Why LGAs Can’t Afford to Ignore Chatbots in 2020

Chatbots have been heralded as the most important customer service technology to arrive in years. While the private sector was quick to adopt this valuable AI tool, the public sector has been slower on the uptake. This can be attributed to the tight budgetary restrictions imposed on Local Government Authorities (LGAs) by successive national governments.

However, we believe LGA’s can no longer afford to ignore Chatbots. In this article, we explain why.

A money-saving technology that reduces the burden on contact centres

Though many public sector employees will soon be receiving a pay rise in line with the independent pay body’s recommendations, council workers will not. The fact cash-strapped councils are unable to offer their hard-working staff a wage increase highlights the difficult financial situation LGAs find themselves in.

Though this funding deficit has been a factor for many years, problems have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 crisis.

Chatbots are a cost-effective solution to the issue of providing high-quality customer service, while also reducing costs. They help in 3 key ways.

Why LGAs Can’t Afford to Ignore Chatbots in 2020
  1. They automate high-volume enquiries – Chatbots can automate relatively simple, high-volume enquiries that don’t need human intervention. For example, if 60% of your enquiries concern fly-tipping reports, you can reduce total call volume by up to 60% by simply integrating a basic Chatbot into your customer service system. Depending on call volumes, this can equate to the work of several full-time employees.
  2. They reduce the burden on contact centre staff – Contact centre staff are often over-stretched due to the sheer volume of calls they receive. By automating routine enquiries, organisations allow their employees to switch their focus to more complex, nuanced and valuable work. Essentially, Chatbots allow LGAs to extract greater value from their human agents.
  3. They cost relatively to implement and maintain – With Inform, prices for the design, creation, implementation and first year’s maintenance of a basic Chatbot start at around £10,000. After that first year, usage costs remain low but you continue to reap the rewards. Our Chatbots are capable of automating 90% of website and 50% of telephone enquiries. That’s an unbeatable cost-to-savings ratio.

Chatbots – accommodating spikes in demand

The Covid-19 crisis has also highlighted the extent to which LGAs struggle with spikes in demand. While a wide range of services have been affected and many contact centres are overloaded, there’s been a particularly noticeable surge in Universal Credit claims (Metro).

Seasonal surges can also be problematic for LGAs. Revenue & Benefits departments often struggle with Main Billing and the subsequent Recovery of Council Tax and many have to bring in more staff to handle the pick-up in demand. However, an even greater number of R&B departments have to keep customers waiting and allow service standards to drop because they simply can’t afford to hire extra agents.

With all surges in demand, a significant percentage of enquiries can be automated. They are the enquiries that simply don’t require human intervention.

Consider the following:

  • Account access issues and password changes
  • Directing customers to relevant forms and resources
  • Eligibility checks (for financial assistance etc.)
  • Information submission

All of these tasks can be successfully automated with a basic Chatbot. More advanced Chatbots go even further and many will be able to automate many contact centres’ 10 most common enquiries.

So, LGAs can’t afford to ignore Chatbots because they provide you with cost-effective protection from seasonal and unforeseen surges in demand.

find out about our LGA Chatbot service

Providing an improved citizen experience

Alongside studying the benefits to LGAs, it’s also important to recognise that Chatbots are valuable because they improve the citizen experience.

Yes, they help LGAs cut costs. But they do so whilst also improving the customer experience. If they didn’t do both, they wouldn’t be anywhere near as important a technology as they are.

We believe they improve service in 3 key ways.

Why LGAs Can’t Afford to Ignore Chatbots in 2020
  1. Making LGAs relevant to younger users – Millennials and younger citizens have been raised in the digital age. It is their natural habitat. They generally shy away from using the phone and prefer to engage via digital chat channels. Chatbots allow them to interact with LGA services in this way, making the LGA more relevant to users within this important demographic.
  2. Allowing LGAs to leverage existing data – We all recognise that big data plays an influential role in both our lives and wider society. Most organisations make a concerted effort to collect this type of data. However, few know how to use it. LGAs typically record why customers call, what questions they ask, what services are in demand and how to respond to these questions or direct users to the relevant service. Chatbots allow you to leverage that data to automate processes, cut costs and improve the customer experience.
  3. Simplifying complex bureaucratic processes – There are several instances in which individuals outside the public sector have built Chatbots that rectify a perceived problem with a particular public service. For instance, London resident, Joshua Browder, designed a Chatbot that helped those looking for public housing create a comprehensive, accurate and legally-sound application. For those who aren’t in a position to work through long and complex bureaucratic processes, this is a remarkably useful tool. At the same time, it reduces applicants’ dependence on an LGA’s human agents – cutting costs in the process.

Next step in digital development

Finally, you can’t argue with the fact that LGA service provision is increasingly digital. This simply reflects the reality that we now live in an increasingly digital society.

For both businesses and public sector organisations, Chatbots are the next step in digital customer service development. They represent a leap forward and the first valuable foray into the technology that will define the next few decades – artificial intelligence.

They’re also an important stepping stone. A technology that, once implemented and improved, will lead to further innovation and technical development. For customer service centres, the logical next step after Chatbots is another potential game-changer – voice-activated artificial intelligence.

However, missing the boat now makes catching up later more difficult and more expensive. Without the technological architecture and infrastructure required by Chatbots, LGAs have to bridge an enormous technological-gap if you later want to introduce more complex AI tools.

Leave it too long and bridging that gap becomes prohibitively expensive. As technology develops at a remarkable rate, making extraordinary advances in relatively short periods, the window of opportunity shrinks. Put simply, LGAs can’t afford to ignore Chatbots because they’re both the customer service technology of today and a prerequisite for the technology of tomorrow.

find out about our LGA Chatbot service

What Next?

Though the reasons why LGAs have been slow to adopt Chatbot technology are clear, we believe that they can no longer afford to ignore the benefits of adoption. When reduced to the basics, this analysis is supported by four key justifications.

  1. Chatbots reduce costs whilst also improving customer service performance, making them ideally suited to cash-strapped LGAs
  2. Chatbots allow LGAs to effectively handle surges in demand
  3. Chatbots improve the customer experience
  4. Chatbots are a first, important step in the AI revolution. They are the foundations on which future customer service systems will be built.

Our expert team have been providing customer self-service solutions for over 25 years. Call us on 01344 595800 or drop us a line to find out more.