Customer Services Ealing and Northfield

Gold star for council

As an opposition back-bench councillor I keep an interest in Customer Services having been in charge of it for two years, along with parking. One of the changes we bought in in that time was to expand the range of online services.

In June I got a reminder letter about renewing my CPZ permit along with a PIN so that I could do the transation online. I am afraid I failed to do anything about it until yesterday morning, the day my permit expired. I didn’t want to go into Perceval House so I figured I would do it online. It took about five minutes at 7:50am yesterday whilst I was eating my toast. I was very pleased when the permit arrived today. Cracking performance. The great thing about this online transaction was that not only did I get a quick service but that it would have been much cheaper for the council compared to a face-to-face transaction.

One of the ways that the council and the wider state will be able to maintain services whilst saving money is to do more and more online.

Customer Services

Customer Services humming

If you click on the Customer Services category link on the right hand menu you will see that I regularly check the performance of our Customer Services organisation.

I was a bit anxious after my last visit to Customer Services on 18th January so I went back today to check up on them.

It took 6 seconds to get a ticket timed at 11.21am. I saw a parking agent two minutes later. There were less than 40 people waiting in the whole place and there were two cash windows open with a queue of one person waiting for a free window. There were six people working on parking so there were only two people queueing for this service.

All in all everything seemed to be as it should.

Customer Services

Bad day in the parking queue

If you click on the Customer Services category link on the right hand menu you will see that I regularly check the performance of our Customer Services organisation.

I did one of my mystery shops late on Friday morning. I did my usual thing of checking into the queue for a parking permit at 11:53am. It only took a couple of seconds to get past the meeters and greeters who were cheerful and efficient. There was quite a buzz in the place as there were about 50 people in the various queues but numbers were being called out so quickly it all seemed pretty smooth. There was a queue of 3 for the cash office but there were three windows open so no problem there really. Everything was calm and clean and it looked like most people were having a reasonable experience.

The only problem was the queue for parking permits which stood at 14 when I arrived and it took until 12:31pm to be seen. 38 minutes. Way too long. I had a brief chat with the officer. There were only three people working on parking permits, one was training and one was on lunch.

Mondays and Friday are usually busier days and lunchtimes are best avoided for a short wait – pretty much the same advice you would give somoene going to the bank! It was clear from the length of queue when I arrived that there would be a long wait so I had the chance to bail out if I wanted to. I have taken this incident up with senior officers so I expect that this situation will not recur. We’ll see.

Customer Services

Customer Services slow this lunchtime

If you click on the Customer Services category link on the right hand menu you will see that I regularly check the performance of our Customer Services organisation.

I did one of my mystery shops this lunchtime. It was perhaps predictable that lunchtime at month end and week end would be a bit slow.

I arrived at 12.10pm. There were 6 or 7 people waiting for the meeters and greeters but it only took a minute to get past them so I got in the queue at 12.11pm. Inside there were about 50 people waiting which is quite busy compared to previous visits. There were two cash office windows open with two customers being served and no-one waiting. The perking permit queue (I always put myself in this queue) was 6 people but it went up to 10 whilst I was there.

I was seen at 12.34pm so had a wait of 23 minutes. Long but in no way hideous considering it was three times over a bad time to visit. There were 5 staff covering parking with two off for their lunch break.

On my way out I used the loo. It was totally acceptable. Certainly as good as or better than the typical work place loos I have ever used. Certainly better than most pub/restaurant loos.

If you want to avoid the queues try paying PCNs, buying permits and vouchers online here. I just ordered some vouchers. Very easy. I am afraid I have had cause to pay a few tickets on line recently. Again, very easy.

Update: My vouchers arrived Wednesday morning (4th November). Less than three working days. Not bad.

Customer Services

All quiet at Perceval House

If you click on the Customer Services Category link on the right hand menu you will see that I regularly check the performance of our Customer Services organisation.

I popped into the Customer Services centre this morning after an early morning meeting. I was checked in at 9:15am and was seen at 9:23am. There were four people waiting in the whole centre, two of whom were waiting on the issue of parking permits. There was one cash window open serving one person so there was no queue there. Everything was calm and businesslike.

Chatting briefly to the agent I saw they recommended avoiding the start and end of weeks if you want a quick visit. Also avoid the the end of the month.

Customer Services

Customer Services working very well

If you click on the Customer Services Category link on the right hand menu you will see that I regularly check the performance of our Customer Services organisation. You might call it mystery shopping.

