Chatbots for Government and Public Services: Time to Improve Government-to-Citizen Communication

Michael M
Michael Morozov
Founder & CEO

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think about government services? Long waiting times? A lot of paperwork? Limited working hours? That’s all true.

The good news is that all these horrors are becoming the thing of the past. The generation of millennials is not going to waste their time to get their driver’s license reviewed or their taxes reconciled.

Today, a lot of government services have moved online providing immediate access and 24/7 availability.

Still, people sometimes get stuck when filling in forms on government agency websites.

Government agencies seem to love codes and numbers, speak in a language that is hard to understand and are very strict in their requirements.

Type in a wrong line or check a wrong box – and your form is either incorrect or rejected.

At such moments, we begin looking for someone we can ask for assistance.

Of course, when you are in a government office there is a clerk to help you, but who can you ask when you are filling in forms online at 2:00 in the morning?

The answer is on the surface – chatbots.

Chatbots fit government agencies perfectly. Government services are centered around communication with citizens and answering their inquiries.

Moreover, since government procedures must strictly comply with certain regulations, the visitors mostly ask the same questions and need similar assistance.

Therefore, chatbots can be of great use to government agencies as an additional tool for providing service to citizens.

chatbot for government

How can government services use chatbots?

Chatbots are just cleverly written pieces of code that imitate human conversations. While this description seems rather simple, their implementations may vary considerably.

The most basic chatbots communicate with pre-programmed answers that lead the user through one of the several predefined scenarios.

Advanced chatbots using artificial intelligence can maintain quite natural conversations on various topics.

The business cases of chatbots for government services can benefit from all kind of chatbots – from the simplest to the most complex.

Let’s look at the possible uses that the chatbot technology can find in the government sector.

First-line assistance

This is one of the most straightforward business cases for chatbots in government services.

As we said, a large part of the government agency work is consulting the visitors, answering their questions and providing information. Chatbots can take over this work relieving the human operators for more complicated tasks.

For example, chatbots can be used to supply the following basic information:

  • The list of documents to be submitted for any procedure;
  • The deadlines for any action, such as tax return filing, driver license renewal, and so on;
  • The fees for government services;
  • The exempt categories of citizens, such as seniors, students, military, etc.

For local government services, chatbots can communicate with citizens on the matters related to their local situation:

  • The opening hours of various government institutions;
  • The times of local events;
  • The announcements of local works and restrictions, such as road closures for repair, changes in the opening hours of local government offices, and so on.

All these basic functions can be achieved by implementing a simple chatbot on a government service website.

The bot can be programmed to provide a choice of options and give standard answers. In this case, no complex development including artificial intelligence is necessary.

In many cases, these chatbots can leverage the possibilities of popular messenger platforms, such as Facebook Messenger, to establish communication with the community.

For example, this approach is being used by the Kansas City government that launched a chatbot to assist people with various inquiries.

online chatbot KCData screenshot

Obviously, the implementation of such informational chatbots brings multiple benefits for both the government services and the citizens:

  • 24/7 availability. The community can access the information at any time without leaving home or office.
  • Easy search. While the same information may be available on the website, a chatbot will quickly lead the visitor to the required section in just a couple of questions. Compared to searching for the information on government agency websites that are known to be very data-loaded and hard to navigate, chatbots present a much user-friendlier solution.
  • Cost-effectiveness. With routine, repetitive tasks assigned to chatbots, government agencies can transfer their human operators to other activities requiring more personal approach.

Form submission and personalized service

In addition to providing information, chatbots can be used to assist citizens with various forms and procedures.

Very often, these interactions begin with a database search for a particular item, such as a social security number of the driver license number. These tasks can be effectively transferred to chatbots, which then will offer a choice of further actions.

Such chatbots can be programmed to provide a number of available options redirecting the visitor to the corresponding pages on the website or offering to fill in the necessary data right within the chat.

In the case of such chatbots, no complex artificial intelligence programming may be necessary.

If you are looking for an example of such chatbot, visit the website of the Montana State Motor Vehicle Division.

This authority runs a native chatbot named Ben directly on their webpage helping citizens with various matters related to their driver licenses and other regulations.

The bot assists with many procedures with license or registration renewal, then provides lists of documents required for the license application and can schedule an appointment in the local office.

The chatbot supports multiple personalized functions, like checking the status of the license or the driver’s history, correcting errors in the issued licenses or vehicle registrations and a lot more.

With this chatbot, residents of Montana can save their time by interacting with the agency right from their homes at the time they find convenient.

