How Government Agencies Use Chatbots to Reduce Costs, Assist The Public, and Slash Wait Times

Many state, county and municipal government agencies across the globe have begun to deploy chatbots, aimed at helping users get more out of online public services such as government websites, in addition to facilitating crime (and pothole!) reporting. 

By way of recent example, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD), the worlds’ largest sheriff department, worked with Gobot to implement a chatbot to improve public engagement and dramatically reduce wait time and help desk tickets (learn more here). 

Also, USA.gov implemented a chatbot to facilitate fraud reporting.

Chatbots create an exceptional opportunity for government services.  

Agency budgets are limited and they are tasked with tending to the needs of a very large population.

And while Missouri is debating whether to support a $16M spend on chatbots, chatbots don’t need to break the bank!  

By way of example, Gobot offers a very affordable managed plan where we build, optimize and manage your chatbot at an affordable rate.

By leveraging such capabilities as well as freeing up government employees to manage complex resident requests, chatbots have the potential to reduce costs and provide each citizen with more personalized service.

Gobot has developed chatbot software to specifically address the needs of government agencies (learn more about what chatbots are here – scroll down to the “How Do Chatbots Work?” section).

In this article, we discuss government service areas ripe for chatbot implementation and provide a sampling of 15 chatbots implemented to supplement government services globally.

External Facing Chatbots

For government agencies or departments that interact with the public, the flow of questions never seems to end. 

The large majority of these questions are repetitive and often covered by a library of detailed FAQs on the agency’s website. 

Notwithstanding the proactive efforts made by the agency to anticipate and address the public’s questions, the phones never stop ringing and the support emails never stop flowing with repetitive questions all usually addressed by FAQs on the website. 

Why is this? 

It’s all about ease of access. 

How is a person able to readily find his/her particular question in a sea of FAQs or find information in a very text busy government website? 

A site keyword search often returns a ton of hits, most of which are not on point. 

In light of this reality, it’s much easier to just submit a question, and that’s what most people do. 

All of this results in delayed satisfaction for the person with the question and extra, unnecessary work for the government agency, which needs to staff up in order to address questions in a timely manner.  

Resident satisfaction plunges and already tight budgets become even more stressed with the addition of more employees – it’s a vicious cycle!

How does a chatbot resolve this issue?

A chatbot with artificial intelligence or machine learning can understand the visitor’s intent and respond in a much more nuanced way than a simple keyword search.

Visitors are very accustomed to messaging and receiving instant service, 24/7. Implementing a chatbot is guaranteed to improve your agency’s ratings and ease your team’s workload.

Even when the chatbot cannot fully address a visitor’s question in the first instance, it still can add value in multiple ways. 

First, if the government agency has live chat agents, it can hand the visitor off to a live agent if available. 

For large teams with subspecialties, the chatbot can route the visitor to just the right agent with just the right expertise. 

Second, if a live chat agent is not available (or if the government agency doesn’t have live chat agents), the chatbot can email the visitor’s question directly to just the right person on the team based on the content of the question.

As detailed below, the LASD leverages a chatbot not only on its public facing website but also on its community app.

Internal facing chatbot

Chatbots are not just for the public. 

Government agencies can use chatbots internally to assist their employees. 

Agencies often have many long employee policies searchable via keyword search. 

These documents suffer from the same issues government websites face – their complexity and voluminous content limits actual utilization and results in repetitive questions by employees, often to Human Resources. 

A chatbot can be used to address questions in plain English and guide employees quickly.

What are other ways government services can leverage chatbots?

Chatbots are great at guiding citizens to the right information quickly. 

The following are some ways in which chatbots can also personalize and simplify public services, thereby allowing government bodies to offer a better experience for the public.

Simplify Public Services and Civic Duties

With the chatbot widget present on every page of the government body website, the public can quickly get answers or clarifications about government related topics or administrative formality. 

Actions such as renewal of driving licenses, applications for unemployment benefits or other relief packages, and filing and payment of taxes, can be initiated online via chat.  

Chatbots in this context save time and, intimately, reduce staffing requirements on the part of the government bodies involved.

By way of example, chatbots provide a much more efficient means of doing business with a city’s department of motor vehicles. 

The average wait time at the DMV is 44 minutes, though in some cities typical waits can be as many as four hours long. 

