How Consumer Action supercharged intake with Josef to help more people

Time is everything for community legal centres

Staff at the Consumer Action Law Centre field around 700 calls a month and, like most community legal centres, are overstretched.

Speed is critical at Consumer Action, who provide over-the-phone assistance to callers seeking free legal advice. But staff were spending too much time completing initial consultations with callers, and didn’t have enough time to advise on matters.

So, this community legal centre found an easy, no-fuss way to automate this process to identify the people who needed their help the most.

Problem

Consumer Action’s financial counsellors and lawyers were spending too much time on the phone to help-seekers. 

Instead of helping people and properly advising them, staff were spending time taking personal details or trying to understand what a client’s problem involved.

Clients trying to get through to the advice line also found it difficult because they were often being put on hold, only to be pointed in the direction of self-help resources or given simple legal advice.

CALC’s Director of Operations Skye Forster saw an opportunity to reduce the time spent on this critical but predictable process.

At a glance

Solution

After mapping out the content they wanted to capture, Consumer Action built and launched a Josef bot on its website within a few weeks, with the help of Josef to run user testing. 

The bot takes down clients’ information, resolves simple queries, and sends unresolved ones to Consumer Action’s existing case management platform. 

It screens out matters that Consumer Action doesn’t deal with, such as tenancy, building issues, or non-Victorian matters, and automatically refers them to more appropriate  services. 

It can also identify whether someone needs an interpreter, is low income, or has other complex needs.

“Any time (staff) aren’t spending on admin is a happy dance. If we can reduce that admin burden through some really smart automation, it’s a no brainer.”
– Skye Forster, Consumer Action Law Centre

Results

It has been in use for over a year now, and the intake bot has become a first port of call for consumer-related legal advice – sitting on the homepage of their website.

Time savings at scale

Consumer Action estimates that each use of the bot saves them around 5 to 7 minutes per call. Skye estimates the Josef bot has saved them at least 60 hours on the phone last year.

The bot has allowed Consumer Action officers to engage with more clients, and on more complex matters.

“Every few minutes saved adds up to another person being served on our staff line and that’s really critical,” Skye says.

“Any time (staff) aren’t spending on admin is a happy dance. The more we can reduce that admin burden through some really smart automation, it’s a no brainer.”

No more overflowing inboxes

Josef has taken the pressure off the team at Consumer Action. Before the intake bot, all requests ended up in the advice inbox. As these were manually assessed and collected, information often fell through the cracks.

The bot is now able to identify the people Consumer Action can help, instantly referring everyone else to other services.

“Rather than [customers] submitting a form to us, us getting it, processing it, then sending them an email to say we’re not the right place…we’re saving time for the user, saving time for us, and making sure people end up somewhere they can actually get help.”

Speak your clients’ language

The intake bot has also made it easier for clients to seek help, particularly because Consumer Action built it to be as accessible as possible.

“Before even asking them any other questions, we can divert [people who need interpreters] directly to our advice line, rather than them trying to struggle through an internet form [that] doesn’t make sense to them,” she says.

The bot asks this question in 6 different languages – Arabic, Farsi, Mandarin, Vietnamese and Greek – and then has a follow-up conversation depending on the language chosen.

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Seamless integration with existing technology

The bot is fully integrated into CALC’s existing technological processes, including their CMS system ActionStep.

Before Josef, Skye says, “once customers had the form, it was a bunch of data fields (and) we had no way of connecting that to our client management system”. Information was not automatically stored in their management system, but gruellingly added manually.

We’d literally have to copy and paste from the email we got into the CMS. That was a pretty big drainer,” Skye says.

Now CALC officers effortlessly move between taking a phone call and checking the webform. There’s no need to copy and paste bits of client information into different data fields.

There’s a whole lot more coming with Josef 

Not only is Josef a time-saver for Consumer Action, but the seamless storage of data allows them to identify information about help-seekers to analyse what areas of law are “ripe for reform”.

Skye says Consumer Action is now looking at ways to use Josef to develop other tools and resources. One of their tools, which has been wildly successful from a user perspective, is the Demand A Refund website. But for Consumer Action, it’s been difficult extracting data from the website, so they want to rebuild it with Josef.

“Josef is surprisingly intuitive and once you’ve grasped the general concepts, it’s not scary at all – it’s a great way to enable small practices and organisations like ours with really limited budgets to do some really clever things.” 

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