Automation, robotics and artificial intelligence are the future, also in municipal services. Naturally, it is not possible or even desirable to replace people with machines in everything, but it makes sense to occupy people with services that cannot be handled by machines. This way, human thinking resources can be targeted at genuinely productive and important work.
When we let machines take care of routine, repetitive data collection and processing tasks, we can get hospital staff, for example, out of their glass booths to meet the patients. Machine work may mean feeding the same data into several different systems, something that an automatic system always does more efficiently than a person. When developed further, artificial intelligence can help in matters like making preliminary diagnoses based on the patient history stored in databases.
The Finns’ use of mobile devices – smartphones and tablets – and, therefore, also their preparedness to make use of technology have increased rapidly in the past few years. What is now needed from service providers is a more customer-oriented approach to online and mobile applications.
For example, authentication or a background survey on the smartphone before the service situation benefits both the customer and the customer service provider: the service will take less time when the basic information is in place and the customer can be directed to a personal service path. Service channels can also be personalised: it may sometimes be the case that customers cannot talk on the phone but are able to chat.
Face-to-face customer service can sometimes be facilitated by a customer service robot, which is suitable for, say, guidance or marketing tasks. Even today, people may be met at the airport by a robot that they can ask for instructions about their connecting flight, either verbally or using a tablet provided for the purpose. In a coffee shop, a robot can tell customers about the ingredients of various coffee beverages, and someone looking for a certain kind of nut or bolt at a hardware shop may be directed straight to the right shelf.
The City of Espoo wants to act as a pioneer in the development of municipal services. We will increase the individuality that is expected of services by combining electronic services with traditional services in a new way. The most important consideration in the development is the benefit of customers: we want to offer smoother services. We are challenging companies to innovate and develop new service models with us so that we can create job opportunities, new expertise and vitality in both Espoo and the whole of Finland.
PhD, EMBA, Services Development Director
City of Espoo