London Borough of Harrow

Outcome of Expression of Interest: Not shortlisted

Customers struggle to find the information they need on councils’ websites which average over 2,500 pages and cover hundreds of services.

We discovered that many customers give up searching and call instead. This is costly and a setback for digital channel shift.

Our solution is a website digital assistant called Max covering all Council services. Customers can ask Max a question – in their own words – and Max will interpret that and take them to the relevant webpage. For example if the customer types, ‘complain about dogs barking’, Max understands that this means, in council terminology, ‘report a noise nuisance’, and takes the customer to that webpage.

Crucially, Max is not simply a digital assistant toolkit – but a trained specialist who works straight out of the box meaning Council staff are not spending time programming or feeding the technology.

We are collaborating with Barbour Logic, a specialist supplier, and have arranged an event with the West London Alliance (Brent, Ealing, Hillingdon and Hounslow) councils on 16 November with the intention of agreeing further partners. 


Discovery evidence

In a survey of people who called the contact centre we found that 40% of residents admitted to trying the website before calling.  Of these callers, about half failed to find what they needed on the website, even though the information was there.

At Harrow, we receive over 2,200,000 web visits and more than 1,000,000 telephone calls each year.  A 10% reduction in telephone calls would save the Council over £150,000 each year as well as giving customers a better experience and encouraging greater digital engagement.

We decided on an intelligent digital assistant (rather than improving navigation or search) because:

  • it has the intelligence to be much more helpful;
  • is a more personal customer experience;
  • with funding will be able to hand customers over to a live-chat human when necessary.




  • Digital leadership training (for council leaders, service managers or senior executives)
  • Introduction to user research
  • Introduction to service design
  • Introduction to digital business analysis