How the City of LA serves citizens with Chip the chatbot
By Microsoft in Business Team on July 14, 2017
Filed under Microsoft in Business
|Focus on: Empower Employees, Optimize Operations, Engage Customers
Technology is transforming the way citizens engage with their local government. Instead of waiting on hold to get a question answered, citizens expect instant access to information—anywhere, anytime, and on any device. On the flip side, government employees want to be a valuable resource for the citizens they serve, but they also want to engage in meaningful, fulfilling work.
Under the leadership of Mayor Eric Garcetti, the City of Los Angeles is striving to enrich the daily experiences of its more than four million residents and government employees. To help the community better navigate government resources and procedures and free up employees to focus on higher-value activities that will support Los Angeles as a world-class place to live and work, the city’s Information Technology Agency has set its sights on digital transformation.
Welcome to Los Angeles
Los Angeles is bustling with entrepreneurial activity, artistic creativity, and technological innovation. Home to more than four million residents and over 100,000 businesses, Los Angeles’ local government faces large-scale citizen engagement difficulties.
For citizens, the traditional way of contacting government officials with questions about processes or applications to do business with the city can be an arduous endeavor. For government employees, managing city services for a massive, multicultural population with diverse needs and experiences presents its own set of unique challenges. The need to develop a digital solution that streamlined the management and distribution of city services was the driving force behind LA’s digital transformation.
“LA is a world class city. And a world class city should have a vision to become one that is fully digital and connected,” says Ted Ross, Chief Information Officer (CIO) of the City of LA and General Manager of LA’s IT Agency.
Together with Joyce Edson, Deputy CIO, and under the leadership of Eric Garcetti, the city’s mayor, Ross sought out to identify a solution that would enhance the experiences of residents and employees.
Creating a “Smart City” with Chip the chatbot
After identifying key touch points where residents interact with the local government, Ross and the rest of the IT Agency decided to develop a chatbot.
The City Hall Internet Personality—better known by its clever shorthand, Chip—operates as a tireless digital personal assistant, available to users 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Chip helps residents navigate the city’s website and understand city government processes by offering resources and guidance to keep residents informed. The chatbot can gather and present a collection of information about any given topic or area, clearly outline city resources and opportunities that are available to residents, and assist with filling out forms. The technology can even set up email alerts and other notifications to keep residents better connected and informed about LA’s city government.
“A smart city is one that delivers services in a digital way, in a connected way, one that’s very user-friendly and effective,” says Ross.
A small team of developers from the IT Agency created Chip on Microsoft Azure using the Azure Bot Framework over the course of only a few days. Chip’s impressive beta release saw the chatbot increase the number of digital responses from 200 to 900 in the span of two months. With Azure as its foundation, agency programmers can regularly monitor and adjust Chip as needs and expectations change. Chip’s programmers can review content daily and update or add answers easily, augmenting LA’s interactive approach to city services.
Chip’s ability to store information about new city initiatives and gather data not only keeps residents informed on local development projects but also helps employees identify trends and habits among LA’s population. Chip’s intuitive and interactive interface allows for two-directional digital communication that informs government processes and decision-making, while engaging residents in an efficient, dynamic way.
Transforming citizen and employee experiences
Chip’s success as a digital solution depends on the city’s ability to engage with a generation of residents who prefer to communicate digitally. Given that new standard, Chip has greatly benefited LA’s business community already, having received 3,221 questions over 1,042 conversations in just two months (without any formal advertising of the service). The platform is a time-efficient way to allow busy, working people to engage with their local government with added convenience and accessibility.
Currently geared toward the city’s business community through their Business Assistance Virtual Network (LABAVN.org), the city has already seen a shift in city services. “We’ve seen a significant reduction in how much time and human resources we have to use to answer these questions,” says Ross. Before creating Chip, the agency received 80-100 email questions per week to the BAVN support staff. After implementing their digital solution, the agency is down to 30-40 questions per week, dramatically decreasing employee time spent.
With more time to do their jobs instead of repeatedly getting bogged down by a constant onslaught of requests (many of them duplicates), there has been a noticeable boost in morale among government employees. The improved quality of life for LA employees allows them to reallocate their focus towards high value initiatives that improve the quality of life for the citizens they serve as well.
“We’re very accustomed to having to do more with less. Capabilities like the Chip the chatbot allow me to be more efficient with my human resources so I can focus them where their expertise and real value are, and allow Chip to take on the busy work.”
Enhancing Chip to strengthen LA’s future
Moving forward, Ross and the rest of the IT Agency foresee an expanded role for Chip. Eventually, for instance, the chatbot could manage a city-wide calendar of events, providing details to residents quickly on their smartphones, or even act as a regular resource for city employees, offering support for routine processes like employee onboarding or other HR procedures.
In addition to the city’s continued focus on Chip and cloud technology, LA has identified four digital transformation priorities to further improve the lives of citizens and city workers:
• Re-imagining customer experience and engagement
• Optimizing internal operations and increase efficiencies
• Empowering employees to configure and leverage cutting-edge technology
• Seizing digital opportunities and cost-effective innovations as they become available
The City of Los Angeles’s digital transformation story is a powerful example of the human element of technology, and we’re excited to see how this narrative continues to evolve.
Chat with Chip! Click here, and then click on “Chat with Chip” in the navigation bar.