Often, residents must wait to complete simple tasks like renewing their license plates. 

This is just one area begging for a chatbot!

Civic Engagement

Chatbots provide a real opportunity to grow citizen participation in government. 

By creating chatbot surveys that ask residents questions about policy issues, cities can gather more direct citizen feedback. 

For example, rather than encouraging residents to merely call their mayor or congress person’s office with concerns, cities and states could integrate chatbots into the city or state hall website or Facebook page to allow residents to voice opinions and then automatically ask follow-up questions to gather deeper, more useful input.

By way of example, The New York City Police Department, has adopted crowdsourcing platforms that allow residents to submit ideas and has increased its presence on social media to engage with residents. 

Will the NYPD follow the LASD and implement a chatbot next?

311

Many cities have numbers that the public can call to ask questions. Most 311 calls are simple information requests—questions about the hours of the public pool, what roads will be closed during an event, or some other piece of information. 

These are all questions that could easily be answered by a chatbot, either over the phone or via instant messaging. 

By having chatbots handle simpler requests, cities can free up call center workers to handle more complex citizen inquiries, providing better and faster service.

Chatbots Give Citizens an Accessible, Up-To-Date Calendar of Events

Chatbots can serve as a reliable contact point for information that your citizens seek on a regular basis. 

Notifications about upcoming local events, activities, and holidays make up a significant percentage of this information.

In addition to this, the mode of dispensing information about local activities and events also becomes more interactive using conversational AI. 

Instead of visiting a link and scouting through multiple calendars, a person can just ask the government chatbot about the next long weekend, or respond to the chatbot’s invitation to check out the latest event being organized near them.

Chatbots Are Free, 24/7 City Guides

Government chatbots can make cities or towns more tourist-friendly, guiding visitors to local attractions and helping them plan their itineraries. 

The chatbot can offer additional advice including map directions, public transit routes, and so on.

These functionalities don’t need to be as comprehensive as those offered by private tour guide agencies, but they can certainly address recurring questions that tourists visiting a particular city tend to have. 

Chatbots Can Generate Awareness About Regulations and Legislation

Most people don’t have the time or patience to locate and read lengthy regulations. 

The perfect example is your local town regulation covering something as basic as watering your lawn or rules covering where you can park your car. 

Can I water my lawn every day during drought season?

Can I park my car in a “do not park zone” during a holiday?

If it was super quick and easy to get your question answered, most people would at least make an effort to comply. 

Unfortunately, in most cases when dealing with government services, this is not the case. 

With the emergence of chatbots for government agency websites, however, the information in these legal documents can be converted into a simple Q&A format, and dispensed to citizens via chat. 

Simple, conversational language and immediate responses to doubts or queries can help citizens stay updated on the details of new and existing laws, and benefits that apply to them.

15 chatbots implemented to supplement government services globally

Some government agencies have already leveraged chatbot technology to improve service delivery efficiencies, as well as better internal workforce management. 

Below are 15 examples of chatbot projects in the government space. 

Chatbots for Governments Currently in Use

  1. Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD) – As detailed above and in Gobot’s case study here, the LASD uses a chatbot on their website and app to reduce the load on their helpdesk by approximately 50%.

2. Department of Home Land Security, USA: EMMA

EMMA chatbot developed for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration services of Department of Home Land Security. 

This virtual assistant is intended to address requests pertaining to immigration services, green card, passports and any service offered by this department. 

This bot supports both Spanish and English languages. 

The English-speaking bot enables you to ask through speech. 

You can get any information about this department or get a walk through of the website. 

Monthly, this bot handles 1 million interactions.

3. Government of Mississippi State Chatbot: MISSI

MISSI is the chatbot application of Mississippi State. 

The chatbot is designed to address resident and visitor questions regarding the state. 

The chatbot application accepts text input through the Mississippi State website chat messaging window or voice input through voice assistant Alexa of Amazon (must download the Skill “Ask Mississippi” to use Alexa).

This application aids residents, businesses, as well as visitors. 

The chatbot assists residents with public services and related information, like taxation, health services, public transport, family services, job opportunities, and so on. 

The chatbot helps visitors stay informed as to with places to visit and events happening.

