Aberdeen City Council to double query responses with Microsoft chatbot

image of Aberdeen, Scotland, UK | Aberdeen City Council and Microsoft

Aberdeen City Council has launched an enhanced version of its AB-1 in Azure, to optimize and scale its chatbot.

Working with Microsoft, Aberdeen City Council is adopting technologies to improve public service delivery while adapting to the increasing pressures on local authorities across the country.

The chatbot’s recent revamp will enable citizens to help themselves to round-the-clock support. AB-1 will handle queries on topics such as refuse collection, school term dates and council tax. In addition to this, the council also has an internal version of AB-1, answering questions about topics such as wages and annual leave for its 8,000 staff.

Having launched its virtual assistant with Microsoft in 2020, the vendor has now supported Aberdeen’s developers to develop and optimize the enhanced chatbot’s training using Copilot Studio. To ensure informed and focused help from the bot, responses are grounded in Aberdeen City Council knowledge and feedback mode is enabled so the chatbot can keep analyzing and learning from past interactions, assisted by GenAI training to ensure the right data is indexed.

While the original chatbot reduced the number of calls and emails to the council, which ultimately freed up more staff for more meaningful tasks, the latest version of AB-1 is providing the council with the ability to boost its productivity and help customers more effectively.

“Customers can now get most of their answers online,” said Andy MacDonald, executive director of corporate services at the council. “Early testing shows AB-1 is now answering twice as many questions, and we expect volumes to increase.

“The upcoming release will support taking questions in Doric and providing answers in English,” continued MacDonald. “But for other languages, translation services will be used to translate both the incoming request and the chatbot’s response. We are focusing on the common languages in the area, but many more languages can be used.”

Looking ahead, Aberdeen City Council has shared plans to potentially give the new AB-1 access to even more data sets, such as service history and geo-location, which could help the chatbot deliver even fuller and more accurate responses. Designed in line with the principles of ethical use of AI, the council hopes that the chatbot will ultimately be able to pre-empt questions and reply with proactive suggestions.