Using a chatbot to engage the public in consultation

February 12, 2019 by No Comments | Category Our work

Recently we launched a Facebook Messenger chatbot alongside the Scottish Government’s consultation on the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS). This would mean that customers pay a small deposit when they buy drinks in, for example, a bottle or a can, and get the deposit back when they return the empty container for recycling. In our team we trial new platforms and ways to engage the public in policymaking.

Whilst working on the DRS consultation it occurred to us that this would be a good fit for giving a chatbot a go. Overall the topic is of public interest, easy to understand and questions were appropriate for an automated script.

After approaching the DRS team and getting their buy in, we worked with a group called Apptivism to help us launch the chatbot. When it was time to draft the script and test it, we knew that we wanted it to be a relatively quick engagement process to keep people interested and complete the questionnaire. Using a mix of open and closed questions from the consultation paper and face-to-face survey, we selected questions that covered a range of issues from what type of containers to how much the deposit should be.

We also wanted to make sure that it was engaging so we used of GIFs and infographics to promote it on our social media channels. We even put in little quiz at the beginning:

This proved to be engaging and informative, with more than 90% of respondents getting the answer incorrect. If you’re curious, the answer is more than 2 billion disposable drink containers are sold each year in Scotland, and only half of these are recycled.

Once we had a draft of script, we invited people from the DRS policy team, communications and outwith these areas to test it and provide feedback. After running a few sessions and various iterations of the script, we were confident that it was ready to launch.

Within a few weeks nearly 1,000 responses were submitted with an impressive completion rate of 83%. The final result was over 3,000 minutes of genuine engagement on the scheme. This also drove a lot of traffic to the formal consultation.

Alongside this we also trialled other ways of engaging people in the consultation, including Twitter polls and Facebook posts. The Twitter poll had over 7,000 votes!

The responses we received from this process and other engagement methods, will feed into the wider consultation responses and will be considered around other evidence to determine how to implement the Deposit Return Scheme in Scotland.

We’d love to hear what you think about using chatbots. Have you used one in your work, or maybe responded to a similar chatbot? Please leave a comment below!

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