Can you share any insights or findings since the launch?
For us, it emphasises what a diverse range of services Monmouthshire covers. The queries that have been coming in are very wide ranging, from what is the hygiene rating of a particular restaurant to what bus can I take to go from Chepstow to Cardiff. It’s interesting to see just how broad our service offer is.
I think one of the key things for me is we need to be better at talking our residents’ language. We put out things in statutory words and that doesn’t necessarily meet what they’re looking for. We’re working with our services to improve their information on our website so it’s easy for Monty to signpost. Also, the information may not be readily available in a format that you can programme into the bot, so there has been some data manipulation required. We need to be working better again with our services to make sure that’s fully available on our website in a way that can be reused.
I also think there’s a cultural change. You cannot just expect your customer service staff to be able to instantly take up the chatbot way of responding. There are training needs to enable staff to go from an old-style telephony style of response to a quick text style of response because it’s different. And as people are getting these responses typically on a smartphone, you can’t be putting chapter and verse or War and Peace on there. It’s got to be quick, smart and snappy as if you were responding to your friend on WhatsApp.
We’re hoping that the data that we’re able to glean from Monty will help us work out even more useful information that we’re able to put out there for our residents, because sometimes we just don’t know what they’re interested in because we cover 300 odd services. It’s not like we’re just a bank or just one service. There are so many things that people could be asking us.
How do you see chatbots evolving and improving councils over the coming years?
Well, we would like Monty to link into some of our key information systems so that if you ask Monty a question about your council tax balance or how your application for your house is progressing, then it can link into those data sets and provide the answer. As I said previously, we want to link into the voice activated assistants, such as Siri, Google Home, Alexa, so we can encourage those that typically don’t use webspace services to link in with us.
Then what we’d like to look into is how we can enhance Monty so that it’s not only just for our residents but for our internal support services. If one team had a query for our HR or payroll service, you could get that via Monty if it was a simple question rather than something that needed a complex decision-making process.