COVID-19 represents a turning point for how people access information about products and services. As lockdowns and social distancing guidelines forced businesses to move their operations online, many organisations were forced to accelerate their digital transformation plans.
According to a McKinsey global survey, business leaders are now three times likelier than before the pandemic to say that at least 80% of their customer interactions have gone digital — a paradigm shift that’s likely to continue in a post-pandemic world.
However, these changes don’t just apply to businesses but also to groups and organisations that provide critical services.
With customer service teams working from home on short notice, problems inevitably arose. People still needed support to access critical services like healthcare and financial services (e.g., banking and insurance), but agents didn’t have the bandwidth to answer calls and emails.
Many agile organisations turned to an AI-based solution designed to solve this very problem.
Enter the chatbot.
The Relationship Between Chatbots and Critical Service Providers
Using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, chatbots can automate responses to frequently asked questions about your critical services. Chatbots also use natural language processing (NLP) to provide human-like responses to questions, creating natural interactions that don’t alienate customers.
Ultimately, these features free your live agents from answering repetitive and time-sapping questions, allowing them to focus on conversations that need them the most.
In the context of critical services, a chatbot can enable customers to self-serve and get access to the services they need when they need them. For example, a housing association chatbot can help residents report a problem in their flat and schedule a repair for the next day — all without leaving the chat window or speaking to a human.
Below are a few more examples of industries using chatbots to deliver critical services.
BT reports that people in the UK make approximately 33 million 999 calls per year, or roughly 93,000 calls a day. Of that number, nearly half were for law enforcement. BT also found that 70% of all 999 calls made in the UK were done using a mobile phone or device. Meanwhile, there are 30 million 101 calls every year.
Police forces have an opportunity to decongest their phone lines and reduce call waiting times by deploying a chatbot to handle non-emergency queries. For example, West Midlands Police have deployed a chatbot named “Bob-E” to function as a digital concierge service. Bob-E greets stakeholders, takes their basic contact details, and triages their enquiry.
Image Source: West Midlands Police
Housing associations can leverage chatbots to provide self-serve features to their residents and allow them to:
- Submit a tenant application
- Sign and submit tenant agreements
- Pay for rent
- Report anti-social behaviour (ASB)
- Request and schedule repairs and maintenance services.
believe housing, one of the largest housing associations in the northeast of England, uses a chatbot named EVE to signpost users to their tenant services. Tenants can engage the chatbot to fill up a direct debit form, identify which repairs they can on their own, or report to their landlord and report incidents of illegal activity.
<h2>3. Council Services</h2>
Chatbots for councils can free support teams from spending several hours each week responding to residents’ questions about the same set of topics and issues. These include:
- What items can be recycled and placed in the blue bin?
- What items cannot be recycled?
- What childcare options are in the borough?
- How do I report street rubbish/fly-tipping?
- How do I report anti-social behaviour (ASB)?
- How much does it cost to book a bulky waste collection?
Councils get these queries all the time, making them perfect for efficiency through automation. For example, Newham Council deployed a multilingual chatbot to field questions about local parking permits and penalty charges.
The chatbot helped generate £40,000 in savings from lower call volumes and shorter waiting times in just six months.
Chatbot Success — The Devil Is in the Details
Despite the hype surrounding chatbots, their implementation can be prone to problems. Organisations that provide critical services should consider working with a chatbot provider to tailor a solution to their specific needs, challenges and customer preferences.