In an interview with Express Computer, Dhiren Savla, CIO, VFS Global gives insights about ViVA, the first-ever visa services chatbot, which handles 10,000 inquiries per second 24×7. Further, Savla lays down the digital strategy for VFS Global
How is VFS Global embracing digital?
Technology has always been a key business driver at VFS Global. Today, with digital transformations happening in every sector, our digital vision aims to be always one step ahead, with constant upgradation in line with the on-going dynamic changes in the marketplace.
Currently, there are some significant applicant-facing developments happening on the digital front – one of these, for example, is the setup of a host of new visa application websites (for certain client governments). It is built on an enterprise level platform that enables visa applicants to discover and opt for a full range of additional services (such as form-filling assistance, Premium Lounge, Courier, SMS service, for most client governments or Priority Visa service for UK applicants, among many others) at the time of booking the appointment online to enhance the overall visa application experience.
These websites have been rolled out for UK visa applicants in 15 different languages across the world, and we are now working on implementing the new website concept for the rest of our 61 client governments.
Across the board, we have adopted a new agile way of working, where we develop and release software earlier in our development process. The emphasis remains on maintaining a rigorous approach to content governance, to maintain the integrity of our global user experience. These efforts will provide a strong base to explore more business opportunities by placing the customer and digital at the heart of our strategy.
Could you provide some recent examples of innovations driven by VFS Global?
There are myriad transformational solutions introduced on a routine basis in every aspect of the visa and citizen services businesses. Against that backdrop, we continue to build on some of our biggest technological successes introduced in the last five years, that is even today expanding exponentially.
One example of this is Location Independent Document Processing (LIDProTM), that allows countries to process visas from a remote location, sometimes from another country altogether, saving significant time and resources for the local diplomatic mission. This breakthrough solution was first launched for the Government of Finland, and is now also introduced for other client governments, such as the UK government. Another example is the ‘Visa At Your Doorstep’ service that allows applicants to submit applications and enroll biometrics from any location of choice, that has also proven to be immensely popular in several countries including in India.
At the backend, we are in the process of transforming our technology landscape into a MicroServices-based API driven platform. There are changes to streamline and improve several processes, such as creation of centralized repository (through a centralized tax engine) for financial transactions, introduction of robotic process automation for back-end data entry tasks, and also introduction of chatbots for better user experience, and as mentioned before, moving VFS Global static visa application websites onto an Enterprise-wide Content Management Platform and integrating with the overall VFS Global internal business applications through an API Gateway.
How are you leveraging chatbots at VFS Global?
In September 2018, ViVA, the first-ever visa services chatbot, and VFS Global’s first digital employee was successfully launched on the website for Australia visa services in India. Custom created with unique technology adapted to the visa and consular services industry, ViVA assists visa applicants with queries related to the Australia visa application process, such as visa categories, rules and regulations, contact information, payment procedures, and optional services. Akin to any highly trained customer support executive, ViVA is a sophisticated chatbot powered by Artificial Intelligence, offering applicants round-the-clock support.
It can currently handle 10,000 enquiries per second 24×7, or 864 million in a day, thus significantly reducing the turnaround time of applicant queries. As it is based on machine learning and programmed to become more responsive over time, the greater the interaction with applicants, the smarter the chatbot gets.
What are the business outcomes that you are expecting from ViVA?
We have received an overwhelming response for ViVA. In the first 30 days of launch itself, ViVA had over 20,500 interactions to gain information from. 19,900 interactions out of these were resolved by ViVA and the rest formed a ground for ViVA to learn more for being a better assistant in the future.
ViVA went through exhaustive leaning and was trained on various new topics like a work visa, biometrics requirements, skilled visa information, Visa Transfer, etc. and has also taken its first steps towards better handling of customers through its ability of sentiment analytics.
How are you planning to take this forward?
We plan to offer this product to our other client governments. Being based on AI and machine learning, ViVA is young right now and has a lot of potential to assist in more arenas of the visa applicant lifecycle, and we are excited with the potential it has to improve customer experience in the future.