How to park in Bristol…
… and how Bristol city council couldn’t get it more wrong
This blog is one of an ongoing series discussing examples of good and bad customer service.
Google “parking Bristol” and the first search result is that of Bristol City Council’s site. Fair enough. The council’s webpage, “Where to park in Bristol” does not, however, tell you where to park in Bristol, which strikes me as a fundamental problem with the concept of the webpage.
(1) There is no list of car parks, and therefore no details of where they are, their opening times, their charges, any restrictions that might apply and so on.
(2) there is no map of where the car parks are which would be needed even if there was a list of car parks
(3) one or two car parks are mentioned. Information about Trenchard street car park includes this statement: “The level 5, 6, 7 and 8 works have ended and will reopen on 17th March 2014.” At the time of writing it is 3 July, so the page hasn’t been updated for over three months.
I selected a car park near my destination which happens to be Trenchard street, a large city centre car park, and I used a conventional map to find it.
(4) Driving towards it past Bristol Royal Infirmary on Upper Maudlin street, one sees a sign, pointing straight ahead.
Thereafter, there are no more proper signs. Since this photo of the entrance to Lodge street
was taken, a homemade amateur sign has been tied to a lamppost saying “car park entrance” and pointing down Lodge Street which, as this map shows (it’s not on the council site, of course),
is the route to the only entrance to the car park. This sign is easily missed (and, when the photo was taken, not even there).
(5) Lodge street, despite its name is a narrow, steep, cobbled lane, barely wide enough for an SUV. Its surface has deteriorated since this picture was taken
and would, in a civilised society, be condemned as undriveable.
Nevertheless, there is an entrance to the car park on the right hand side. Note that the entrance is not on the ground floor (it’s level 5).
(6) Finding a space on level 6, I endeavour to walk out. There are no signs pointing me to any pedestrian exits and therefore no information of where I would be vis à vis where I came in.
(7) I walk downstairs, to level 5. No more stairs. So I leave the stairwell and reenter the main parking area. Since there are still no signs showing pedestrian exits, I make for the entrance where I entered the car park (photo above). In order to leave the building, I am obliged, since there appear to be no other exits, to walk under the car barrier past a sign saying “no pedestrian access”.
(8) Later, on returning to the car, through the same level 5 entrance and walking up a level, I note there is no sign of any machines to pay the ticket and no signs pointing the way to any ticket machines.
(9) So I get in the car and head for the exit. Being stupid, I assume the exit is below me—I parked on level 6 so I drive down to level 5, at which point I cannot go any lower. I drive around a bit until I see small sign, “Level 8 exit”. Now, I assume that means there is an exit on level 8, not that the exit is on level 8 (this is the top storey of the car park and I didn’t have the above map at the time).
(10) So I drive up to level 8. On floors 5, 6, 7 and 8, there is not a single sign pointing to the exit, and the layout of the car park is not a simple “NCP style” where you can only go round and round.
(11) Nor is there any sign of the paying machines.
(12) Eventually, I find a sign saying “Ticket machines”. It’s right next to the ticket machines so, by this time, is somewhat redundant. The exit is next to the machines.
(13) In seeking to complain about the lack of information on the council website, I ring the phone number on the “where to park in Bristol” page (0117 922 2198). The automated menu system presents me with a number of options, none of which is relevant (or even audible).
(14) Eventually I speak to a human being, M*******. M turns out to be responsible for appeals against parking fines and is therefore unable to help me, and unable to pass me onto the right person, as there is apparently noone else in the office.
(15) M’s attitude cannot be described as sparkling or even helpful. He has an unfortunate habit of continually using the word “hopefully”, as in “hopefully someone will get back to you”, a linguistic tic which tends to imply to me that there is little likelihood, in fact, that someone will get back to me. A view reinforced by point (16) below.
(16) I try a different tack and find the complaints page, hopefully entitled Complaints, compliments and comments. This states, “We do not reply to comments and compliments but they are all read carefully by the service involved.” Since complaints are not even mentioned, I assume that they are treated with even more disdain. Whilst it turns out there is a system, quaintly entitled “Fair comment”, for complaints, this is not clearly indicated.
(17) This page states, “Date for review: 01/12/2013”. Long past.
(18) It is concerning that the council’s Parking services either do not check what their IT colleagues are saying about them on the website or, if they do, appear to have no authority to ensure that information about parking services is accurate, complete and up to date.
(19) The council website’s homepage has a “Contact us” link hidden away at the very bottom of the page. This is unnecessarily shy.
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