Alexa, when will the bins be collected?

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Niall Walsh, Creative and Design Lead at Liverpool City Council, explains how the authority is using the Amazon smart speaker to communicate with residents.

Customer service is changing at a rapid pace – even in local authorities.

New technologies are empowering customers to interact in innovative ways and these are quickly becoming the new standard. Only a few years ago, technologies like chatbots, voice assistants or other virtual customer support solutions weren’t much more than an interesting idea.

Today they have swiftly established themselves as important elements of our customer service strategy at Liverpool City Council. They stand out because of their ability to engage and be engaged with through humans’ favourite mode of communication — spoken words.

Our Alexa skill for bin collection dates, library opening hours, one stop shops and “find my nearest” gives our residents another digital channel through which to access our services. We are exploring other data sets to add to the skill, such as school term dates and information about our children’s centres.

Since its launch in 2018 we average over 100 new activations each month and in a recent Eon Energy study, Liverpool came out on top as the UK’s smartest city with 80 per cent of its population owning at least one smart product which is a major reason for us to explore using voice assistants further.

Our digital team is looking to develop the skillfurther so that residents can report simple issues such as missed bin collections and check the progress ofissues that they’ve already logged under their account. For more complex problems, Alexa will send the user an email with a link to the relevant section of liverpool.gov.uk so they can complete their request.

We know that getting news is a top voice activity for smart speaker owners: according to a 2018 Adobe survey​, 46 per cent of users ask for news. So, to engage our citizens further, we’re producing a Liverpool City Council “Flash Briefing”, providing local news and information from our communications team.

Voice interfaces do have limitations but we’ll continue to keep a close eye on the landscape so we’re ready to develop what we do as the technology improves.

After all, we’ve already got 80 per cent of the population on this journey with us.

Posted on 29th August 2019