e-payments make queuing a thing of the past

The London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham is aiming to make the great British tradition of queuing a thing of the past as more and more residents pay bills online and over the phone.

Town hall staff have seen a huge rise in the total number of e-payments, rising from less than 17,000 in 2001 to over 100,000 this year. Now the council is looking to add more services to the online and pay-by-phone system.

Project Manager Julian Hubbersgilt said that these two new payments systems have, so far, been a tremendous success – not least, he says, as neither system has been heavily promoted and their successes are due almost exclusively to their technical merits and because they are easy to access and use.

“ATP – automated telephone payment, where transactions are made over the phone following a series of recorded messages was introduced very quietly a few years ago. We weren’t sure how popular the scheme might prove but knew it was something our residents wanted.

“Four years after we took our first payment over the phone, we are now logging 70,000 calls a year and collecting nearly £8million, so ATP is well and truly open for business!” he said.

“Aside from the speed, convenience and ease of paying by debit or credit card at any time of the day or night, customers also can be absolutely certain that the information they give us is 100% safe. Calls can not be diverted and our systems are well-protected from hackers,” Mr Hubbersgilt said.

But, he added, despite the double success, payment methods including over-the-counter and direct debit, will still remain in place for those that prefer the more traditional approach.

Mr Hubbersgilt said: “Residents rightly expect to be able to make payments conveniently and easily and in ways and at times that suit them. This could mean using the Internet to pay library fines, SMS for parking fines or an automated telephone system for school meals.

“We are now looking to add new services like booking tickets for the fireworks displays and payments for leisure centres cards to the scheme. By adding more and more services to our e-payments system we make the council more efficient which means that council staff have more time to do other tasks rather than filling out forms and resources can be aimed squarely at front line services.”