Leeds City Council has introduced a new customer service chatbot operating through its website.
It said the bot will act as a virtual assistant on a 24/7 basis and has been developed by its Integrated Digital Service from the Microsoft Bot Framework.
The chatbot – currently in beta format with an invitation for feedback – appears as a blue button in the bottom right corner of the council’s website, which users can click to submit a question. It interprets the words and provides a pre-set answer directing the individual to the relevant answer or resource to support their needs
The first version of the chatbot is focused on helping with high frequency enquiries around issues such as waste disposal and changes to tenancies. The council said it has an “aggressive plan” to extend this to other services and link to other providers, such as those in the NHS, across the city.
First of type
Leonardo Tantari, chief digital Information officer for NHS Leeds CCG and Leeds City Council, said: “It’s the first of its type for Leeds City Council and has been progressed using our internal team and their incredible expertise and skills, working with the technology stack from Microsoft Bot Framework.
“This development signals the start of a new digital roadmap for the Leeds City Council website, it also heralds the way we want to deliver digital services to our customers ensuring we continue to advance our offerings to meet people’s evolving needs.”
The move gives the council some hope of reducing the pressure on its contact centre, which has recently been criticised for the waiting times for calls to be picked up.
According to a report on Leeds Live in February, director of resources Neil Evans told the scrutiny committee it was not an acceptable position and that chatbots and e-forms could be used to make it easier for the council to respond to problems.