The Future of Citizen Service is Automated (and the Future is Now)

Written by Whitney Greene

Chatbots are bringing effortless, and accurate service automation to local governments.
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Today, in our digitally connected world, convenience is everything. As consumers, we’ve become accustomed to the satisfaction that the seemingly limitless number of online services provide to us that make our day-to-day lives easier. We can schedule meal kits to be automatically delivered weekly to our doorstep with set-it-and-forget-it ease, streaming entertainment services have eliminated trips to video rental stores, and the answer to even an obscure question is only a Google search away.

We’ve become a culture that appreciates and expects effortless engagement, immediate answers, services, and results. The expectations for rapid customer service have never been higher. For years, this notion has put a stress-inducing pressure on local governments suffering from staff and budget restrictions to provide an Amazon-like experience of intuitive, responsive, and personalized digital service interactions. Complicating matters further, local governments have been forced to shut their doors and furlough staff in the months following the COVID-19 crisis, creating new barriers to citizens contacting their local leaders in-person, by phone, and email for answers to such pressing questions as, “How do I apply for unemployment,” or “Where can I get the COVID-19 vaccine?”

Fortunately, as they have proven throughout history, local government difference-makers are innovative and resilient, and when their reality changes, they pivot and adapt to great success. Smart cities and counties across the nation have found a solution to their citizen service challenges in the form of customer service automation technology. The chatbot, commonly seen as a customer service tool on company websites, eliminates the time-consuming pressure of manual engagement interventions by over-burdened administrative staff members and delighting citizens with effortless and accurate information and service experiences.

Local Government’s Adoption of Chatbot Technology

A recent article on reported that recent survey data shows that most U.S. counties are either already using chatbots or plan to soon. In part, the adoption was necessitated by the COVID-19 crisis and the need for contactless government and online citizen service adoption. Portland, Maine, for example, implemented the CivicPlus Chatbot and is benefitting from:

  • Automated responses to an average of 2,500 questions per month on its primary website, freeing-up employees to work on other projects
  • Over 700 additional click-throughs monthly to additional website content
  • Automatic indexing of approximately 5,500 pages from its 11 affiliated websites

Read the full story here.

Live Chat vs. Chatbot Technology

For local governments considering implementing a chat feature in their local government website to help facilitate contactless citizen service experiences, familiarize yourself with the types of chat capabilities available. A live service representative must staff traditional chat features built into websites. If you choose this approach, know that you won’t be eliminating manual customer service responsibilities for your staff. Rather, you’ll be adding to their task list one more channel that they must manage—and one in which the citizen on the other end is expecting near-immediate responses.

As an alternative, the most advanced chatbots leverage artificial intelligence (AI) technology to constantly crawl your website and linked databases to learn about your content and provide rapid and accurate answers to common citizen questions without staff’s need to provide responses or manage linked databases manually.

What to Look for in an AI-Powered Chatbot

If you are ready to take back time in your day and meet your citizens’ expectations for high-quality, accurate, and expeditious customer service experiences, look for a chatbot technology solution that:

  • Excels at ingesting large amounts of content
  • Is designed exclusively for public sector customer service and not as a corporate sales funnel tool
  • Uses a modern, AI-based answer engine
  • Automatically delivers answers 24/7/365 via an integration with your website
  • Provides insightful analytics that identifies user intent and allows for automated optimization over time
  • Identifies topic gaps so that administrative staff can add content to their website for which citizens frequently search

To find out how much time you could save with a chatbot solution incorporated into your website, use our Chatbot ROI calculator.