Council trials web chat system on Soho residents

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By poppy_smith | Friday, September 07, 2012, 19:08

Westminster City Council is trialling web chat as a tool to provide assistance to people using the council website for their transactions.

Pages in the most frequently visited sections of the website now offer users the option to type their question into a chat box, which connects directly and instantly to customer services officers in Westminster City Hall.

Not only does web chat provide an invaluable tool for residents and visitors, it is also generating data which the Council's IT services can then use to create a more efficient online service.

Westminster Council's cabinet member for finance and customer services, Cllr Melvyn Caplan, said: "Our research shows that Westminster residents are more tech-savvy than the rest of the country, so demand to do more online is higher. Our new chat tool on the council website goes a long way towards providing people with the excellent online service they have come to expect. I am pleased that this trial is proving successful in reducing calls and providing value for money for the taxpayer.

"The web chat allows us to assess what the most frequently asked questions or most frequently searched-for transactions are, so that we can make those items more readily accessible on the website.

"For example, during the Olympics more visitors asked about parking spaces in Westminster, so we created a pop-up window to the Parkopedia website, which features a map of available parking.

"We also know that online transactions between the council and residents cost less than a phone conversation, so we want to help more people find what they're looking for online and avoid making a phone call."

Westminster Council is also exploring web chat as a way of offering value for money and increased efficiency in the longer term. Using web chat, one customer services officer can handle between three and five customers simultaneously, compared to only one customer at a time over the phone.

The web chat pilot is mainly focusing on some of the council's busiest web pages including parking and housing, but planning, registry services and sports and leisure pages will also be involved in the trial.

      

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