City: Portland, ME

Population: 66,595

Products: CivicPlus Chatbot, CivicEngage®

Keys to Project

Automated Customer Service, Integration

How Portland, ME uses CivicPlus Chatbot to Automatically Answer 2,500 Questions Per Month

Portland, Maine, has a sprawling and dense collection of websites filled with information about everything from how to pay a parking ticket to how to submit a mail-in ballot. With thousands of pages across multiple sites, several teams are responsible for curating content that addresses a diverse audience’s needs.

Before CivicPlus Chatbot 

Jessica Grondin is the Director of Communications & Digital Services for the City of Portland. She’s responsible for implementing innovative new technologies that improve user experience on the website. Additionally, she manages an employee that is specifically responsible for answering questions submitted via the website. An essential aspect of Grondin’s work is to ensure that citizens can efficiently and effectively find answers to any municipality-related question they might have.

“I was incredibly surprised by how easy it was to get [Chatbot] up and running. There really wasn’t any lift on our side, which is good because we don’t have a lot of resources right now.”

—Jessica Grondin, Director of Communications & Digital Services, City of Portland

How Portland, ME uses CivicPlus Chatbot to Automatically Answer 2,500 Questions Per Month

Grondin had three major problems:

  • High Volume of Customer Service Questions. The combination of COVID-19, the 2020 election, and a complex website created a perfect storm for Grondin’s direct report responsible for answering inbound questions via email/phone. Grondin estimates that call/email volume is a full 25 percent higher than usual and expects volume to remain this high at least until the threat from COVID-19 has receded. This staggering increase, along with Grondin’s limited resources, resulted in a negative user experience and undue stress on the employee responsible for fielding these requests.
  • Siloed Information: Portland has 11 different websites associated with its municipality. As a result, finding an answer to a specific question is exceedingly difficult.
  • Competing Stakeholders: With such a sprawling set of resources, internal stakeholders were having difficulty getting important and timely information—like instructions on submitting mail-in ballots–in front of website visitors. As a result, Grondin was regularly juggling competing requests from various stakeholders–all of whom wanted their content to be featured via a banner on the website. However, as Grondin pointed out, “we obviously can’t have five different banners on our homepage.”

These problems boiled down to a single and fundamental question that Grondin needed to answer: how could she appease both internal stakeholders and website visitors by automatically directing citizens towards relevant information whenever and wherever they looked for it?


After the CivicPlus Chatbot

Grondin implemented Chatbot in what she describes as a seamless and simple process:

“I was incredibly surprised by how easy it was to get [Chatbot] up and running. There really wasn’t any lift on our side, which is good because we don’t have a lot of resources right now.”

Grondin was pleased that Chatbot did not require extensive up-front training or complex decision tree mapping, unlike other chatbots she’s seen on the market.

Within days, the Chatbot was using content from thousands of pages to automatically answer upwards of 130 questions every day, significantly reducing the burden on Grondin’s team responsible for answering inbound questions.

What’s more, by quickly adding greeting buttons inside the Chatbot’s interface, Grondin was able to seamlessly direct visitors to high-importance pages and satisfy the multiple stakeholders vying for real estate on Portland’s homepage.

Portland_AnswersAs a bonus, Chatbot provides valuable insight into the types of questions Portland doesn’t have content capable of answering. This information is extremely valuable to Grondin:

“I love seeing the questions that people ask. It has helped us understand what people care about the most and which web pages need updating.”

As a result, the Chatbot gets more powerful, their content becomes more comprehensive, and their user experience becomes more seamless every day.

All in all, Chatbot is:

  • Helping Portland’s website deliver content to its citizens when they need it most
  • Aiding Grondin in her effort to reduce the strain on the employee responsible for handling inbound questions
  • Enabling internal stakeholders to surface important information precisely where visitors look for it


Why CivicPlus Chatbot?

Live chat is unsustainable

While live chat can provide a meaningful connection with visitors, Portland needed a more cost-effective and scalable solution that could address visitor questions without sacrificing user experience.

Maximize content ROI

Instead of content playing a passive role in the back of the website, Portland wanted to use it to deliver their visitors’ answers.

Easy implementation key for resource-strapped teams

Without complex decision trees or extensive training required, Chatbot was the only solution on the market that Portland could get up in running within days.

Summary of Results

Every month, Chatbot:

  • Indexes approximately 5,500 pages from 11 Portland-affiliated websites
  • Automatically answers an average of 2,500 questions per month on Portland’s website
  • Provides correct answers to +55% of the questions, freeing up employees to work on other valuable tasks
  • Generates 700+ click-throughs per month that generate new successful pageviews

Click here to calculate your estimated cost savings with the CivicPlus Chatbot


*CivicPlus Chatbot is powered by Frase

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