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Breckland Council Chatbot Answers 9,000 Enquiries per Month with ubisend

Breckland Council, located in Norfolk, UK, contains 12 electoral divisions, including the market towns of Attleborough, Dereham, Swaffham, Thetford and Watton. With over 300 employees, Breckland Council supports a population of over 140,000 people (as of the 2018 census).

The customer service team worked around the clock to assist the Breckland population across various topics, from paying bills to ordering new bins or reporting offences.

Customer experience manager Adele Newsome and her team receive upwards of 9,000 enquiries per month. Questions come from live chat, phone calls, and email.

With only two staff members available for live chat and emails, promptly responding to enquiries was a real challenge.

In 2021, Adele explored ways to reduce the number of inbound enquiries and relieve some pressure on her customer service team. Through the Crown Commercial Service purchasing system, she found ubisend and started to explore chatbots and process automation.

With ubisend's mix of automation, chatbot, live chat and ticketing, it was a perfect fit to help Breckland Council solve their customer service challenges.

A systematic approach to building a council chatbot

As Breckland Council and ubisend started to plan the chatbot solution, it became clear this would be an iterative project.

Councils are large organisations that must be able to answer a wide variety of questions across a range of topics such as:

  • Recycling
  • Council tax
  • Housing
  • Business
  • Planning and building control

And many more.

If we were to introduce automation to solve the customer service overload, we had to do it in an organised way and think long term.

Breckland Council entered a 4-year contract with ubisend to progressively overcome challenges. According to Adele, the 4-year goal was to achieve efficiency savings of around 90% -- a target, as you'll see, they already are close to meeting.

Automating common population enquiries

The lowest hanging fruit is often a great place to start; this project was no exception.

Breckland Council decided that Bobbie, the affectionate name they gave to their chatbot, should be able to answer their most frequently asked questions.

Adele and her team started forming Bobbie's knowledge using our FAQ automation feature.

After a short implementation, the chatbot was ready to tackle questions like:

  • How do I pay council tax?
  • Where can I get a taxi license?
  • Where do I order a new bin?

And hundreds more.

And the impact of this initial implementation? Adele tells us, "Bobbie can answer 80% of customer enquiries, 20% move into live chat", getting Breckland very close to reaching their 90% target.

Backed by live chat

Breckland Council's live chat support staff found themselves with 80% of their time back.

While the chatbot is there to answer most queries, Breckland Council also values the human touch of live chat. With more time on their hands, agents can focus on complex questions and spend more time with the customers who need that extra support.

As ubisend's built-in live chat works seamlessly with its chatbot and FAQ features, it's a seamless experience to transition a user to real human support.

In Breckland's case, the chatbot attempts to answer questions first. If the user would rather speak to a human, the chatbot seamlessly transfers the user to one of Breckland's trained live chat agents who have set specialities and hours of availability.

Adele tells us the chatbot had a significant impact on the live chat team. "It [the chatbot] has enabled officers to focus on complex messages within live chat instead of handling multiple chats at the same time."

Ambitious plans for the future

This work and the incredible results all happened in the first few months of the project. For the next three years, ubisend and Breckland Council will continue to work together to create efficiency across their organisation.

"70% of customers are finding the answers helpful, with 99% of customer's happy with Bobbie's engagement". With such positive feedback, the next step is to grow awareness for the chatbot.

"We have a stable customer base using Bobbie. Next, we are looking to grow that customer base on the chatbot by promotional activity across non-digital channels."

In terms of features, new goals have been set.

First, continue to improve the chatbot's FAQs and expand its knowledge. 80% of enquiries automatically answered is a great start, but what if we could do more?

Next, voice!

A large portion of enquiries is received via inbound telephone calls. Automating these calls and creating Amazon Alexa and Google Home experiences will be a game-changer. ubisend and Breckland are already working on this next iteration to give Bobbie an audible voice.

The step-by-step approach is fitting, too. "We have found ubisend responsive, and they share just the right amount of information to develop the project at a steady pace, rather than overwhelming the project team with all capabilities within the platform."

ubisend are excited to continue iterating with Breckland Council on their automation and chatbot journey, saving precious time and resources on each new improvement.

More insight can be found on the Crown Commercial Service case studies, available here: https://www.crowncommercial.gov.uk/news/breckland-...

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