Paul Shepherd 13 December 2019

AI: A game changer

AI: A game changer image

There is a perfect storm brewing across local government, with ongoing budget cuts met by increasing public expectations of improved, digitised services.

As citizens become more and more reliant on digital and mobile apps in their daily lives - like Uber, Just Eat, Monzo and others – there is an increasing frustration when these levels of convenience don’t spill into the public sector.

Why can’t reporting a missed bin collection be as seamless as ordering a takeaway? Or reporting a pothole be as simple as booking a cab? Citizens today expect to be able to reach their service suppliers at any time and across any channel; whether that’s telephone, web, email, social media channels, or increasingly through messaging apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

Voice assistants like Alexa and Google Home can’t be ignored either. The use of voice assistants is set to triple over the next few years, according to a new forecast from the U.K.-based analysts at Juniper Research. In short, more people are turning to AI to answer their queries than ever before.

That’s the reality surrounding local authorities and yet approaches to customer service still heavily revolve around the telephone and email.

Analysis carried out by We Build Bots has looked at call volumes, call types and call lengths across 50 local authorities and found over 45% of these interactions to be ‘automatable’ (for want of a better word).

We looked at a total of 10 million calls to local authorities, and, at an industry standard of £1 cost per call minute and an average length of call of three minutes, we estimate that the cost of handling these calls runs to around £30m across the 50 councils. Looking at responding to those calls from the perspective of time, rather than finances, it equals 500,000 hours or 66,666 working days of time.

We think at least 45% of calls can be automated and deploying AI powered automation like chatbots could save the 50 councils we studied an average of £270,000 per year, or 4,500 hours of time each.

Our analysis didn’t even take into account email deflection, and the savings are already pretty compelling, but that’s just the half of it.

This is money and employee time that could be deployed in far more productive ways than registering a missed bin collection, logging a pothole submission, or handing out the telephone number to the local leisure centre (all genuine call types). Through the adoption of AI, people answering these calls and emails for local authorities can be freed up to focus on the enquiries that matter most and need a dedicated, personal touch.

Ultimately, by offering citizens the option to ask Alexa which bin is being collected this week or what day bin collections happen over a bank holiday, citizens get information more easily and quickly, and local authorities save time and money, which can be better spent elsewhere.

All in all, with budget cuts and increased citizen expectations, there’s only really one way to weather the perfect storm, and that’s via automation. It’s not as scary as it can seem and it can start small and scale. One thing is for sure, this is a trend that won’t be reversed any time soon, and the early adopters are the ones already seeing huge benefits for their organisations and most importantly, for their citizens.

Paul Shepherd is the CEO and founder of We Build Bots

#AI
Hydrogen for transport image

Hydrogen for transport

Mark Griffin explains why Aberdeen City Council has introduced a fleet of hydrogen fuelled buses to help reduce emissions.
SIGN UP
For your free daily news bulletin
Highways jobs

Child and Family Support Worker

Essex County Council
Plus Excellent Benefits
The purpose of this role is to work within frontline teams to support the delivery of effective Children's Social Work. England, Essex, Chelmsford
Recuriter: Essex County Council

Part Time Community Rail Partnership Officer

Essex County Council
£24000 - £26275 per annum + Plus Excellent Benefits Package
Please note that this position is being offer on a part time basis, covering 23 hours per week. Working Pattern TBC. England, Essex, Rochford
Recuriter: Essex County Council

Duty Officer

Telford & Wrekin Council
£19,554 - £21,166
The successful candidate will work across a rota pattern that includes regular evening and weekend working and will be responsible for... Telford, Shropshire
Recuriter: Telford & Wrekin Council

Business Support Officer - Learning and Early Support

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£19,554 - £21,166
Duties will include... Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Plant and Motor Vehicle Technician - 3 jobs

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£24,799 - £26,317
You will carry out vehicle inspections, servicing, maintenance and repairs to vehicles and plants operated by Kirklees Council in... Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Public Property

Latest issue - Public Property News

This issue of Public Property examines how public sector organisations can unlock the hidden value in their land, and why a new approach to construction could help boost the outcomes of the Government’s One Public Estate programme.

The December issue also considers why learnings from ancient cities could provide the key to promoting wellbeing in the modern built environment. It also contains a case study on how the London Borough of Westminster has provided high quality care for the elderly alongside a block of luxury apartments.

Register for your free digital issue