What is it?
Hackney Council’s contact centre receives around 1.6 million phone calls a year, mostly relating to council tax, benefits, parking, and waste. In line with our digitisation agenda, we want to establish whether residents would benefit from and trust a broader telephony service out of hours offered at low cost via automation. Given we expect an increase in calls for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, this may also divert some calls and free up agents to deal with more complex queries.
Following a short procurement exercise, we have selected Amazon Connect, delivered by Mission Labs, an SME in Manchester. Amazon Connect includes a chatbot which can automate certain queries, such as finding out a rent balance, using natural language processing – the same processing used by many virtual assistants like Alexa or Siri.
What have we done?
At the start of the week we – HackIT, Neighbourhood Contact Centre, and Mission Labs – got together to work out which of our previously-identified candidates for automation would be of most value and should be prioritised. We had eight journeys:
- Hear my rent balance
- Hear my rent recent transactions
- Hear my service charge balance
- Hear my service charge recent transactions
- Hear my garage rent balance
- Hear my garage rent recent transactions
- Hear my major works invoice balance
- Hear my major works invoice recent transactions
We selected the first four as having high value for the contact centre, while also being relatively easy to implement – there is an existing API for this information. We recognised that major works would be of high value to the contact centre, but would be significantly more difficult to implement, and so wouldn’t be suitable for a proof of concept. It’s on the back burner for now.
Most of the week was taken up gathering information on our side, and planning the flows on Mission Labs’ side. We had a workshop on Friday to plan how these would work, and fortunately the caller flows for both rent and service change are pretty much identical. We’ve identified points where we can automate in both flows, and at all points the caller can be diverted to an agent.
One speedbump during the week was our assumption that we could use the existing API that the NCC uses for the automation. It turned out that the existing API isn’t entirely suitable for a couple of reasons, but the developers are working on a new Transactions API which will do essentially the same thing. It also has a big advantage of being in the cloud, rather than on-prem, so it’s easier to work with.