The Highways Services Team at Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council has recently been restructured and the number of staff in the Parking Services team scaled down. Consequently, the department has addressed the need for efficiency savings with help from Barbour Logic.
In July they implemented Response Master, the company’s award-winning, plain English parking correspondence software, to generate letters in response to drivers’ PCN challenges. ‘Other local authorities recommended the system to me,’ says Parking Services Manager Carl Newman, ‘and although it’s early days I would recommend it 100 per cent.’
Newman says the department had been so busy that at one point they tried to delay implementation, but he is glad they didn’t. ‘If anything, Response Master has helped the transition: it really has been stress-free. It took just three days of on-site, one-to-one training for the team to be proficient, and a half-day session for the council’s unique policies to be input.’
The department now benefits from more flexible staffing, Newman says. ‘The system frees up parking officers so that they are not solely focused on appeals but have a broader remit, including parking issues and assisting with Finance. Response Master’s intelligence means anyone new to parking can be up to speed on PCN correspondence in much less time.’
He says his team is ‘very enthusiastic’ about Response Master. ‘The interface is completely intuitive and so easy to use that you tend to overlook the work that’s gone into. They’ve taken the guesswork out so it’s fool proof. In the past we had a few templates for letters but we basically started from scratch each time; the new system generates them for us based on our policies. We always strive for quality, clarity and consistency in our correspondence, and Response Master is definitely going to improve these.’
Looking ahead, the council plans to adopt Barbour Logic’s Self-Serve solution for drivers querying their PCNs online. Winner of the 2016 BPA Intelligent Parking Award, RM Self-Serve interacts with drivers and, uniquely, answers queries instantly – transforming the traditional process where drivers had to submit a query and wait for a reply from the back office.
RM Self-Serve advises the driver of the likely outcome of their challenge based on their query and the council’s policies. Where relevant, it requests specific documentary evidence. The information is clear, transparent – and up front. Which results in a win-win: fewer challenges from better-informed drivers and therefore efficiency gains for councils.
‘It’s great this is taking place,’ says Newman. ‘From what I’ve seen of Barbour Logic so far I’m confident it will work well.’