find or ambiguously worded. They’ve been able to reorganise parts of the site and rewrite content to make it easier for visitors to easily find the answers they’re seeking. This allows the My Aged Care team to keep tweaking the site, so the user experience is continuously improving.

“The continuous improvement side is proving to be one of the biggest benefits,” says Sauer. “It’s valuable to see how the conversations go from the perspective of the people looking for information, rather than my perspective as someone with 20 years’ experience in how Government agencies work. The improvements not only help people using the VA but flow on to all the other users of the site.”

Mac the virtual assistant has delivered on both of the project’s objectives. Visitors to the site are making use of Mac to help them find information more easily, and their queries are enabling the team to keep improving the site’s design.

“We’ve been very happy with Datacom,” says Sauer. “We’ve had no major problems and we had a really good feedback process – the team was open and receptive. We are optimising our site based on responses to the VA, and we’re very happy with what the VA is achieving for My Aged Care.”

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