7 ways councils can benefit from chatbots



Over the past ten years, chatbots have played a huge part in improving customer service. Their ability to answer a wide variety of popular queries and constantly improve through machine learning makes them an excellent piece of technology for a number of businesses and organisations. More recently, we have seen an increase in adoption of chatbots by local authorities. In 2016, Enfield Council ​announced the implementation of a chatbot named Amelia​ to help answer the high number of queries they received on a monthly basis. In July 2018, Cardiff council started to use chatbots to answer queries regarding bin collections​ and later that year Oxford City council launched a chatbot project​ of their own. We are currently working with a number of Councils across the UK including ​Monmouthshire County Council​, Pembrokeshire County Council and Carmarthenshire County Council. Evidently, there is something about these clever machines that is allowing local councils to significantly revolutionise how they deal with customer queries. In this article, we will outline seven ways why chatbots are so beneficial for local councils.  
They can answer the FAQs that don’t require human intervention

There are certain sets of questions that the majority of councils are going to receive on a regular basis. Questions regarding paying Council Tax, bin collections or parking permits are going to be common and will always have the same simple answer. With these straightforward queries, it is an inefficient use of an employees’ time to have them respond with the same answers over and over again. Alternatively, chatbots are programmed to provide quick and efficient answers to the most frequently asked customer queries – removing the need for human intervention.  

You free up staff for the more complex queries

While chatbots are undeniably clever, they cannot answer everything. Some queries will be particularly complex or specific to the customer in question, and will require the assistance of a human customer service operator to effectively resolve the query. By using chatbots to answer the most popular and simple queries, you free up more of your customer service staff to answer these more complicated questions. As a result, your staff will also have more time to up-skill and answer these queries to a higher standard, which, in turn, increases customer satisfaction and employee retention.  

Improved engagement with non-native English and Welsh-speaking people

In a country as multicultural as Great Britain, it is likely that some of the queries your council will receive are going to come from people who do not speak English as their first language. This is especially the case with Welsh councils, as 19% of Wales’ population speak Welsh as their first language. This is why we built​ the world's first Welsh language chatbot​ for Welsh Water. A non-native English person who may only be able to speak a little amount of English (if any at all) would have trouble communicating their query to an English customer service operator (as seen last week with ​HSBC telling a Welsh customer not to complain in a ‘foreign language’​!) Obviously, it is not feasible to train your customer service operators to speak and understand each of the possible languages they might receive a query in. However, chatbots are able to understand queries and translate answers in around 80 languages. As a result, your council can cater to a wider and more culturally diverse audience of customer queries.  

Reduce costs for unnecessary customer service staff

Recently, local councils have been put under an ​increasing amount of pressure to make major cuts to their spending and budget​. With this sudden need to cut costs, it seems counterintuitive to pay a large team of customer service staff to answer customer queries that a chatbot can resolve alone. Not to mention the money you save by cutting down on costs associated with staff sickness, leave, training and recruitment. On the other hand, the only expenses to pay with a chatbot is the initial payment whether you choose to pay that in one sum or monthly, along with a service fee – which, in the long-run, will be far less expensive than the continuous wages of a large customer service team. The money you save in reducing the number of customer service agents to pay can be reallocated to increase the funding of the more important sectors that need it the most.  

Integration

The use of chatbots doesn’t have to be confined to your council’s website. Many businesses have incorporated their customer service chatbot into their Facebook pages so that users can ask queries via Facebook Messenger. This is hardly surprising considering that Facebook Messenger now has around 1.2 billion users worldwide. As a result, people can engage with their local council and have their queries answered on an immensely popular platform that they will, most likely, already know how to use. They don’t even need to leave their Facebook homepage to quickly ask a simple question. The chatbot that we developed for ​Monmouthshire County Council is featured on Facebook Messenger​ as well as their council website. Although the most popular integration is Facebook Messenger, many other integrations are also available including Twitter, Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams, Telegram, Twilio, SMS, Email plus many more.  

Chatbots can easily take payments

As well as answer popular customer queries, chatbots can be integrated with payment portals. This would be beneficial to councils in allowing people to pay council tax, as well as parking tickets and any other fines. Traditionally, this would have to be completed through an online form or over the phone. Chatbots provide people with a more conversational and natural experience as they are guided through the payment process. People can even ask further queries they may have regarding the payment in question. For example, in the case of parking fines, the chatbot could provide the user with the reason for the fine and could also send them daily alerts reminding them about their outstanding fine before it increases.  

Round the clock service

Unlike the human customer service operators, chatbots are available at all hours of the day and all days of the year. After all, chatbots aren’t affected by bank holidays. Picture this scenario: someone in your borough needs to know whether they should put their bins out for the following morning, and it is too late for them to speak to a customer service operator. Rather than have them digging through your website for an answer, they can simply speak to a chatbot that pops up within seconds of them arriving on the council’s home page. The user receives an answer to their query as quickly as possible, and can leave the website satisfied and happy. More and more local councils are deploying chatbots as part of their customer service operation – and for good reason. To find out more about how your council can benefit from one of our IntelAgent chatbots, ​book your free customer service consultation​ or ​demo​ today.