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Citizens Advice Manchester – Chatbot launched

TDS Charitable Foundation and Citizens Advice Manchester have collaborated to create a fully functioning advice chatbot to extend further support to their customers.

Chatbot Available for General Advice

Initially working together in 2018, Citizens Advice Manchester secured TDS Charitable Foundation projects funding to build a chatbot for their own website.

Now, additional grant funding from TDS Charitable Foundation has been used to develop, which can be ported to other websites and is now live on the Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) website.

Extending the Remit of our Customer Support

The Chatbot has enabled TDS to provide additional advice outside of the core focus of deposits, such as benefits, relationships and immigration. The FAQ-based chatbot signposts users to the appropriate advice webpages, which frees up advisers to deal with more complex digital enquiries.

Kurtis Massey, IT and Digital Manager at Citizens Advice Manchester, Gives Insight into the Chatbot’s Development

After testing various applications, we decided to create the Chatbot using Google’s Dialogflow. This allows you, without any coding skills, to build out complex conversation flows based on user responses. To enhance the experience for clients coming to Citizens Advice Manchester through the Chatbot, we wanted to invoke a fallback. To do this, we sourced a third-party developer to make the process as seamless as possible.

The Chatbot offers options to frequently asked questions, and this then directs the customer to self-help pages to find the information needed. If the Chatbot cannot answer the specific question, the question is then handed over to a human adviser.

The Chatbot went through various iterations as we modified responses and outputs to reflect customer and adviser feedback. The addition of asking key questions before handing them over to a human allowed us to improve the effectiveness of our digital advice teams.

National Innovation of the Year

The result of the pilot was that by making the Chatbot the initial point of contact for our customers, it provided answers to 15% of users and supported our advisers with key data collection. The learning was shared with the national Citizens Advice team, and the Chatbot won the national Innovation of the Year at the National Conference.

Between April 2019 and March 2020, over 3,200 people accessed the award-winning Chatbot funded by the TDS Charitable Foundation.

See the chatbot in action here!

TDS Charitable Foundation projects

The TDS Charitable Foundation is a registered charitable incorporated organisation (CIO) with the Charity Commission for England and Wales. Its mission is to raise the standards in the private rented sector by delivering training and education to landlords, agents and tenants. Donations from The Dispute Service Ltd help fund our work. The Dispute Service Ltd is a partner in the SafeDeposits Scotland Charitable Trust a sister charity that works towards similar goals in the Scottish private rented sector.

The charity’s focus for 2021-2022 is to support projects within the following themes:

  • Promoting knowledge of landlord’s obligations

  • Promoting knowledge of tenant’s rights and responsibilities

Find out more about our latest projects in our annual report.

Citizens Advice Manchester

Citizens Advice Manchester offers free, confidential, impartial and independent advice and information on a wide range of topics such as housing, benefits, money problems and issues at work. In the last year alone, Citizens Advice Manchester helped 50,000 people in Manchester take control of their finances by offering guidance and support on debt and benefits. Assisted thousands of families into secure housing, worked with people struggling to remain in or find employment and provided access to the skills and advice that will allow parents to give their children the best start in life.

Read more about the work they’re doing here.


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