Today I was shopping in earnest as I needed a new parking permit and some more CPZ vouchers. We had our car totalled in a hit and run whilst it was parked outside the house last month. It was written off as a result. I needed a new permit rather than a renewal.

I walked in the 4:36pm. There were only 8 people waiting in the whole facility and I was only the second person waiting for a permit. I was seen in 2 minutes. Having checked my paperwork, given me permit and vouchers and taken payment I was out in another 8 minutes. Total time in Customer Services 10 minutes.

Great service from a very nice lady. Thank you.

Customer Services

Customer Services working well this morning

At 9am this morning, on the dot, I was outside Ealing Council’s Perceval House with about 20 others waiting to be let into the main customer services reception area. There were a few people ahead of us being dealt with by the meeters and greeters and it took 4 minutes before we joined the other early birds inside.

There were six people ahead of me in the parking permits queue when I looked. It took precisely 7 minutes to get from the meeters and greeters to an agent sitting at their desk.

There were two cash office windows open with one person being served and one person waiting.

Everything seemed clean and efficient and smiley from what I could see. Well done all.

Customer Services Ealing and Northfield

Council catches a cold

This notice is currently running on the council’s website:

As part of the ongoing work to protect the council from a computer virus the council’s IT systems, including the website and telephone network, had to be shut down on Wednesday (20 May 2009).

The council’s main office, Perceval House in Ealing, including the Customer Services Centre is fully operational. Work on computers at other council buildings is underway.

The online payments system is currently unavailable. Engineers are working to resolve the problem as quickly as possible.

The council apologises for any inconvenience caused.

For most of the last week the council has been blighted by a virus. Things are finally getting back to normal this morning. It seems that our technical architecture is rather closely coupled and this has caused widespread disruption of many systems including phones, e-mail and the website. I know that this has affected many of the users of the services I am responsible for. Sorry. There will be a lot of hard questions asked of our technology people over the next few days and weeks I can tell you.

I visited Ealing Central Library yesterday afternoon and the staff were cheerfully coping with a difficult situation. They were able to use laptops to check books in and out so top marks for that work around. Unfortunately all the internet PCs were out which must have been an inconvenience to many users. Sorry again.

This morning I visited the customer services centre at Perceval House. I often do this as you know. It was working surprisingly well with cloakroom tickets and, again, a cheerful attitude from staff who have had a difficult week. That said it took 33 minutes to get from the front desk to see a parking agent which is my usual test. This is an unacceptably long time. There were meant to be five staff on parking issues but one was on break and one was dealing with a backlog from yesterday. The work rate from the remaining three did not seem to be up to meeting the modest demand.

There were two cashiers windows open and only one person being served so no problem there. The meeters and greeters were also working smoothly and cheerfully.

Customer Services

White sack


In November 2007 when Ealing implemented the new recycling scheme they managed to omit to deliver a white plastic recycling bag to my house. Black mark to Ealing Council. I never got around to ordering one for the simple reason that I just kept on leaving my plastics out in carrier bags and they got collected in the same way they had been previously. No sweat.

I decided to order me one this week. I called 020 8825 6000 at 10:26am on Tuesday 10th March. After less than a minute I was talking to an operator who took my details and I was off the phone within two minutes. I was told a bag would arrive in around 3-5 working days.

After a couple of meetings at the Town Hall this morning I arrived home at around 12:20pm to find the bag by my front door – 3 working days from order. Good job.

Customer Services Parking Services

Customer services – early morning rush

I had half an hour between meetings this morning so I took the opportunity to do a quick spot check on customer services.

It was 9:05 am by my watch when I arrived and it was a bit daunting at first as there were 20 plus people queuing out of the door to get past the meeters and greeters. They had only just openend the doors and in fact it was all very orderly with a security guy directing people to the three meeters and greeters. It took only three minutes to get past them and get a ticket in my hand at 9.08 am.

Once inside all was calm and ordered with about 40 people waiting to be seen and not many behind me – all the early birds were trying to get their worms. There were 18 people waiting for housing benefits enquiries and 14 people waiting for parking of which 13 wanted permits. Two cash office windows were open with two people being served so no queue there.

It took 26 minutes to get to the front of the parking queue. This is too long. If I thought it took 26 minutes all day I would be worried but I think this was a function of the early morning rush which I had managed to get on the end of. I haven’t had this problem when I have tried this later in the day. There were four staff dealing with parking matters. I will look into how we might improve things first thing. In the meantime if you have any stories to share, good or bad, please do.