Dialling 101 or 999 remains the traditional way to contact the police, but with demand rising and the public increasingly turning to messaging apps, chatbots are offering policing an affordable alternative to managing demand.
It is notoriously difficult to accurately and reliably record demand in policing. This in turn makes it difficult to justify funding, especially when other government departments, such as Health, can accurately highlight missed A&E targets, waiting list times etc as clear reasons for requiring increased budgets.
The College of Policing produced an infographic showing generic operational demand, both reactive and proactive, for a generic force. However, this model does not capture the demand levels from the public to the control rooms or the internal organisational demand on the officers and staff; such as meetings, supervisory and HR meetings, finance and administration requirements etc.
Demand is multi-faceted, complicated and growing. The levels of demand growth, current officer numbers (accepting the additional numbers promised by the government) and condition of current technology all lead to a vicious circle of increased demand on fewer and ageing systems, which ultimately will fail when modifications are delayed or patches no longer hold things together.
Feeding the insatiable beast of Business As Usual (BAU) must not prevent new approaches which maximise multiple lifts in current and developing technology if Sir Thomas Winsor’s predictions are to be avoided:
“As long as the police persist in using 20th-century methods to try to cope with 21st-century technology and ways of life, they will continue to fall further and further behind, and the quality of justice will exponentially diminish. Justice delayed is justice denied; the denials of justice in the modern day may be reaching unprecedented and alarming levels.”Sir Thomas Winsor
Demand outside the police
When considering the public relationship with the police, the most likely interaction any member of the public has with the police is if they have to call 999 in an emergency or through 101 in a non-emergency situation. There are 33 million 999 calls a year, 47% of these are to the police, according to Ofcom, which is 93,000 calls a day. Over 70% of those calls are now made using a mobile device (again, according to Ofcom, 79 per cent of UK adults are now using a smartphone, up from 39 per cent in 2012). In addition, there are 30 million 101 calls every year in the UK.“
The lion’s share of inbound demand is currently managed by human operators through 101 and 999 channels (88%), with just 12% of crimes being reported on digital channels (Web Chat / Social Media / Online Forms) deemed ‘Human Digital’. Furthermore, recent polls indicate that many people are not clear when to call 999 and when to call non-emergency numbers. Four per cent of adults in Scotland said they don’t know when to call 999 and just over a third (34 per cent) know that they can call 101 for a non-emergency police issue.
We need to better inform the public and have information available to them in a format and through channels they are increasingly using in their everyday lives. Messaging apps fall squarely into that category. Over 30 million people in the UK use some sort of messaging app every day and over 80% of our time on our mobiles is spent on messaging. Channel shift is rightly on the agenda and it makes absolute sense to look to expand service delivery to the channels that people use every day.
But theory is one thing, do we really want more volume? As much as the idea of wider access to services is the right goal, in practice how can forces take on more when they are at the limit of their capacity already? Due to the demand position highlighted earlier some Forces are having to make difficult decisions on the prioritisation of resources, which can leave calls unanswered or increasing long job lists for individual officers or staff, which ultimately creates a long and unsatisfying delay in the response to the public.
That’s where automation lends a helping hand. There exists low cost and high impact technology now that will instantly improve public access and confidence whilst reducing current and future Control Room (the front window for any police force) demand. This reduced demand can allow existing staff to be released to handle the higher threat and complex incidents in a timely manner.“
Introducing the intelligent chatbot. Chatbots are well on their way to becoming the default customer support solution for government services. They can process service requests in huge numbers, function round the clock, and help public services fulfil their duties at significantly lower costs. Futr has been developing solutions with the police for over two years and delivers intelligent chatbot solutions to the wider public sector, enterprises and leading UK charities. Our customers have seen a 30% reduction in calls to support operations and up to 50% improvement in end-user satisfaction.
Demand inside the police
The other element of demand is inside the police structure. Technology can provide the internal tools to both enable and engage the workforce. We are all used to accessing information and completing tasks on our mobile devices in our personal lives whenever we want. So why when we want to ask a question or complete a simple admin task, like requesting a day’s leave, should we be constrained by legacy technology that is holding back organisational productivity?
Officers and staff who are increasingly mobile need to be able access all their operational and administrative information and functions without having to login to multiple systems in a building. The technology exists to provide real time, multi-channel conversational access on current devices to systems and information required for them to perform their role.
Think of both the time and productivity improvements for officers and staff if they had the ability to access the correct information they were looking for – instantly and remotely. What if they could auto fill incident forms through conversation chat on their mobile, claim an expense through MS Teams, alter their shift pattern on WhatsApp or whatever messaging app they regularly use? They can now, with Futr Inside. As a result of employees spending less time on admin, getting immediate responses to their HR and organisational queries and having a better connection with HQ, our customers have seen a 40% increase in employee engagement.“
What about budget, integration and complexity of roll-out? The beauty of chatbots is that they can sit as a light overlay across your existing systems. Essentially, companies like Futr are simply layering conversation over your existing infrastructure to enable services to the public; like 101 or to provide policing staff access to the internal systems they need, when and where they like, and without the need for training.
The incremental impact on demand inside and outside the force, multiplied up across the organisation can provide more resource where it’s needed – visible policing in communities, control room staff to quickly handle emergency calls for service and so on. The chatbot technology that can enable this improved productivity is available now with no training abstractions and is a force multiplier in terms of releasing officers and staff to perform their core operational functions.