Talking to the council on the phone with real people costs coin, so in another step towards a science-fiction future, they are using websites and automated text messages to help save hundreds of thousands of pounds on their customer service activity.

The digital projects team at Durham County Council has made savings in excess of £700,000 using clever machines, winning them the Modern Service Delivery Award from Granicus. Well done, everyone!

And people love the new robot service: over 137,000 of us now choose to interact with the council computer through the ‘do it online’ service, which means we prefer our friend the machine to any other means of contacting el councilio. Over the last year, more than 170,000 service requests were made through the new service.

Cllr Andrea Patterson, Cabinet member for corporate services and rural issues, said: “The award recognises the ways in which we are improving communication and showing our commitment to our customers.

“Not only is reporting online easy and convenient for customers, it also enables us to direct requests straight to the front line.

“Processes now have automated emails to keep customers up-to-date with what we are doing, reducing the need for them to contact us. SMS messaging is now used to proactively update customers and to inform councillors of a wide range of issues, such as road closures in their local area.”

People completed around 700 online surveys a month basis, providing vital feedback to the council’s continually improving machine-mind network.

The digital touch is also gracing fleet vehicles and redesigning work programmes for maximum efficiency. In-cab software now means instant connection with back office systems, so there’s up-to-date information at the first point of contact, which is good.

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