Vicky is programme director Connected Local Government, a regular host on CLGdotTV programmes and has served public sector IT for more than 25 years@vickysargent
All about chatbots: Paul Tonks of Tailor Made Projects asks the questions, Emma Jackson of Monmouthshire CC and Paul Shepherd of We Build Bots provide the answers
Staff picking up enquiries handed off from Monty, the Monmouthshire Council website chatbot, have needed training to ensure they put aside council speak and adopt the simple, text-friendly language these machines have learned to use.
This was one of many interesting nuggets of information to emerge from the discussion stimulated by Monmouthshire’s decision to open up a new customer service channel that allows customers to submit queries into the council website as text and receive automated answers rather than having to use navigation or search to get there. Some users clearly don’t realise they are ‘talking’ to a machine.
Many of the issues raised whenever ‘bots’ are discussed arise in this conversation: the threat to jobs, the benefits of freeing staff from answering questions like 'when's my bin day?' to handle more important and complex enquiries, instances when users prefer the anonymity of speaking to a machine, and the return on investment in this technology.
Our panel agree that text and voice-based interaction is moving ahead rapidly for all customer-facing organisations and public services are no exception. Integration with existing systems is the big challenge.
This programme is part of the Free Thinking series produced by CLGdotTV in association with Paul Tonks founding director of Tailor Made Projects Limited
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