Chatbots with Hardhats Make Smart Use of Tax Revenue

If you have ever driven on high-traffic city streets, then you likely have experienced the discomforting jolt of a large pothole. Trying to raise awareness of the municipality’s issue may only exacerbate the feeling of frustration. You probably only have two options to contact someone, a call that goes to voicemail and an email with a low probability of being answered.

Municipalities struggle with efficient customer service because of aging telecommunication infrastructure and a siloed approach for various departments providing city services. Trying to navigate a complex interactive voice response (IVR) system leads to many abandoned calls and unrepaired potholes, broken streetlights, and leaking water pipes. Finding the correct email address usually involves searching for a website, then looking through many menus for a specific department. The visual experience from a mobile phone is likely to motivate an individual to wait until they are on a computer, resulting in delays or forgotten interactions. It is not surprising when citizens become frustrated from the appearance of wasted tax dollars.

Limited Digital Engagement Erodes Satisfaction

Municipalities need to address the myriad of concerns from citizens. Inherent limitations of mature technology such as limited customer engagement capabilities drive process definitions. A more efficient operational model requires the technology to conform to the defined processes. With constant pressure on yearly budgets because of revenue being taxation, telecommunications infrastructure becomes a lower priority. For example, in New York, 311 and web services accounted for only ~7% of the 2020 budget. Addressing these challenges requires enabling more digital engagement and self-service capabilities.

Driving Adoption with Modern Digital Channels

Facilitating more engaging and timely interactions requires enabling a more modern solution. Omnichannel contact centers which utilize self-service options and a chatbot can drastically enhance response time and citizen engagement. When reaction time for repairs is improved, operating costs improve.

One way to facilitate engagement is offering self-service using enhanced messaging. By automating repetitive tasks like setting appointments, account management, and service status, employees are free to focus on solving issues and completing repairs. Calls into the IVR could be deflected to the messaging channel and handled by chatbots or a live person when needed. And because live agents can typically manage three or more sessions simultaneously, this represents a 300% improvement over voice calls. If the user still prefers a voice interaction, the city can enable callbacks in the IVR, automatically contacting the customer when an agent becomes available. Customers will appreciate their concerns being addressed in a timely fashion and not forgotten or ignored.

An ideal solution would be to digitize and automate 311 services. By enabling enhanced messaging on a phone number, users first interact with a chatbot and are offered a series of options for everyday tasks. Self-service options like payment of utilities, reporting of issues with attached images, and status updates on permits or registrations can now become very simple and efficient. And chatbots never sleep, so business hours become 24 x 7 x 365.


As municipalities continue to invest in infrastructure and expansion, considerations for telecommunications should include a modern omnichannel contact center providing enhanced messaging and chatbot integration. Many services can be automated with fast resolution and provide significant cost savings over expensive application development. Citizens will become more active in the community, and everyone benefits from more innovative use of their hard-earned tax dollars.

Cities and towns can serve their constituents better by offering automated and self-service capabilities to existing 311 systems and driving the adoption of more modern digital channels.

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