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Ealing and Northfield

Customer services Ealing style

I enjoyed the full “screw you” customer experience at the hands of Ealing Council yesterday afternoon. Often I have good experiences of council services and I am quick to share them because too often we remember bad experiences and discount all of the good ones we have. Today was unnecessarily bad though so deserves being highlighted.

My parking permit expired on 8th July. Full marks to the council for sending me a renewal reminder in plenty of time. It was entirely my fault that I left the reminder on my desk for a couple of months or so and let my permit expire. My attention was rudely drawn to my oversight by the issuance of a £55 ticket on Friday. Again my bad, no complaint.

I figured that I would renew my parking permit online. No such luck. The system offered my a new permit with a start date of 9th July. Try as I might I could not change the date. Who wants to buy a parking permit that starts on 9th July three weeks later on the 30th July? I gave up on online and went to customer services at Perceval House in the town centre.

The first obstacle was the contractor’s van parked between the pedestrian crossing in front of Perceval House and the entrance to customer services, which can clearly be seen as the absence of proper Field Service Management. I called up to the comms team that is responsible for the contractor that maintains the posters in front of the building. They seemed largely unconcerned that their contractor was driving on the pavement and blocking access to the building.

Once in the customer services centre it was pandemonium. There were 173 people waiting in the queues and 24 waiting in the general queue that handles parking and environment issues. There were lots of people milling around the front desk and one middle class lady being huffy – well handled by the receptionist. I have never seen customer services’ reception so full.

I set my stopwatch when I entered the building. 44 minutes later I was sitting in front of a service agent. She did a quick and pleasant job so no complaints there. She told me that there were seven staff serving the general queue for environment and parking enquiries although I have to say it seemed to me that only five were actually working.

The staff performed well I thought in spite of the crush. The council’s senior officers need to be more diligent about making sure the IT works, sorting out their mindset about customers and the front of house and getting their contractors out of the way and making sure that the staffing rotas meet the demand.