Paying parking fines is an obvious task to put online, especially in urban areas where there is likely to be a significant volume of fines to be paid. A discount for prompt payment will tend to encourage the use of an online facility, since people paying by this route can do so without delay, and can expect proof that payment has been received by the required date.
All London boroughs and metropolitan districts (69 councils in all).
Generally, this task is handled well, with 71% of councils tested achieving 3 or 4 stars. This is similar to the 72% that achieved the Better connected standard in 2013 (equivalent to 3 or 4 stars), when the task was last tested. However, getting 3 or 4 stars for this year’s task is more difficult, since we now have an ‘essential question’ that must be answered correctly before a service can get 3 or 4 stars, and we also mark down any services that offer information that is clearly not up to date. Sites that offer a generally good experience often let themselves down on a single aspect, like failing to flag the discount available for early payment. We are still seeing significant variance in the quantity and quality of written content provided to guide site users on the customer journey towards payment.
Check ‘coverage’ to see if your council has been surveyed. Go to councils page and select your council. Look for link to task report under 2016-17 results
Provide a good or very good online service based on this survey
Better connected rankings
*Discrepancies in the figures are due to rounding off
NB Question highlighted in red is an ‘essential question’ that must be answered correctly for the council to meet the standard for this task. Questions highlighted in blue affect star ranking
|Questions to be answered "Yes"|
|• Would you recommend that other councils look at this implementation as an example of good practice?||23%|
|• Does a Google search lead me to the task?||100%|
|• Am I told what information I need to complete the payment online?||87%|
|• Am I informed about the process of submitting an appeal against my parking fine?||87%|
|• Is it clear that a discount is applicable if I pay my fine promptly?||62%|
|• Is it clear how I might obtain assistance if required?||64%|
|• Does the home page link me directly to the task?||100%|
|• Does the service landing page link me directly to this task?||100%|
|• Does a search for the task description return the correct result listed in the first five results?||90%|
|• Does the A to Z list include this task?||75%|
|Other questions affecting standard achieved|
|• Was the content you reviewed free of any out of date information?||99%|
|• Overall, how do you rate the journey plus task completion?||2.2|
|• Was the content you reviewed concise and free of jargon?||87%|
No one likes paying parking fines. No one. Councils that go out of their way to make the process hassle- or fuss-free may turn what is a seriously annoying experience into (possibly grudging) admiration of their online capability.
Reviewing some (a minority) of these sites begs the question: have those providing the content and interactive facilities for these pages - in parking services or the central web team - actually experienced receiving and attempting to pay a parking ticket from a council?
The usual response to getting a ticket is one of resignation, but drivers will be more than usually annoyed by unnecessary obstacles thrown in their path. For some sections of the population, paying a fine may be a rare instance of interaction with the council, so why not regard this as an opportunity to surprise them with how great the online experience is?
In short getting this task right should be considered fundamental to any channel shift strategy.
Those who genuinely feel they have been wrongly charged will, rightly, be doubly aggrieved if they cannot easily find out how to appeal, or if, having decided to pay, the process is fiddly and difficult. This includes when information on payment, payment options, how to appeal, and how to view evidence if lacking altogether or is not provided at the most logical point in the customer journey.
We found huge variation in the number of words it took for councils to provide key information. Some, such as Birmingham, had pages of content which was quite difficult to read whilst others such as Sandwell had really succinct content. Sometimes this meant that the appeal process wasn’t explained in depth but it certainly made paying the fine very easy.
It was surprising how often the 50% early payment discount was either not mentioned at all or information about it was difficult to spot. The same goes for how to appeal or challenge a ticket. Because this featured as our ‘essential question’ many sites that might otherwise have scored three or four stars were marked down to two stars. In one case, information about appealing was remaindered to a single line (a link) stating 'Challenge your ticket' which appears at the foot of the page. On others, grounds for appeal are described in a lengthy PDF.
Service managers should be aware that when search - or their own links - take people to the online payments system directly, information about appeals or discounts for prompt payment may be bypassed.
Where other navigation routes have failed it is surprising to find an A-Z with no an entry for parking. Most visitors using this tool would likely start with ‘P’ for parking, but in one case the information was linked from the multiple heading ‘Traffic travel and parking’. This led to a page with nothing about paying parking fines.
A customer journey that initially takes people to a web page that provides a very brief reminder about paying promptly to obtain a discount, and also an online option to query the fine, is ideal. It may mean that people have to enter two clicks to get to payment rather than one, but it’s important to build the key information step into the journey.
It was often hard or even impossible to find contact details. It was particularly frustrating where there was a link entitled ‘contacts’ that took you to a list of departments where clicking on ‘parking’ took you back to the parking page you started from. Sefton and also Manchester were poor for contact details.
Integration of parking payment with other types of payment can be problematic. If clicking a home page 'Pay it' option requires me to select from a multiple choice of council payments, parking how does the visitor know that parking falls under ‘Environment’.
There must be consistency between terminology the parking ticket (PCN) and on the payment form. Reviewers noticed that councils using Civica epay have a field entitled ‘Reference’ and the customer has to assume that this means the PCN number. In one instance, the field was marked with an asterisk, prompting search for information relating to 'reference number' but the asterisk simply denoted a mandatory field.
The following sites were recommended by reviewers for the whole customer experience of using this service and achieved 4 stars according to the Better connected scoring rules.
Easy to navigate to the page and also to find via other mechanisms such as Google, site search and A-Z. The content is very straightforward to read and very concise. The customer journey is also totally consistent irrespective of start point.
Very easy to navigate to this task and there was a clear statement of the information you needed to complete the payment.
Everything was explained thoroughly and yet it was still easy to read. A number of councils just throw in terms such as Notice to Owner but here there was nothing left to doubt.
Great example of how to keep it simple and faultless navigation
The clean, contemporary design of this website makes the promotion and customer journey both very straightforward. If I had to find fault it would only be that contact information, in the event of a query, is not included on the page that explains how to pay or appeal. I had to go to the service landing page for that, but not serious enough to deny this website being recommended as an example of best practice.
The Parking landing page is one of the best I have seen in 17 years of managing or reviewing local government websites. Traffic related images are used to great effect without overwhelming the user. Excellent, concise information provision for how to pay, discount and appeal.
Kensington & Chelsea
Well presented, concise and straightforward to navigate. Care needed to ensure that customers are informed of alternatives to online payment regardless of the route taken.
The 'Pay your parking fine (Penalty Charge Notice - PCN)' page is really quite staggering in its simplicity, and yet it manages to address all that you need to know (with the singular noticeable exception of information about a discount for prompt settlement).
A particularly fine, well presented Parking service landing page. Imagery is used to good effect to drive user behaviour. Excellent promotion and concise topic descriptions.
Another example of how simple the journey can be
The website isn't going to win any prizes in a beauty contest any time soon, but I doubt the web team will be too concerned about that! There has evidently been a great deal of thought given to customer journeys, including putting pertinent information in the right place on that journey. The service overview (linked above) covers all the bases. Top notch!
I should never have thought of having separate parking landing pages for residents, visitors and businesses but now I see them in use on Westminster's site, I have to say I think it's a brilliant concept, enabling content to be tailored to the different user types.
The following sites did not achieve 4 stars but have been commended by reviewers for particular features or approaches.
A really good page http://www.stockport.gov.uk/services/transport/parking/parkingfines
Excellent service introduction and with the novelty of a call to action that covers both pay the PCN and appeal the PCN. Whereas some councils are vague about appeals or fail to mention them at all, that's not the case in Enfield!