All Articles Infrastructure Transportation How AI can vastly improve tollway customer experiences 


How AI can vastly improve tollway customer experiences 

5 min read


Automated vehicle classification, identification and processing is becoming the norm among tolling agencies. When striving for fantastic user experiences and streamlining operations, the next evolutionary step requires new AI capabilities.

Des Tillmann, North America Customer Experience Lead for Accenture, says that using AI:

  • Significantly reduces customer call wait times.
  • Helps resolve 80% of customer interactions, potentially saving millions of dollars for tolling agencies.
  • Helps identify data anomalies such as those indicating revenue leakage.

Tillmann says the speed at which AI can process data is much higher than even a few years ago. She agreed to answer questions from SmartBrief regarding what incorporating AI at this level entails for tolling agencies and how to ensure the technology performs as envisioned.

How can AI help create personalized digital experiences for tollway drivers?

We can use AI to create hyper-personalized experiences which create a lasting impression. 

Conversational AI has been around for a while and can be used to create very human-like experiences. These conversations can be either voice or digital. When you look across tolling and other industries, we see that more than half of all callers are engaging with IVR [interactive voice response] meaningfully. They are using it both for 100% self-service and to make sure they get to the right person. For example, if I just need a simple answer (make a payment), a well-designed IVR can give me the answer 24 hours a day, 7 days a week without the need to talk to someone.

Des Tillmann

If the issue is more nuanced, generative AI is helpful. Using predictive capabilities and NLU [natural-language understanding], we can route more effectively. We can use this same routing/workforce management capability with chat or messaging. If you look at chat transcripts, you see a lot of “Are you still there?” As humans, we get distracted. We are wasting valuable agent time making sure we are still engaged. Using AI to monitor the conversation and serve it back up to a human only when needed makes a better customer experience and a better agent experience.

We’ve talked about a universal agent for years. AI is finally allowing us to create super agents. It’s not about replacing our agents but augmenting them in a way that empowers them to better serve their customers and reduce the cognitive load that comes with the friction in our traditional centers. How many agents struggle with system access, finding the right answer, documenting the follow ups and post call work? Unified agent desktops act as co-pilot, providing capabilities to empower the agents to better serve customers that can amplify exciting agent desktop solutions and drive better customer relationships.

Are there best practices for protecting the integrity and privacy of the data involved?

Yes! It starts with awareness and having a plan. Which data needs to remain in a trusted environment and what data is more public and could be exchanged with hosted services? The first step of any implementation is understanding the data elements and security requirements of each.  

It’s also critically important to train your employees on business and security risks and on what best practices look like. The ease of having applications like Chat GPT on your personal smartphone can create security vulnerabilities from employees just trying to be more efficient. Many employees are learning about the technology independently via social channels and the media, leaving room for misinformation.

When adding AI to a legacy system, what are the initial challenges?

Siloed data and fragmented architecture make it difficult to capitalize on the promise of AI. Organizations should consider their:

  • Budget. The cost to adopt Gen AI will be based on software licenses and the size of the initiative.
  • Operating model. What parts of the organization can benefit from Gen AI and do they have maturity to adapt to the change?
  • Existing tech stack. What technology platforms are currently in place and what can be leveraged? This is where partners can be helpful. What tech can your partner bring to the table?
  • Risk. Are there established security protocols in place to assess the use of Gen AI and underpinning foundation models? Many available applications do not yet provide enterprise grade security regarding client data protection

How can tolling operators build trust in AI-supported experiences? 

It starts with designing thoughtful experiences that customers want to interact with and then being transparent about AI supporting those experiences. Most people are happy to interact digitally if you make it simple and you set the right expectations on what the AI can do. If your chatbot can only handle payments, acknowledge that and make that experience a good one and customers will use it. Trust breaks when we oversell the digital capability and our customers feel like they have wasted their time.

Supporting those experiences with your really smart humans will also build trust.  If there is an issue with the digital experience, it can fall over to a safe pair of hands and complete the transaction. This allows you to continue to train your AI experience and continually expand their knowledge base.

Des Tillmann is Accenture’s North America Customer Experience Lead. She has more than 20 years operational management experience, with proven skills in leading large global teams and delivering sustainable growth. Her specialties are customer experience, process excellence, omnichannel capabilities and service design.


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