Across the public and private sector organisations are starting to use the latest generation of ‘virtual employees’ to improve the user experience and digital interface. Here, we outline some of our favourites…
There are many ways that chatbots can improve the customer experience, deliver greater user insight and better engage citizens.
They provide reliable real-time assistance 24/7, including instant answers to questions, advanced search functionality and can efficiently achieve an increasing range of tasks and actions. The self-learning aspect of current chatbots means their performance continues to improve.
And unlike us humans, chatbots have endless patience no matter what the task!
The full results of a local government AI and chatbot survey will be revealed in the next issue, but we can tell you this key finding: 90% of councils expect to have a chatbot strategy within 12-18 months.
Clearly, most councils are already progressing down this path, deciding which service areas to focus on first and what citizen engagement their chatbots will deliver.
And who says councils are not places of innovation? Across the country the likes of Newcastle, Redbridge, Aberdeen and Blackpool are already forging ahead, rolling out AI technology as part of a strategic approach to deliver services more efficiently and effectively, increasing capacity and freeing up staff to focus on more complex or strategic activities. In the coming months, we will be telling some of their stories.
In planning departments alone, the estimate is that around 65% of all planning-related queries could be managed by self-learning chatbots. With 3.5 million planning applications submitted nationally every year, it’s a potential game changer, slashing waiting times for enquiries and making the planning process easier for people to navigate at the same time as freeing up council resources.
Just introducing chatbots to deal with the most common forms of questions around planning is estimated to add 15% extra capacity to officers’ time. By adding AI to read and validate planning applications can also accelerate planning and improve citizen engagement and deliver an additional 35% of extra capacity to the planning team.
In the next issue of Council4.0 we will delve into the findings of the first AI and chatbot survey of councils. In the meantime, here are a few chatbots already making waves in the marketplace that we like.
Top Chatbots of 2020:
Developed in partnership with Microsoft, the Eureka Chatbot helps citizens navigate the California Secretary of State’s website, assisting them with enquiries, finding answers to business questions and helping them find information quickly. Eureka was named Best Application Serving the Public by the Center for Digital Government in the US, and as with most chatbots, the more questions it’s asked, the smarter it gets.
Image credit: Hosting Journalist
Redbridge Planning Chatbot
London Borough of Redbridge are about to go live with their Planning chatbot that has been trained to answer over 200 planning questions. This is a great example of how chatbots can be developed for even complex areas such as planning and still deliver excellent customer service 24/7/365. Using AI technology in planning departments will make planning applications simpler and more engaging for the public.
An interesting use of AI and chatbot technology in local government is Aberdeen City Council’s new internal chatbot, AB-1. Built on Microsoft Azure, AB-1 has been trained to support staff with payroll queries to free up officers’ workload, improve the customer’s experience and ultimately save the council money and time. We are not just seeing the need for chatbots to support customers and citizens, but also the use of chatbots internally in organisations for HR (e.g. booking holidays and training), IT (e.g. resetting passwords), Payroll and other services.
Have a council dashboard we should be sharing in a future issue of Council4.0? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org