Barking & Dagenham Council’s AI assistant means “costly phone calls” are down 6% and customer satisfaction is up 67%

Local council customer satisfaction up with AI assistant

The world of chatbots and AI can be overwhelming, especially for organisations exploring digital transformation for the first time. A local council like Barking & Dagenham (B&D) needs to serve many different departments too, so being able to launch one of our advanced AI assistants on their website that was “exactly tailored to the council and its customers” was a huge help.

They launched an AI assistant quickly. At first, focused on waste queries like ‘My bin wasn’t collected’, ‘When is my collection day?’, and ‘I want to arrange a green garden waste collection’. B&D gets more than 40,000 of these types of enquiries every month by phone and email. They estimate every one costs them around £4.80.

It was vital B&D found a way for their customers to self-serve, but also “reduce the number of phone enquiries and relieve some pressure on the council’s customer service team – without reducing the quality of the service.” They saw many positive outcomes that could come from this:

  • More time and resource being “spent on complex problems where residents need the council most”
  • Teams being able to “better serve those who have complex needs or are unable to use a computer”
  • Supporting “more residents without increasing fixed costs”
  • Offering a “more efficient service delivery”
  • And “improve user experience”

The AI assistant is “exceeding customer expectations”

In the first six months, the B&D AI assistant handled 18,400 enquiries from their customers with an 87% success rate. This feedback means the AI assistant understood their request correctly AND gave them a helpful answer without any input from the B&D contact centre team. In comparison to feedback about using their website, only 20% of customers said they successfully used the website to find answers to their questions.

B&D saves the cost of 10,000 calls in just six months

After launching one of our local council AI assistants, B&D saved around £48,000 in six months and says, “this is just the beginning”.

On our platform, you can link up your AI assistant with any of the business systems you use to manage customer relations. The most commonly used integrations are all set up and ready to go. Once B&D starts to use them, they expect the number of people using the AI assistant “to increase significantly”.

As time goes on, their AI assistant will also learn more and more about the services they offer their community. On our platform, conversation review is included for every local council. Our expert team of linguists, psychologists and writers look at patterns that form in the requests coming in for the AI assistant to deal with. This helps guide the decisions that B&D makes next because it “identifies weak points in terms of content quality and navigation,” they say, so the council can “prioritise service improvement”. Since call numbers have decreased dramatically, they’re now looking at ways to decrease email volume too.

One AI assistant can seamlessly support multiple departments

B&D is “made up of many services,” so it’s important to them the AI assistant can “answer a wide variety of questions across a range of topics such as waste, council tax, housing and births, deaths and marriages”. Their AI assistant soon highlighted the most popular topics in each area, like parking ticket disputes, visitor parking, and missed bins, which means the council now knows where to focus its resource.

“One development that really excited the team,” they told us, is the AI assistant being able to handle “complete transactions” through integration, which they tested with missed bin enquiries. B&D was happy to discover the AI assistant can “query council back-office systems and return the customer’s next bin collection date just by asking for the customer’s postcode”.

They did more testing to have it complete simple processes like applications for visitor parking and, in future, B&D expects “developments like this to further increase” their AI assistant ROI.

Local council AI assistant chats to resolve problem

With the speed of an AI assistant and the human touch of their contact teams, B&D is serving every one of their customers in the best way

Customers have embraced the B&D AI assistant and are finding great success with it, but the local council quite rightly wants people to know they can still speak to someone in their contact centre if they need to. Within a community of people, “not everyone wants to talk to a machine,” they say.

On our unique platform, live chat is available to everyone, even on our free plan, which means your AI assistant can pass people over to your team. If they don’t need to speak with an agent there and then, your AI assistant can also log support tickets for your team to pick up later. It’s easy to add contact details too that your AI assistant can pass on to people live in a chat, so it’s impossible for them to ever get stuck in a loop. There’s always a direct route to the team who can help them.

The AI assistant is “transforming the way our customers access information. We believe we can enjoy better customer relationships by allowing customers to contact us via the channel of their choice,” says Dwain Nicely, CX & Digital Manager for B&D. “Our next focus is to allow our customers to complete end-to-end journeys” using the AI assistant.

Every feature you’ll ever need to continually grow your local council AI assistant

B&D is continuing to add new services for all the people now using their AI assistant, from helping them report issues like fly-tipping and noise disturbances, to being able to pay their Council Tax online or see their balance. They’ll soon be adding:

  • Live chat. B&D will use it to “help lower the service ticket volumes even further”. If the AI assistant can’t answer a question, it’ll hand the customer over to a member of their service team who can help them right away.
  • Smart speakers. B&D plans to create Amazon Alexa and Google Home experiences, which “will be a game-changer,” they say since it’ll help prevent people from needing to call in. Social messaging, SMS and many other channels are included on our platform for you to use.


Download the B&D and Coventry City Council case studies

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All these features and more are already available on our platform for local councils to start using right away to reduce call volumes and waiting times, cut costs, take the pressure off your teams, work more efficiently across multiple departments, and keep your customers happy.

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