Councils have been working towards ‘Digital by Default‘ for a few years now. The Government Digital Strategy committed the government to ensuring all new or redesigned digital services meet this standard from April 2014. It’s all about understanding user needs, their user stories and determining how best to deliver user needs digitally. Sometimes it’s easy to talk about the big picture, but what about does it really take to deliver a ‘Digital by Default’ service? What sort of implementations are best to follow? What are the benefits for residents and the council itself?
I have recently been working with Camden Council on creating videos for their new ePermits solution. These videos will help residents to learn how to use the ePermits solution online, using SMS and via the smartphone app. I was interested to know more about their efforts in helping residents get digital and wondered if there were any lessons that other councils might be able to learn from them. So, I conducted an interview with Camden to find out more. Here’s what I found out.
Development of the ePermit Solution
The ePermits solution was developed by our external permit system provider ParkMobile. There was a close collaboration between Camden and Parkmobile to ensure the final product released to our customers was fit for purpose and met the high standards that the Council and their customers expect. The whole process from concept to launch of the ePermits solution has taken over 12 months. This might sound like a long time but Camden had to ensure the system was as user friendly as possible for our customers. This is extremely important when introducing a new system that relies heavily on customer interaction.
Benefits for Residents
The new ePermits system provides greater flexibility for customers in regards to applying, renewing and managing their parking permits. Parking sessions can now be booked on the go via a smartphone app or sitting at home via your computer. Parking sessions are also more flexible as you can now book them in 15 minute slots (as opposed to the old scratch card system that meant each session was 30 minutes minimum.) This provides more value for money to the customer which is especially important in these hard economic times. Residents have wanted the option to use ‘online services’ and ePermits allow this. Camden does understand however that not all residents will want to use ‘online services’ and with this in mind Camden have retained the scratch card option for those residents who prefer to use the service.
Benefits for Camden Council
By moving to a virtual permit Camden has been able to reduce the need to manually process each permit application. This has brought about greater efficiencies in the back office that allows officers to carry out other duties. The move to a virtual permit also has ‘green’ benefits as Camden have been able to decrease the amount of paper they use. Camden no longer has to produce as many scratch cards and can also confirm a customer’s purchase via email as opposed to sending out letters. The move to ePermits/eVisitor permits helps us to move away from issuing expensive RFID cards/scratch cards for each permit that is approved. This allows those permit holders who have multiple vehicles, to be able to instantly manage their active vehicle, using new Mobile App and SMS channel, not previously available.
Rolling out the service
Camden introduced eVisitor Permits with a ‘soft’ roll out strategy, this meant that it introduced eVisitor Permits to one of our controlled parking zones as a test before a full roll out was implemented. This ‘soft’ launch allowed residents to inform us of any issues they found with the system which helped us improve the eVisitor Permits product. The eVisitor Permits system is now fully functioning and has received excellent feedback from residents since going live.
Future of Camden’s Online Parking Services
Camden parking services is currently undertaking a website review as part of improving the customer experience. The parking web pages will be checked for accuracy and to ensure the wording is customer friendly and not service specific. To help with this process Camden is conducting user testing involving local residents; this feedback from the user groups will be essential in helping us to optimize the web content ensuring it is fit for purpose. Camden has also recently created parking guides (available on the parking home page) to give customers information on parking and also produced eVisitor permit videos that will help customers use the new products that are available to them.
If you are interested in getting in touch with Camden regarding their ePermit Solution, kindly drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I shall forward your contact details and enquiries to them.
I hope this was useful.