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Pay by phone parking for Westminster

Converso : 09 September, 2008  (Application Story)
Converso to handle transactions for Westminster Council in London in scheme enabling people to pay for parking using their mobile handsets
Westminster Council has introduced 'pay by phone' parking across the borough that is estimated to save £6million per annum. The Council is using technology from Verrus and outsourced contact centre partner, Converso who are jointly responsible for handling up to 80,000 transactions per week. The council has a long history of using outsourcing and recognises the benefits of drawing on expertise and resources that may not be available internally.

The Council needed a solution that could reduce the reliance on parking meters as well as provide them with vital management information that would help them to plan for future use of facilities. Director of Parking at Westminster, Alastair Gilchrist explains, "We were looking for a convenient method of payment for the general public that would not only eradicate the high level of crime and would also give us vital statistics on the usage of particular parking areas."
The council decided that a 'pay by phone' solution would be feasible taking into account that almost all of the population now own a mobile phone and also possess a credit or debit card.

Alastair Gilchrist reports on how the service works, "The pay by phone service is a perfect example of how you can use a balanced mix of both technology and human interaction to provide a convenient, fast, popular and extremely cost-effective method for high volume, small value payments. We felt that the whole process could not be completely automated because people still want the comfort and re-assurance of speaking to a live person for their first interaction. By using the blend of technology from Verrus with the customer service skills of Converso is the perfect solution to introducing a service that is being readily adopted by the general public."

He added, "Since introducing payment by phone we have undertaken a number of consumer surveys, and have been supported in this by Converso making outbound calls, and had very favourable feedback. Over two thirds of the sample was satisfied with the new service and almost 75% felt that the clarity of instructions from customer advisers was very easy. Surprisingly there was greatest acceptance in the 65+ age group with 100% satisfaction and in younger age groups (17-25 year olds) where 92% said they were pleased with the service." Of those surveyed 58% were parking for business purposes and 18% for sightseeing.

Westminster's 'pay by phone' service is now a straightforward process involving a mixture of both automated technology and talking to a person on the phone. The caller's phone number is captured using CLI (call line identification) and then an IVR (interactive voice response) system enables them to input their credit card details. The call is then automatically transferred to Converso which asks for their car registration as well as gives them the option of future text messaging or e-mail notifications.

Converso has trained approximately 100 of its staff on the service, some dedicated and some from its bureau division. All have direct access to Westminster's extranet where they can find all the necessary information on any parking queries.

All of Westminster's 8,500 parking bays are now enabled for pay-by-phone parking and it expects that by March 2009 it will have physically removed the remaining 1,500 meters and cash-taking pay and display machines from the streets.

Alastair Gilchrist concluded, "The beauty of this system is that we have set up a Framework agreement which will enable other Councils to use the same services from Verrus and Converso without an expensive and time consuming procurement.
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