The chatbot’s questions and options are stated in a natural conversational format making it easy for the visitors to find their way among dozens of forms and lists.

bot development screenshot

Citizen reports

A large chunk of local government workload is taken by handling various reports and requests from the citizens.

A fallen tree, a pothole on the road, a malfunctioning traffic light – the local government needs to be advised of such incidents. However, when they are handled manually, they may take too much time.

chatbot development company

In this context, chatbots for local government can be a silver bullet. They provide a non-stop communication channel between the citizen community and the government and can also serve as a source of information. What benefits can the government service achieve by implementing a chatbot for such purposes? Quite a lot:

  • Immediate reporting. When you see something that requires attention, you want to report it as soon as you see it. If, however, you are forced to postpone it until you arrive at your office or home, you may forget, be distracted or find it no longer relevant.
    Moreover, if informing the authorities about a broken traffic light requires calling on the phone and waiting on hold, many of us would think twice.
    A chatbot in your smartphone is your instant connection to the government office.
  • Less manual handling. A chatbot can be trained to recognize certain words and combinations to forward the reports to the corresponding departments. This way, the time between the report and the measures taken to correct the issue is reduced to the minimum.
    Besides, since chatbots sort the inquiries automatically, there is no need to hire much front-line staff.
  • Reduced email load. A chatbot can decrease the number of emails received by the government offices, thus reducing the effort needed to handle them and send replies.

The city of North Charleston, S.C., runs its Citibot for citizen communication. The bot requires no downloading or installation as it can be reached by sending a text message to a special telephone number. Anyone with a mobile telephone can report an incident or request information.

The Citibot is trained to recognize plain text and certain keywords related to possible municipal problems. It takes about 10 seconds to report an issue and the responsible team to start handling it.

Surveys and feedback

All services, government services included, look for ways of getting feedback from their customers.

With surveys, government authorities can see how the community is satisfied with their work and whether any changes are in order. Naturally, collecting feedback is a perfect business case for chatbots.

A survey can be attached to any other chatbot service. After the visitor has submitted the form or received the information, you may ask them to answer a couple of questions about the service quality and whether anything should be improved.

Website traffic load reduction

It is no secret that government organizations often operate on a limited budget. Thus, they cannot invest a lot into a total optimization of their websites.

At the same time, new information, regulations, forms, and procedures appear all the time and need to be added on the website for all to see.

As a result, the websites become greatly overloaded, slow and poorly responsive to mobile interfaces.

Adding a chatbot to a website may be a less costly solution that will streamline the traffic and reduce the load on the website.

By using an external platform, such as Facebook Messenger or Slack, the authorities will obtain a great communication channel serving the needs of the community and usable on a mobile device.

Benefits of chatbots for government agencies

As you can see from the business cases we described, chatbots can help to organize the work of government offices and departments in many ways.

If we wanted to summarize the benefits that the chatbots can give to national and local governments, we are going to get quite a list:

  • Easy conversational interface with intuitive navigation usable even by citizens with no technical background;
  • 24/7 availability;
  • Less time both for the citizens to have their matter settled and for the government workers to handle the inquiries;
  • Fewer errors in forms due to the guidelines supplied by the chatbot;
  • Reduced load on email services and telephone lines;
  • Reduced load on the website;
  • Convenient platform for getting feedback;
  • Cost reduction by assigning front-line manual tasks to chatbots and transferring personnel to other positions;
  • Mobile usage.
benefits of chatbots

In general, chatbots work great in any sector that is focused on interaction with large numbers of users. In this respect, most government agencies will benefit from adding a chatbot to their suite of services. The current market offers a whole range of chatbot building options of any complexity and for any budget.

Depending on the requirements, you can choose “chatbot as a service” platforms, such as Azure Bot Service or Chatfuel or opt for a custom chatbot with the functionality tailored to the needs of the particular government agency.

Custom chatbots can be either native, that is, functioning directly on your website, or based on an external platform, such as Facebook Messenger, Twitter, or Slack.

No matter which approach to the bot building you choose, you need the assistance of a professional chatbot development company to ensure high quality and effective performance. People tend to be rather critical of government services. Thus, the quality of your electronic assistant should be top-notch.

Besides, government agencies often handle volumes of sensitive information, such as license numbers, social security databases, criminal case data, and a lot more. Thus, the security issues are among the most critical.

If you need a professionally made chatbot for a government organization that can accommodate all the services that you offer and grow together with your user community, browse our portfolio to see the services we provide.

Contact us to discuss your project and rest assured that you will get the most optimal solution for your requirements and your budget.

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