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Derby City Council

Derby City Council's Innovative Journey

Derby City Council and Derby Homes embarked on an innovative journey to redefine their resident engagement strategy. Setting a benchmark for UK councils, they have seamlessly integrated Artificial Intelligence (AI) into their customer service operations. By integrating phone-based AI into their main switchboard, the council has not only achieved impressive results but set a precedent in public service excellence.

The Challenge

The financial landscape for councils is extremely challenging. Faced with a £14 million funding gap, increasing demand and escalating costs, Derby City Council recognised that services needed to transform to meet customer demand and be cost-effective.

This called for innovation in managing customer enquiries. Recognising that over 60% of resident interactions were via phone, the Council aimed to streamline this channel while maintaining service quality and boosting operational efficiency.

Andy Brammal - Derby City Council

Andy Brammall, Director of Digital & Physical Infrastructure and Customer Engagement at Derby City Council commented,

“It quickly became clear that AI had the potential to dramatically streamline our customer service operation. We started first with an AI-powered website assistant and followed by supplementing our main switchboard with phone-based AI”.

Phone-Based AI Solution

SMART Phone AI - Derby City Council

In partnership with ICS.AI, leaders in public sector AI transformation in the UK, Derby City Council introduced two AI assistants - Darcie to help with council services, and Ali to help Derby Homes customers with housing queries.

 

These AI assistants employ conversational AI and advanced natural language processing to provide a user-friendly round-the-clock service, capable of handling enquiries about a wide range of council services, in a human-like way.

Initially introduced on the websites for both organisations, Derby City Council then began to use the digital assistants as the first point of contact on their telephone switchboards – the first in the local government sector to do so.

As Andy Brammall describes: “Our new AI assistants not only allow residents access to a range of council services and information around the clock and across multiple channels, but by automating routine tasks they also free up time for our colleagues to focus on more complex queries which need a human conversation. This ultimately aims to manage our customers’ enquiries more effectively, providing a more personalised response when required, and increased levels of resident satisfaction”

Utilising ICS.AI’s unique local government language model, Darcie and Ali are pre-trained in over 1,000 council and housing services, ranging from council tax, parking, and benefits to waste management queries.

As well as answering queries, the AI solution can facilitate access to over 40 different council departments. While the technology is advanced, there’s always a human in the loop to assist with complex queries or for residents who prefer human interaction. Brammall emphasises, “We understand not everyone will transact with the council digitally. For those who choose not to, speaking to a human via telephone or face-to-face remains an option during business hours and is always supported”

The Benefits of Phone-based AI

Phone-based AI offers numerous advantages. It can streamline operations, reducing the calls directed to human operators and shortening waiting times. This efficiency frees up staff time to focus on complex queries, improving overall resident satisfaction.

 

The AI system offers 24/7 support, effectively managing high demand periods. By automating high-volume and routine calls, the system not only enhances the caller experience but also presents opportunities for operational cost savings and staff redeployment to other crucial tasks.

Derby City Council - SMART Phone AI

IMPACT & RESULTS

This AI-driven transformation is showing impressive results. Within six months of implementation, Darcie and Ali managed over 195,000 phone calls and another 18,000 interactions through the council’s website, addressing more than 327,000 individual questions. Over 8,000 of these queries were addressed outside of regular business hours, underscoring the round-the-clock advantage of AI support.

The AI assistants surpassed expectations, achieving an incredible 41% deflection rate from human advisors, effectively doubling the initial target of 21%. The efficiency has translated to tangible financial benefits, already achieving savings of over £100,000 against the council’s budget plan.

“Trained in over 1,000 council services, it has exceeded our deflection target of 21%, handling over 195,000 calls and achieving an incredible 41% deflection. This success has allowed us to maintain our service levels while streamlining operations”

Andy Brammall, Derby City Council.

The AI duo are addressing over 1,100 questions daily and are responsible for managing up to 45% of total inbound calls, showcasing their capability and scale.

Derby City Council leadership say the new AI digital assistants have been a huge success so far and their presence offers “big opportunities” to make more cash savings in the future.

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1.1K

questions answered daily by the AI assistant duo

45%

of inbound calls being managed by the AI Assistants

41%

deflection rate from human advisors

100K

of savings against the council's budget plan

AI ASSISTANCE IN TIMES OF CRISIS

In the face of unprecedented flooding caused by storm Babet in Derby, Derby City Council's innovative use of AI assistants, Darcie and Ali, proved to be invaluable. Serving as the digital front door for both the Council and Derby Homes, during the crisis they facilitated nearly 300 flood-related queries, providing residents with critical information on flooding, sandbags, safety concerns, evacuations, compensation, and road closures.

Collaborating swiftly with ICS.AI, the Council was able to update the AI assistants' welcome messages in real-time, directing residents to essential resources and support. This rapid response and the valuable data collected have laid the groundwork for developing a comprehensive emergency response skill within the AI, ensuring even more robust support in future crises. This case exemplifies the crucial role AI can play in disaster response, enhancing the community's resilience and the Council's ability to effectively serve its residents in times of need.

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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, Darcie is custom built using our proprietary 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 on the same SMART Mesh, our assistants provide instant value with robust analytics to help your organisation grow.

WHY DID THEY CHOOSE ICS.AI

The Council partnered with ICS.AI and leveraged their SMART AI platform for this transformation. As Brammall comments, they chose ICS.AI’s SMART AI platform for several reasons;

“Their strong reputation and proven experience in the local government sector reassured us of their capabilities. They offered a “human parity” council AI language model that could be quickly deployed, and we were confident in their performance and proven commitment to innovation in the phone channel. Above all, what really appealed to us was their ambition to work collaboratively”

Martin Neale, CEO at ICS.AI concluded, “Derby City Council’s commitment to innovation was critical to successfully deploying one of the most sophisticated AI engagement solutions in the public sector. This significant development demonstrates the Council’s leadership in the sector. We’re delighted to continue supporting them in developing their new AI-driven strategy, which I can see is already making a substantial impact on their contact centre”

WATCH OUR DERBY CITY COUNCIL SHOWCASE WEBINAR

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  • Hear from Paul Simpson on why Derby City Council decided to embrace AI innovation.

  • Learn about Derby City Council’s AI transformation journey and future roadmap.

  • Discover the process for identifying practical use cases for AI within the council.

  • Discover the power of conversational AI from ICS.AI's own CEO, Martin Neale.

Derby City Council has embarked on a pioneering programme to transform services using AI, against a backdrop of increasing demand and financial challenges. Following the successful launch of AI digital assistants to transform customer service operations in 2023, they have identified 54 further opportunities for generative AI to help protect and develop citizen services. Meet our panel of expert speakers from across the Council and ICS.AI and hear about the AI Transformation approach, business case justification, stakeholder engagement process and breaking down key challenges.

Transform Your Engagement with AI

Contact us to start your AI Transformation! Explore the SMART AI Platform's capabilities, receive live demonstrations, detailed pricing, and assistance in building an ROI business case calculator.

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