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August 11, 2021

Virtual assistants are now commonplace on websites, welcoming us and asking us a question. According to the Joint Technology Committee's (JTC's) report, courts can and should move to adopt these virtual and friendly digital assistants.

For those not familiar, a chatbot is simply a chat robot “that simulates human conversation through text messages, voice commands, or both.” Chatbots offer court customers 24/7 help and information and can be implemented relatively easily, provided courts follow some basic rules:

  1. Determine the purpose. Each court should know what the problem is they are trying to solve with the chatbot. This could go be to address requests more efficiently or reduce the volume of calls that the court receives every day.
  2. Assemble a team. Courts should bring a group of experts in customer service within the court.
  3. Log current calls. This could help to identify the questions that customers are asking.
  4. Gather existing user help information. These documents can all be used to create question and answer pairs for the chatbot.
  5. Compile questions and answers. Try to avoid legal terminology with an emphasis on plain language.
  6. Simplify. Try to give answers that are easily understandable.
  7. Categorize. Consider creating different sets of questions and answers according to the type of audience (landlords, tenants, jurors, lawyers, etc.).
  8. Name your chatbot. It might be helpful to have a recognizable brand.

For the implementation phase, the bulletin recommends the court choose a chatbot tool, start feeding the chatbot questions and answers, and begin testing. The authors also recommend having a default response when the chatbot cannot provide the user with an answer such as giving contact information so the user could communicate with the court to look for more or more accurate answers.

Once implemented, chatbots require fine-tuning, evaluation, and measurement. A measure of public satisfaction could be used to help improve or add services to the chatbot. Finally, courts looking to introduce chatbot technology can look to other courts for guidance and ideas. JTC notes that chatbots are in place in New Jersey (which Trending Topics previously looked at here) Arizona, and the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles. Recently, Mississippi inaugurated its chatbot tool.

Is your court considering a chatbot tool? Follow the National Center for State Courts on FacebookTwitterInstagram, or Pinterest and share your experiences!

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