How to get the best out of your bot

3rd December 2021

Andy Cox shares four key principles to help public service organisations get maximum value from chatbots.

Chatbots are having a positive impact on public services - from answering citizens’ questions to helping organisations monitor feedback and deal with larger and more complex queries. They’re also good for us as citizens, providing the ability to engage quickly and conveniently, while also providing a safe environment and anonymity to discuss more sensitive matters.

In our recent article - Why your next co-worker could be a bot - we explored how chatbots can augment what people can do. So, the next question to examine is: how can we get the best value from this fast-growing technology?

To help you on your bot journey, we’ve identified four key principles:

  1. Identify where they can be most helpful and cost-effective. Hone in on what you want to achieve. For example, is it cost savings, offering 24/7 support, freeing up teams – or maybe it’s something else? In a traditional sense, answering customer emails can be an expensive start of a dialogue for humans. So, deploying bots to reduce the flood of email enquiries to a trickle makes it possible for us to do more, without adding more resource. People’s freed-up time can then be diverted onto higher-value tasks.
  2. Start small but think big. There are many different types of bots available. But the good news is that they are very different to other tech projects. They are cloud-based, technically ‘light’ and, in many cases, ready to use and adapt. This means teams can get going quickly with a small investment and iterate as feedback comes in. It’s an agile, low-risk way to work, with no need for an expensive implementation. Once you’ve demonstrated a quick win, both teams and organisations will be more confident to look at bigger tasks to automate with bots. 
  3. Break down the barriers to adoption. Not everyone welcomes new technology when it first arrives. However, once people find it convenient and helpful, they worry less about how it works. And when users are happy with the service they’re getting, there’s no need to ‘sell’ the technology to them or to internal teams.
  4. Learn from the analytics bots provide. With bots, every interaction can be recorded, quantified and analysed. This can show, for example, how closely answers match the questions that citizens are asking, so the chatbot can be fine-tuned. The data can also provide a valuable sense of what’s on people’s minds. The Department of Health in Northern Ireland used this feature during the pandemic, analysing questions answered by its chatbot to develop a triaging script that reduced demand on its 111 helpline service by 83%.

Getting the best out of bots doesn’t require an endless budget or limitless tech capability. They can provide real value, quickly and cost effectively - a value which is more than just time and cost savings. It’s also about the insight they can provide, and how this can be used to continuously improve services. And don’t forget, like their human team members, bots need to be onboarded, supervised and provided training to improve themselves. So, make yours feel part of the team and keep feeding it with more data to get the best outcomes.

To help you further cut through the noise, volume two in our Perspectives* series: Are you talking to me, shares numerous examples of where bots are providing real value across public services, and useful steps to unlocking their true value.

We’ve seen bots already making life easier for many public service organisations and their citizens. They could soon be doing the same for yours.

Are you talking to me?

From Alexa to Siri, or Bobi to Florence bots have become a seamless extension in our everyday lives. In volume 2, we delve into their world and examine the impact for public services

Find out more
Conversational artificial intelligence