Transforming Local Government Services with AI - Telford & Wrekin Council
Telford and Wrekin Council, caters to a population of 180,000 residents in semi-rural Shropshire. Encompassing various towns and villages, the Council holds responsibility for a wide range of local services, spanning transportation, housing, education, and waste management. Much like numerous other councils, the sheer volume of calls across communication channels such as telephone, email, and live chat has imposed significant demands on Council resources. However, with the introduction of a “human parity” AI assistant, the Council has achieved the ability to efficiently serve its residents round the clock with precision and accuracy.
Telford's introduction to ICS.AI
Telford & Wrekin Council embarked on a remarkable journey to revolutionise local government services through the power of artificial intelligence (AI). In their quest to enhance customer service and embrace digital engagement, the Council introduced "Ask Tom," a custom-built AI assistant developed by ICS.AI.
"Tom, is part of our wider campaign to encourage customers to engage with us digitally technology rather than by phoning us in the first instance.
It also means they don't have to wait until our offices are open – TOM is available 24/7.
By using technology to handle relatively simple queries, we enable our staff to concentrate on more important issues, meaning we can help more people, more rapidly. It makes us more efficient and more effective for our residents.
We are carefully assessing how our AI assistant performs and have been delighted at its efficiency scores so far. It is performing extremely well."
Cllr Richard Overton,
Cabinet Member for Customer Services, Telford & Wrekin Council
A Vision for Digital Transformation
The Council viewed the adoption of AI as key to accelerating channel shift and driving greater efficiency through digital self-service. "Ask Tom" was introduced as part of a broader initiative to encourage residents to engage with the council digitally, rather than resorting to traditional phone-based interactions. The vision was clear - harness AI technology to not only streamline operations but also elevate the overall resident experience.
“Ask Tom” has managed over 25,000 resident queries since its inception, achieving tangible benefits for the council:
Enhanced Customer Satisfaction: An incredible 99.3% satisfaction rate compared to 91.2% for traditional customer services channels
Operational Savings: The 24/7 AI assistant saved advisor time, with 32% of queries being addressed outside of traditional working hours
Capacity Boost: Due to the 69% reduction in traditional webchat and a 35% drop in call volumes, the council could incorporate three more service areas, optimising service delivery
Live Chat Request Reductions: 60% reduction in the volume of live chats directed to agents for council tax inquiries, allowing staff to allocate more time to handle more complex queries.
Reduced Waiting Times: Waiting times plummeted across all services – with a 16.5% overall reduction (more than 5-minutes), 40% in revenues (10 mins), 57% in neighbourhood services (9.5 mins), and 47% for highways (4.5 mins)
These efficiency gains enabled the Council to free up valuable resources that could be redirected to better serve their residents. The AI assistant's performance in handling common queries liberated resources that the Council promptly deployed to integrate three new services - homelessness, registration services, and libraries, benefiting nearly 4,000 monthly calls. These new services were introduced without putting additional pressure on staff members or creating a need to increase headcount, demonstrating the successful realisation of the channel shift objectives.
This flexibility ensured that residents with limited technological access could still access essential services.
ICS.AI are a driving force in artificial intelligence for the public sector, creating the first AI Assistant with outcomes that are as good as humans.
Telford and Wrekin’s AI investment is making room for staff to be more productive:
37% decrease in environmental phone calls
10.5% reduction in highways phone calls
9% decrease in public protection phone calls
69% reduction in live chat to human advisory
74% decrease in staff's total sickness
With less work dedicated to handling traditional contact, the Council have been able to redistribute resources to better serve residents.
New services served by AI:
These new services are offered without adding pressure on staff or having to add extra headcount, meaning the channel shift objectives are working.
The Council’s commitment to excellence has not gone unnoticed. They achieved a customer satisfaction index score of 71.2%*, surpassing the average score of 64.4% of other councils. Additionally, their customer effort score, which measures the ease of customer transactions, was 4.2, much better than the UK organization average of 5.2.
The introduction of "Ask Tom" has revealed previously unaddressed needs among residents. The system identified challenges residents faced, such as paying council tax bills, and in response, the Council can now offer timely assistance.
Furthermore, integrating the AI assistant into the Council's MyTelford phone app underscores the Council's commitment to keeping residents connected, informed, and empowered.
satisfaction rate compared to 91.2% for traditional customer service channels
reduction in live chat requests since the AI assistant went live
of queries being addressed by the 24/7 AI assistant outside of traditional working hours
reduction in peak call wait times, from up to 40 minutes to just 20 minutes
About "Ask Tom" and ICS.AI SMART AI Platform
"Ask Tom" is an automated digital AI assistant designed to answer commonly asked questions, allowing contact center advisors to focus on more complex queries. Built on the ICS.AI SMART AI Platform, "Ask Tom" is trained using a custom-built organisational language model designed specifically for the public sector. It covers over 1,000 council-related topics and performs at a human parity level, achieving at least the same level of performance on the first attempt as a human.
Tom's knowledge continuously expands thanks to ICS.AI's patent-pending SMART Mesh, which allows it to improve by learning from other assistants on the mesh. "Ask Tom" is designed to be accessible to everyone and complies with WCAG 2.1 AA standards. It also includes a dedicated ethical compliance sub-system that sets it apart for its inclusivity.
1,000 council topics
12,000 LRG question variations
100,000,000 annual queries
The largest AI Language Model in the UK
Like our other public facing AI assistants, TOM is custom built using our proprietary SMART:CHAT software. It's ready to work on day one with a pre-trained understanding of user questions across local government services. Thanks to its patent-pending mesh learning it is constantly improving. Drawing from its own feedback and other Assistants it's connected to, our assistants provide instant value with robust analytics to help your organisation grow.
Inspiring the Future
The success of "Ask Tom" has positioned Telford & Wrekin Council as a trailblazer in AI transformation within the public sector. The Council continues to explore additional AI use cases and contact channels, including voice AI integration and generative AI, to further enhance customer service and stay at the forefront of innovation.
Telford & Wrekin Council's journey with "Ask Tom," serves as an inspiration for organisations seeking to transform public services. Their commitment to innovation, efficiency, and customer service excellence has set a new benchmark for success.
The recognition at the 2023 APSE Awards, where “Ask Tom” won Best Efficiency and Transformation Initiative, and Telford’s win of Local Authority of the Year at the MJ Achievement Awards in 2022 reinforces the profound impact of AI in reshaping local government services.
As other councils embark on their AI journeys, Telford & Wrekin Council's experience stands as a guiding light, illustrating the immense potential for innovation and efficiency through AI adoption. Congratulations to Telford & Wrekin Council and the entire team behind "Ask Tom" for their outstanding achievement in redefining public service excellence.
Hear from Gemma Hancox, Customer Contact Group Manager at Telford & Wrekin
Our key point of contact and sponsor for the AI Assistant was Gemma Hancox, who leads the Customer Contact Group at the Council. Her team manages the variety and volume of resident queries, and she has a firsthand understanding of the challenges in ensuring consistent customer service.
Interested in hearing from Gemma directly?
Watch our Telford & Wrekin Council Webinar
Hear from Gemma Hancox on the process of deploying an AI Assistant
See some of the reporting and dashboards of what TOM is delivering
Watch live demos of how AI assistants can ehance the customer experience
Discover the power of conversational AI from ICS.AI's own CEO, Martin Neale
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