Customer service is the key

IMUM is responsible for managing the service for Abu Dhabi's Mawaqif parking scheme

Tags: Contact centreEMWIMUM Iris Modern Urban Management ( Intelligence Inc ( Arab Emirates
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Customer service is the key Fraser: Good customer service is key to IMUM, even if the customers are not always happy to speak to the company. (ITP Images)
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By  Mark Sutton Published  July 2, 2014

Managing Abu Dhabi’s Mawaqif parking scheme, the largest managed parking contract in the world, requires a wide range of diverse systems, but for IMUM, which is responsible for managing the service, key to improvement came from taking control of customer interaction.

Parking is often an issue in any big city, but in Abu Dhabi, by 2009, a lack of structured parking systems was causing increasing problems. The city centre had an estimated 70,000 parking spaces catering for 100,000 cars at peak times. Paid-for public car parks were mainly unused, and enforcement and compliance with parking regulations was low.

The Department of Transport (DoT) decided to modernise parking in the city, and formed a new division, MAWAQiF to manage and regulate parking. MAWAQiF in turn tendered a contract for parking management, which was awarded to Iris Modern Urban Management (IMUM), a joint venture between UK NSL Ltd, Arady Properties and Capital Investment Group, to manage parking services for MAWAQiF. The contract now covers 95,000 parking spaces, and is the largest, most complex, managed parking contract in the world.

IMUM is responsible for all of infrastructure and IT behind MAWAQiF, including operation of car parks, management of pay-and-display machines, operation of call centres and parking shops for payment of fines and buying parking permits, management of enforcement personnel, managing a Central Parking Management System (CPMS) and even operating the car pound and towing service for dealing with illegally parked vehicles.

At the centre of all these disparate systems is the CPMS, a bespoke, web-based system, which IMUM has expanded with additional capabilities as needed. Since the launch, MAWAQiF has enjoyed considerable success in bringing order to Abu Dhabi’s parking, with the DoT expanding the system to take in other areas of the city, and plans recently announced to begin trials in neighbouring Al Ain. Despite the success however, IMUM decided that one element of its systems needed to be changed, namely its outsourced call centre.

James Fraser, operations director for IMUM, explains that the call centre operates mainly as a source of information for those using the parking service, to support the parking shops, and handle more complicated enquiries, such as understanding parking zones and timings. The centre had been outsourced from the launch of the project, but IMUM felt that bringing it inhouse could make it more of a positive resource.

“The call centre was outsourced to start with, mainly because of the size of the contract, we felt it was an independent unit that could be outsourced,” Fraser explains. “What we have found is that as the customer service shops and centres have developed, the call centre being separate and independently run was slightly out of kilter. We were missing out on up to about 30,000 calls a month, some complaints, but mainly enquiries and suggestions, so we were missing out on that information that was coming. We are now getting all the information, and our own management team can pick up on that; we are then able to get a full picture of what is happening on the customer service side.”

The company decided to bring the call centre inhouse and scoped out the requirements for the system. The solution would need a degree of flexibility to fit with IMUM, and would also need to be scaleable for future expansion. The company’s contact centre agents all speak Arabic and English, so the system would need to be dual language, and the system would also need to cater to remote agents at the parking shops, where staff can be linked in to the system to help manage calls at peak times. Enabling remote agents will also help IMUM to meet Emiratisation goals, by allowing staff to work at other locations; as part of the Emiratisation plans the company also employs a number of locals with special needs, so it also had to fit their additional requirements. One of the most important parts of the system would be in helping to deliver a high degree of customer service.

“We have got very demanding KPIs, so we have got to have a live dashboard, we need to know exactly where we are. The DoT use Siebel, so we also had to be able to integrate it with that,” Fraser says. “One of the big drivers in this service, is quality customer service. The DoT are quite rightly absolutely determined that the customer service is absolutely of the highest quality. They are constantly responding to feedback, they don’t just want good customer service they require service excellence.”

After assessing a number of possible solutions, IMUM selected an Interactive Intelligence solution, provided by systems integrator EMW. An Interactive Intelligence Customer Interaction Center (CIC) provides the core of the solution, managing eight service desks at IMUM’s main office, with 22 multi-media agents and four contact centre supervisors. The system includes Interactive Intelligence Interaction Edge multipurpose appliance, which combines IP gateway, media server and SIP proxy into a single unit.

Fraser says that EMW and the Interactive Intelligence solution was selected because key requirements, such as dual language and integration with Siebel were demonstrated to work, and because EMW was committed to supporting the project.

“We needed the support — it was a new venture for us, it was something completely different to what we normally do, so we wanted the full support. They were very able to demonstrate there was technical backup and support, both in pure maintenance and also development,” he says.

In terms of the benefits, IMUM has already seen a vast improvement and better understanding of how MAWAQiF is running overall. “The difference between running your own call centre, and outsourcing it, is chalk and cheese,” Fraser says. “We have a much better understanding, just in the three months we have been running it, we have a far better understanding of the calls and the type of problems that people have, and that is then relayed on to the DoT. That stands out, the reporting back to us, the detail is far better. We have a far better response rate, the work rate we are doing, the calls coming in and the calls going out are far in excess of the previous  months of running the call centre, the call numbers have gone up 20% although MAWAQiF has not increased in size.”

In future, IMUM intends to use the solution to bring in a much greater degree of automation for MAWAQiF. The company takes about 30,000 calls per month, with around one third of those going to the agents and 20,000 being handled by an interactive voice response (IVR) system.

The company also fields a lot of queries that require call backs, with around 10,000 calls made per month. With the greater insight into customer issues that the solution has been able to provide, IMUM aims to improve services to manage enquiries through the web and the IVR, to reduce the burden on the parking shops and the call centre. The greater efficiency will also allow IMUM to look at expanding the scope of operations, to include new areas within the MAWAQiF service, Fraser concludes.

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