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Automation delivers efficiency gains and service benefits for West Midlands authority

28 Jun 18

The Parking Services team at Solihull Council in the West Midlands has taken full advantage of automated solutions to maximise operational efficiencies and deliver a more effective service for customers. Following the successful introduction of the Response Master letter-generating tool, the authority is now also using Barbour Logic’s Self-Serve system to improve the speed and quality of customer engagement.

Led by Carl Newman, Solihull Council’s Parking Services Manager, the authority’s team is responsible for delivering effective parking management across the borough. An important role of the 4 person team is responding to 5,400 challenges and appeals each year from motorists who have received a PCN.

“The administrative demands for providing bespoke responses to every challenge and appeal was quite demanding for us,” says Carl. “And it always proved difficult to provide timely responses to customers. The number of repeat contacts because of inconsistencies, oversights and incomplete challenges just compounded the situation.

“The introduction of Barbour Logic’s automated solutions has truly transformed our operations. Thanks to Response Master we’re now providing accurate, concise, consistent and clear responses to all challenges within 7 working days – four times faster than before. Now, working in tandem with the interactive and intelligent Self-Serve platform, the quality of our engagement with people has increased significantly. 18% of motorists who were planning on challenging, no longer do so after receiving advice from Self-Serve. We’ve also seen much higher first contact resolution and improved recovery rates.”

The Council issues around 16,500 Penalty Charge Notices a year and through its contractor there are 24 Civil Enforcement Officers covering all on-street parking, as well as the 4,500 spaces in their 23 car parks. In autumn 2017 new bus lane enforcement measures were introduced on one of the most congested routes in the borough. This has seen an increase in the number of PCNs being issued and the number of challenges and appeals, although there has been a consistent improvement in bus lane compliance.

“The improved response times have been achieved despite a reduction in the size of our team and an increase in the number of PCNs being issued,” adds Carl Newman. “Errors or delays simply prompt frustration and fuel avoidable grievances from motorists who have received a PCN. Response Master has eliminated such problems because everyone now receives a timely and accurate response that is written in plain English to provide clarity and avoid any misunderstandings.”

Barbour Logic’s Self-Serve system provides motorists with instant answers to PCN queries 24/7. Installed without any disruption to other IT systems and linked directly to the Council’s website, this intelligent and interactive on-line customer platform provides guidance to motorists. It explains the likelihood of a challenge being successful and specifies the supporting evidence required. The system simplifies the challenge process for the motorist and Council alike, and has led to a noticeable reduction in customer correspondence and the number of PCN-related calls being taken by the Council’s Contact Centre.

“Service automation is now providing the smarter, better and faster service standards that people rightly expect,” continues Carl. “It is also helping us to maintain continuous service improvement and minimise overheads. And I’m particularly pleased that our small team now has the scope to focus on new service developments that will maximise accessibility across the borough and provide positive improvements to the parking experience of residents, businesses and visitors to the area. Indeed, as a direct result of the time savings from Barbour Logic’s software, we have been able to proceed with new payment options and facilities at our Pay and Display car parks which have proved really popular with motorists.”

Barbour Logic’s Response Master secured a string of special awards for innovation excellence following its launch just over a decade ago. More recently, Self-Serve secured the 2016 Intelligent Parking Award at the British Parking Awards. Today, the two systems are being used by more than 60 local authorities all over the country, including more than half of all London Boroughs as well as urban authorities such as Leicester, Bradford, Sheffield and Nottingham and many county and district councils.