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Exploring Phone-AI in Local Government: Insights from Renfrewshire Council’s Customer Service AI Assessment

Interview with Gary Innes, Customer Service Manager at Renfrewshire Council

Woman talking on the phone.

In today’s dynamic public service environment, integrating innovative solutions is key to boosting efficiency and enhancing responsiveness, especially in customer service where a significant portion of interactions - over 60% - are still handled over the phone. Yet, many councils are challenged with how to navigate the application of new technologies and determine the necessary steps to get started.

We've recently introduced our Customer Service AI Assessment, a detailed program aimed at providing councils with the critical tools, knowledge, and insights needed to effectively assess and implement phone-based AI in customer service operations. This program is crafted to demystify the initial complexities of AI evaluation, ensuring councils are fully equipped to harness the transformative potential of AI effectively.

Gary Innes of Renfrewshire Council recently shared his firsthand experience in navigating this journey during an ICS.AI workshop. His insights shed light on the potential role of AI in enhancing service delivery and the role in the assessment process in successfully evaluating the technology.

Motivation for AI Integration

Renfrewshire Council’s exploration of AI was sparked by internal curiosity and external observation around innovation in public service delivery. "There were lots of internal conversations about AI. Our head of ICT was particularly inspired after attending an ICS.AI webinar, impressed with the potential of AI assistants for phones and web," Gary noted. This marked the beginning of their engagement with ICS.AI, sparked by the desire to deepen their digital transformation efforts which had already successfully reduced call volumes.

Strategic Implementation and Initial Trials

Renfrewshire’s approach was both cautious and strategic. Starting with internal discussions led to a trial that provided tangible examples of what AI could do. Gary highlighted the importance of this trial phase:

"It was crucial for us to dip our toes in the water with AI. This trial wasn't just about testing technology; it was about understanding its potential and integrating it into our existing digital platforms." 
Renfrewshire Council

Overcoming Challenges with Stakeholder Engagement and Communication

One of the biggest challenges was building an understanding with our senior leadership and council members. Convincing them to invest in AI technology required more than enthusiasm; it needed a solid business case and demonstrable benefits. "The trial helped us move from abstract ideas about AI to specific, actionable insights," Gary explained. The council adopted a phased communication strategy, initially keeping the trial within a small team to build knowledge and confidence before rolling it out more broadly.

Key Learnings and Recommendations

Reflecting on the experience, Gary shared several recommendations for other councils considering AI:

  1. Be less cautious with communications: Promote AI’s benefits more widely and earlier to build excitement and support across the organisation. 

  1. Face-to-face interactions: When possible, discuss AI initiatives in person with management teams to foster a deeper understanding and enthusiasm. 

  1. Use targeted focus groups: Especially with key services like the Blue Badge system, to demonstrate AI’s effectiveness to skeptical stakeholders.

The Impact of the Trial

The AI trial was instrumental in providing the data needed to build a robust business case. "If we hadn't participated in the assessment, we'd still be discussing whether AI could benefit us. The trial gave us concrete data and a strong narrative for our business case," said Gary.

Looking Forward

With the trial complete and the business case approved, Renfrewshire Council is now looking at broader implementation. "We're excited about the possibilities. The trial showed us that AI can not only meet but exceed our expectations, providing significant improvements in customer service and operational efficiency," Gary concluded.

Conclusion: A Collaborative Path to AI Integration

Gary’s experience underscores the value of a structured, supportive trial phase. For councils ready to explore AI, this approach not only demystifies the technology but also builds a strong foundation for its successful implementation.

If Gary’s story inspires you, consider joining one of our Customer Service AI Assessment introduction sessions. Discover firsthand how AI can streamline your service delivery and enhance customer interactions, paving the way for a more efficient and responsive local government.

About the AI Customer Service Assessment:

The Customer Service AI Assessment offers a comprehensive program designed to equip councils with the essential tools, insights, and expertise for evaluating phone-based AI technologies. Participants benefit from a live tailored AI trial, extensive support materials, detailed business case development, and insights from successful implementations. 

Join a network of innovators and gain direct access to expert advice, ensuring a streamlined understanding of AI applications, enhanced stakeholder engagement, and minimised adoption risks. Its structured pathway not only demystifies the initial evaluation of AI but also prepares councils to harness its transformative potential for improved operational efficiency and customer service.Learn more about the Assessment here.  

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