User-Centric Services Repository

020202 WhatsApp Virtual Assistant - Milan

City / Region

Milan (Italy)

In a nutshell

The speed that characterises the digital word demands time-saving and efficient solutions for users. In order to provide citizens with immediate answers to their questions, especially in a state of emergency due to Covid-19 where human interactions were limited, Milan Municipality has moved toward its citizens developing a new way of interaction: the 020202 Virtual Assistant.

Milan Municipality’s Virtual assistant is a simple, intuitive and effective communication tool that provides citizens with accurate, reliable and up-to-date information about the most required services.

It takes only few simple steps to use the 020202 chatbot: save the number 020202 in your contacts, open WhatsApp (an instant messaging service known and used by almost all citizens) and start a conversation with the virtual assistant. Through guided navigation, citizens are led towards the required information. The chatbot service is guaranteed 24/7.

The navigation menu is set up  in two levels: when the navigation starts the first one is presented and it contains the most requested macro topics (ex. Id cards, residence etc). Then, by clicking one of the menu voices the second one is listed, and it displays a list of recurring themes tied to the specific macro topic. Citizen chooses the subject of his interest by clicking on a particular menu item.

For complicated topics that require in-depth information, the chatbot offers the possibility to download additional worksheets.

As citizens’ needs and requests change according to the period, topics are constantly revised and updated.

What makes the service user-centric?
Milan Municipality was the first one in Europe to implement this service: its launch dates back to 2020 during covid emergency. In such a delicate period the virtual assistance was a precious support to citizens as Whatsapp was used by people more than ever to connect with each other during the emergency.
From this perspective the 020202 Virtual Assistant played an important role, allowing people to experience the city in an aware and safe way.
This channel represented one of the primary sources of information as most of the offices were closed due to the government directives.
Nowadays, despite the emergency period has ended, The Virtual Assistant is still a valuable tool for citizens as we have expanded the range of information included. Interacting digitally with the administration has simplified and sped the process and the result has been an increase in citizen satisfaction.
The main chat bot’s strengths are:

Accessibility: chatbot can be reached by anyone as WhatsApp is one of the most popular messaging apps;
Understandability and usability: it has a simple and easy interface that makes its usage intuitive even for the users who are not particularly digitally educated.
What impact has the service had?
Since its launch, connection between WhatsApp chatbot and Milan Municipality Call Centre, the first touch point reached by citizens, has become more and more tight.
Thanks to an accurate analysis of requests managed by Call Centre agents, the chatbot changed its role: from a supportive service to an integrated one. Actually, the CRM team picked all information provided by the agent and sorted the ones that could fit in the chatbot. After this process, for the pieces of information interested, the citizens are redirected to the Whatsapp services through IVR.
This has caused positive effects for both citizens and administration: in the first place citizens no longer have to sit in call queues and wait several minutes just to speak to a call centre agent to obtain the information; in the second place administration has registered a decrease in the call number, which caused a direct cost saving. Connected to this, it is the increase in the number of people that reached out to the Whatsapp service, hence the percentage doubled between 2022 and 2023.

Furthermore, the last annual report highlighted that the information about residency process was one of the most viewed topics.

Making citizens aware of every phase involved in this process has caused a decrease of citizen’s requests of information in other channels like social networks.

How was the service co-created?
Whereas the chat bot was developed during covid emergency, citizens couldn’t be involved. (citizen’s involvement was low)
The co-creation is a long-time process that took place from the very first feedback received. At the end of every session, the chat bot asks the user to answer a satisfaction survey where citizens can suggest pieces of information that need to be included and new features to add.
Twice a month feedback is collected in a report that plays a key role in everyday development and improvement.
Every single suggestion is taken into account in order to make WhatsApp Virtual Assistance more reliable and connected to what citizens need as it is designed following their suggestions.


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