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Aberdeen City Council Streamlines ‘Digital Front Door’ with AI Chatbots

Enabling citizens to help themselves to round-the-clock support, "AB-1" handles queries on topics such as refuse collection, school term dates and council tax.

One of Scotland’s largest local authorities is using the Microsoft Cloud to transform its social care services by designing a new ecosystem in partnership with its own social workers.

Aberdeen City Council has been working with Microsoft to drive a cutting-edge programme to upscale and redesign services for 230,000 people in the area.

Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 is being used to bring adult and children’s social care data and workflows together in one place, where staff will be able to record, share and analyse information with greater ease, supported by automation.

Revamping the digital front door to council services

Furthermore Aberdeen has pioneered the use of Azure AI to streamline the online citizen contact experience. They were the first local authority in Scotland with a virtual assistant when it launched its AB-1 chatbot with Microsoft in 2020.

It has now launched an improved version of AB-1 in Azure, which has helped it to optimise and scale the chatbot. New generative AI capabilities also mean it can understand more complex questions and respond with more detailed answers.

Enabling citizens to help themselves to round-the-clock support, AB-1 handles queries on topics such as refuse collection, school term dates and council tax. The Council also has an internal version of AB-1, answering questions about topics such as wages and annual leave for the Council’s 8000 staff.

And while the original chatbot reduced the number of calls and emails to the Council, freeing up staff for more meaningful and in-person work, the latest version of AB-1 is producing even greater efficiencies.

“Early testing shows AB-1 is now answering twice as many questions, and we expect volumes to increase,” says Andy MacDonald, Executive Director of Corporate Services at the Council. “Customers can now get most of their answers online.”

Microsoft supported Aberdeen’s developers during the creation of the original AB-1. It’s now helping the Council to optimise and develop the upgraded chatbot’s training, using Copilot Studio. The team is also making sure that the chatbot’s feedback mode is enabled, so it can keep analysing and learning from past interactions. 

When AB-1 launched it featured a unique ability to take some basic questions in Doric, the regional dialect. The Council is now finalising a forthcoming edition with an enhanced understanding of Doric, which will also be able to support several other languages. These will include some of the most widely-spoken languages in the area, such as Polish, Lithuanian, Ukrainian and Russian.

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