Like many outlying regions, the ability of Argyll and Bute Council to capitalise on the benefits of virtual and self-serve customer service solutions has been compromised by mobile network limitations.
However, the authority has wasted no time in capitalising on network improvements in the region by working with ITS (UK) member Imperial and introducing the company’s cashless payment systems for parking, virtual permits for residents and real-time enforcement measures. The decisive action has resulted in an immediate improvement in operational efficiencies and service standards for customers, with 4G network coverage now established on the west coast mainland and neighbouring islands.
According to Keith Tennant, the authority’s Parking Supervisor, both visitors and residents are benefitting from the new service developments and the response from local businesses and shopkeepers has been extremely positive.
“The demand for cashless parking and a more convenient permit solution was considerable, but our hands have been tied due to the limited availability of a reliable mobile signal. That has now all changed. Imperial has helped us to take full advantage of far more efficient and convenient technologies, prompting a dramatic improvement in service standards for customers. The new systems have also delivered significant cost savings for the Council, reduced equipment maintenance costs and cash-handling and have simplified the management and enforcement of parking services across a very large geographical area.”
Building on the Council’s long-standing partnership with Imperial, the authority initially introduced PaySmarti as a pilot project in two car parks in the attractive seaside town of Helensburgh on the Clyde estuary. This provided motorists with the option to pay for parking online using a smartphone or a computer.
Following its immediate success, the system has been extended to cover all of the Council’s Pay and Display car parks in Arrochar, Dunoon, Inveraray, Lochgilphead, Luss, Mull, Oban and Rothesay. Motorists using the easy to use self-serve system not only have the benefit of cashless payment at the touch of a button, but also the option of text reminders. Once registered, regular users can also just text to park or to extend their parking period and families can register any number of cars or mobile phones on their account.
Significantly, PaySmarti integrates seamlessly with Imperial’s 3sixty back office management system and the company’s comprehensive permit management system, to provide the authority with a comprehensive end-to-end solution for parking and permits.
Argyll and Bute’s Amenity Wardens now carry out their enforcement duties on Samsung smartphones fitted with Imperial’s Rialto software, which provides real-time access on the 4G network to the back office database to check permit validity and parking payments for any parked vehicle. Further patrol efficiencies have resulted from the introduction of Imperial’s ScanSmarti. This has eliminated the need for manual input of vehicle registration numbers, as all parked vehicles are now scanned during a routine patrol with any contraventions identified automatically.
Following the success of PaySmarti in the Council’s Pay and Display car parks, the authority has now extended its use to cover all Pay and Display on-street parking. And, according Imperial’s Doug Woodhouse, the introduction of cashless parking is making a very real difference to local businesses. “Paying for parking is now not only much more convenient for visitors and residents alike, it’s also much easier for motorists to extend their stay which can only be good news for local businesses right across the region. We’re delighted the Council has wasted no time in capitalising on the new capabilities for both on- and off-street parking bays.”
“The new parking and permit management solutions have truly transformed our activities,” adds Tennant. “And, we’re continuing to exploit new service options and will soon be introducing Imperial’s intelligent letter-writing module LetterSmarti. The company’s new ChallengeSmarti system for simplifying and improving the process of challenging PCNs is also currently undergoing User Acceptance Testing and is due for introduction in the next few months.
“There is no denying that mobile network limitations posed considerable frustration in our commitment to maximise service standards. But, we have done more than just play catch up. With Imperial’s help and its integrated service solutions, we have been able to take full advantage of the latest technologies. The benefits for local people have been immediate, but I’m sure such steps will also prove very popular with the huge number of tourists and hill walkers who visit the area during the peak holiday season.”