Artificial intelligence in local government: The argument for chatbots

Published on 12/06/2019

4C Strategies, a supplier on our Consultancy Services framework (664), discuss the future of chatbots in the public sector.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is the technology of now. AI is a hot topic as it presents new opportunities for huge forward leaps in technological advancement. AI can learn, and we have the power to teach it. Because of this, there has been ample discussion as of late regarding the potential for AI to be used across a number of industries, including in the public sector.

Before too long, AI and robotics could become commonplace in local government. AI has already been adopted by some of the most forward-thinking councils and is expected to become even more prevalent in the public sector over the coming years.

How artificial intelligence can benefit user experience

There is still a tendency to think of artificial intelligence primarily as a means to increase efficiencies or lower costs. This is absolutely true, of course, but it is also worth considering its capacity to improve user experience.
One silo of the wider AI offering getting a lot of attention of late is chatbots. Chatbots have the capacity to massively improve how millennials relate to and interact with their local councils. Conversational user experiences (for example, Facebook Messenger) are set to explode in a wide range of cases and markets, as they provide the ultimate user experience and breakdown a number of barriers to accessibility. Generation Y loves this technology and will eventually come to expect it from any service, including those within the public sector.
Do chatbots also provide the cost and efficiency benefits commonly associated with artificial intelligence? Of course; automating portions of the council contact centre will free up staff resources, with less time spent answering phone calls and manually chasing up or responding to queries.

How might chatbots be utilised within the council contact centre?
Local councils already possess the knowledge base required to power a chatbot capable of answering even the most obscure of questions. Councils will know why people call them, which services are most commonly requested, how to respond to these questions and which services to direct a user to. Fuelled by this knowledge base, a chatbot is able to function based on an “FAQ” deployment delivering pre-defined responses to questions entered by users via existing messenger platforms, such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, or via a dedicated chatbot platform. Based on this, a chatbot will be able to answer not only the simple questions but at least the top 20 most frequently asked questions for each council department, even the particularly tricky ones.

The chatbot should also be able to carry out a number of other functions: authenticating customers prior to the provision of answers, taking payments and supporting the receipt of media such as scanned forms or photos relating to a process or report.
In order to operate on a truly optimised level, the chatbot must be able to detect nuances in language, pre-empt what a customer might ask next, learn from each interaction, and even integrate a customer’s information in order to facilitate further personalisation of services and predictive forecasting.

The future

At present, conversational user interfaces remain at a fairly embryonic stage, but it is expected that they will quickly evolve to facilitate a number of further functions, such as taking council tax payments, providing the user with progress updates on service requests and even becoming the new medium for filling out simple online forms via an automated question and answer process.
If you would like to find out more about 4C and its services or the Consultancy Services framework (664), please click here.

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