The Power of Microsoft Power Virtual Agents for Housing Associations

A key part of your housing associations digital customer experience revolves around your chatbot! A well designed chatbot provides enhanced access to your housing services and makes it more convenient for customers.  

A self-service bot can significantly reduce the volume of avoidable customer contacts. This achieves superior service outcomes for your customers and colleagues and better outcomes for you too as your premium customer service channels are reserved for complex customer needs rather than routine, simple requests. 

I previously wrote about omnichannel channel hopping. In that article I noted how customers are increasingly likely to pick and mix and blend their use of digital access channels, including bots, to achieve the results they are looking for. 

Power Virtual Agent (PVA) is a core pillar within Microsoft’s market leading Power Platform. PVA enables Housing Associations to rapidly deploy intelligent chatbots into their omnichannel service platforms to benefit both customers and colleagues. PVA lets you create powerful chatbots that can answer questions posed by your customers, other employees, or visitors to your website or service. With PVA you can easily create powerful bots using a guided, no-code graphical interface. It easily integrates bots with hundreds of apps and services using prebuilt connectors and allows the ability to create custom workflows with Power Automate, enabling bots to take action on behalf of customers. It allows users to monitor and continuously improve bot performance using AI and data-driven insights.  

With Power Virtual Agents, you can publish bots to engage with your customers on multiple platforms or channels. These include live websites, mobile apps, and messaging platforms like Microsoft Teams and Facebook. 

PVA differentiates itself from other bots in three distinct ways: 

  1. PVA uses advanced artificial intelligence (AI) to determine both the meaning and sentiment within a specific customer enquiry. The AI engine works behind the scenes to identify and present the most relevant responses and information resources for the question that is being asked. 
  2. The licensing is already included with Microsoft Teams and it is very simple to build and deploy your first internal bot! PVA licensing is required for external tenant facing bots.
  3. Unlike other standalone bots, PVA is fully integrated into the Power Platform, M365 and Azure and comes with 100s of approved connectors to external systems. 

PVA can essentially become your self-service operating manual or knowledgebase for the services you offer and defines precisely what you are able to provide to customers and how you do it. This ensures that your service users are empowered with high-quality and responsive answers to their enquiries on-demand and at a time that suits them. You can also include self-learning loops into the bot’s flow so that the bot constantly improves its accuracy and relevance over time as more people use it. 

Through PVA, colleagues can be confident they always have the right information to hand as they are equipped with the tools and the information resources that enable them to deliver effective and efficient services. As a result of this, PVA can help to increase employee satisfaction and reduce staff turnover which can be particularly acute in contact centres. 

Clearly chatbots have a huge role to play to improve access to customer services but many housing associations are now choosing to deploy bots internally as a knowledge management tool and centralised information resource for staff. For example, PVA can be used to accelerate the induction timescales for new starters who are trying to find their way around your organisation by providing a New Starter Q&A chatbot (Question and Answer). PVA is available as an app within Microsoft Teams, which means you can easily create your own chatbots that answer questions posed by other employees or team members. 

PVA is fully integrated into Microsoft Teams and the wider Power Platform. Unlike other standalone chatbots, one of the key benefits of using PVA is its integration with Power Automate, Dataverse, AI Builder and Data Connectors. The full extent of Power Platform, which includes PVA, enables us to build high performance, enterprise grade and hugely sophisticated chatbots.  

PVA licensing is included with Microsoft Teams. This is a great place to start your chatbot journey. Even if you have a live chatbot today I would urge you to compare that against what PVA can do today.  

TSG would be delighted to support you to create some initial proof-of-concept self-service bots such as FAQs, ICT, HR, New Starters and Customer Services for example and scale out as required. 

Please email kirsty.marsden@tsg.com if you would like a demonstration or discussion about PVA or the wider Power Platform.

Written by Rob Fletcher, Housing Sector Solutions Lead,