4. Government of San Francisco’s Chatbot: PAIGE

PAIGE stands for Procurement Answers and Information Guided Experience. 

PAIGE is San Francisco’s Procurement chatbot application for internal workers. 

This application is built on Facebook’s NLP platform- wit.ai. PAIGE is intended to assist the employees in San Francisco government agencies with the digital/IT procurement process.

5. Government of Kansas City Chatbot : OpenDataKC

Kansas City’s open data portal was originally developed to aid people to find information about the city in detail at one location. 

Ultimately, they implemented a Facebook messenger chatbot application named OpenDataKC intended to cut through the noise and overcome data overload.

6. General Services Administration, USA: Mrs. Landingham

Mrs. Landingham is the Slack bot developed by 18F, an initiative of the General Services Administration, USA.

This bot is intended to improve the onboarding process for new hires. 

The bot guides new hires on the complete in-house onboarding process like filling out forms, organizing deliberations and so on.

7. Government of Los Angeles: CHIP and L.A.City Alexa

City Hall Internet Personality (CHIP) is a chatbot application launched by Los Angeles Business Assistance Virtual Network (LA BAVN) to assist users with respect to business opportunities available.  

The CHIP application is launched on Microsoft’s Azure Bot platform. 

8. Government of Singapore Chatbot: Gov.sg

Gov.sg is a Facebook Messenger chatbot launched by the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI), Singapore.  

The chatbot helps Singaporeans and visitors easily locate information about the government’s agencies, news, press releases, workforce, and policies. 

The chatbot also helps track the status of complaints regarding lapses in any of the public services. 

9. Government of Bonn City Chatbot: Botty Bonn

The Botty chatbot is a Bonn city chatbot application designed to help Germans with all the Bonn city affairs and other administrative information.

10. Government of Dubai’s Chatbot, Rammas

RAMMAS is an AI chatbot application launched by the Dubai Electricity & Water Authority (DEWA) on 17th, January 2017. 

This bot application deals with customer inquiries of all sorts, accepts payments, and is bilingual, speaking both English and Arabic. 

This is the first ever government chatbot application launched on Google’s AI platform. 

The chatbot application is available on the DEWA website, IOS, Android, Amazon Alexa, Facebook, and as a physical robot. 

11. Government of London Chatbot: TravelBot

TravelBot is an AI-powered Facebook messenger chatbot application launched by the Travel For London(TFL) government agency, UK, on 13 June 2017. 

This messenger bot is intended to help with services like bus arrivals, route status, service updates (bus/rail), maps, and even allot a human agent if a customer requires further details. 

12. Government of Australia Chatbot: Alex

Alex is the Australian Taxation Office chatbot designed to help people and businesses with issues related to taxation, property rights, income & deduction, filing returns, and taxation.

13. Government of Maharashtra(India) Chatbot: PMC (under maintenance)

Pune Municipal Corporation, Maharashtra State, India, as a part of a smart city initiative, implemented the PMC chatbot for their government website. 

The PMC chatbot is designed to assist people with information like complaint registration, online services, tax filing, health issues, finance, driving license info, and much more. 

PMC is intended to improve government transparency by publishing up-to-date analytics data, such as health data, for all the public services.

14. North Charleston, S.C.

In North Charleston, S.C., the city has adopted a text-based chatbot, which goes above common 311-style interfaces by allowing users to report potholes or any other lapses in city services they may notice. 

It also allows them to ask questions, which it subsequently answers by crawling city websites and replying with relevant links.

15. Kansas City: Agent Kay

On June 19, 2017, Open Data Kansas City officially launched a new bot on their website to try to make its open data portal more accessible to non-technical users. 

The chatbot converses with Facebook Messenger users to help them find the most useful data on what they care about in city government.  

The bot answers questions on topics ranging from taxes to fishing licenses. 

Interested in learning more about chatbots for your government agency? Click here to book a discovery session with our team.

References:

  1. https://chatbotsmagazine.com/government-chatbots-5-ways-chatbots-can-personalize-public-services-9aaec7f94d84
  2. https://www.govtech.com/computing/5-Ways-Chatbots-Could-Transform-Government-Services.html
  3. https://www.govtech.com/computing/Los-Angeles-Microsoft-Unveil-Chip-New-Chatbot-Project-Centered-on-Streamlining.html

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