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Chatbots in government and emergency services

4 min read

What is a chatbot? Where are they used? And what do they do?

A chatbot is “a computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users, especially over the Internet.” Oxford Dictionaries. Chatbots are commonly found on website homepages, similar to live-chat popups and in interactive social media applications, like Facebook Messenger.

From a user perspective, live chat and chatbots both perform a similar function. Both provide near real-time answers to commonly asked questions and both provide assistance to help customers find what they want. The difference between the two services is, one is a real human listening to questions and responding with suitable answers, and the other is a piece of software that responds proactively to messages containing specific words or phrases.

Example chatbot script


Chatbot Benefits

24/7. Chatbots happily respond to user inquires 24 hrs a day 7 days a week. After business hrs, weekends, even on Christmas Day chatbots are happy to help.

Customer Satisfaction. Chatbots enable us to respond to customer inquiries immediately. In today’s always-connected world, customers expect and demand instant replies; anything less isn’t satisfactory.

Engagement. Chatbots enhance user engagement by providing instantaneous, accurate, personalised messages tailored to specific customer needs. Chatbots can also be used to improve engagement by suggesting, related value-added complimentary services.

Consistent Messages and Reduction in Errors. Humans provide great customer services, but we are all individuals, we all respond to situations differently, and we all have our own interpretations of what’s important. Chatbots, on the other hand, always provide the same messages to the same questions, and unlike humans, they don’t suffer from human error.

Example chatbot script


Chatbots in Government and the Emergency Services

Chatbots have the potential to provide efficiencies to all government agencies, allowing us to serve the public better and do more with less. Chatbots can process basic inquiries without involving employees, refer members of the public to appropriate services and triage complex issues to humans when they are available.

As Emergency Service agencies are expected to respond quickly, 24/7 in all emergency situations, these government organisations have the most to gain from the potential use of chatbots.

Example Facebook Messenger user interaction with chatbot


Chatbots Benefits to Emergency Services

Accessibility. Everybody in Australia (94% of all Australian Social Media users) has Facebook and is used to messenger.

Instant. Chatbots can provide instantaneous replies to commonly asked emergency questions.  

24/7. Chatbots can provide replies to commonly asked emergency questions 24/7.

Mass Emergencies. Chatbots can provide replies to emergency questions at mass scale during major emergencies.    

Referral. Chatbots can act as a 24/7 referral service to other emergency agencies.  

Accuracy. Pre-programed automatic responses can be checked appropriate authorities.

Consistency. Pre-programed automatic responses are the same for everyone.

Open Rate. Direct Facebook messages have the highest open rate of any form of digital communication. 80% of users who receive a direct Facebook message open it up, the open rate for email is 23%, the open rate for a standard organic social media post is 0.58%

Follow up. Chatbots enable the use of automatic follow up messages. For example, someone who inquires about volunteering can be sent an automatic follow up message a month after their initial inquiry to ask them if they need any help with their application to volunteer.

Cross Marketing. Chatbots can suggest complementary products or services. For example, a member of the public who has sent a message of thanks can be asked if they would like to volunteer or donate.

SA SES Facebook Page


Experience a chatbot for yourself. Send the SA State Emergency Service Facebook Page a direct message (m.me/SAStateEmergencyService). Ask us a question and let us know how we can improve.

Many Chat Chatbot Creation Platform


The service that we used to create our first chatbot is Many Chat.

Thank you to the following SA digital marketing superstars who got me started on my Chatbot journey.

Corey Wolf from Digital Marketing Meetup Adelaide thank you for putting on the best digital marketing networking events in Adelaide. Before I attended your Chatbot meetup, I hardly know what a Chatbot was. To the three panelists who spoke at the DMMA Chatbot meetup, Ivan Vantagiato from Digital Marketing Tribe (who recommends I try Many Chat), Rye Smith form Spruik Digital and Amanda Santos from Right Hook Digital. Thank you also to my good friend, Loc Tran from the Adelaide Product Launch Syndicate for sharing your knowledge, inspiration, and enthusiasm so generously.

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn.