Customer Service and AA Insurance

ImageSome nice person hit my car some time in the last few days, whilst it was parked unattended. I’m not sure where it was, probably in a supermarket car park. No note or apology, they obviously didn’t feel any remorse. This is what it looked like. The hole at the top isn’t my exhaust, it’s where one of my fog lights was mounted before the bracket got smashed in the impact.

Anyway, I rang AA Insurance, got answered within a minute, by a Kiwi in Auckland, I’m not joking! If you have rung a call centre recently, you have probably (as I have with other companies, not to be named here, but you can find them in this blog) waited for anything from 20 minutes to an hour, listened to repetitive Muzak  advertisements and soothing statements of how your call is valued and thank you for waiting.

We went through the obligatory security questions, talked about the incident, some brief friendly conversation with an operator who was very friendly and empathetic, I listened to the honesty statement and agreed that I was being truthful and understood that this was being recorded. I was then told all my options, claim number and what to do next. From the time to picking up the phone to hanging up, feeling pleased despite the stress of the accident and knowing I was going to be without my car for a week, took less than 5 minutes.

This morning, as per the appointment, I took my car to the AA Insurance depot, met with one of their friendly efficient team, had the car assessed, at the time of my appointment, on the dot, paid my excess (ouch, would have been less if I had details of who had dented my car and wallet) and 5 minutes later was in a complimentary taxi back to my office.

I am not used to getting customer service like this. It is that rare that I felt I wanted to share my story and my endorsement. Not only did I get great service, it didn’t take long, I didn’t have to wait and I felt like they cared about me. Generally the experience with large corporates, utility companies and insurance companies seems like they are super friendly when they are signing you up and after that they don’t have time for you.

Its not over yet, I am without my car for a week, but when it comes back, I have a lifetime guarantee on the workmanship and they will have my ongoing loyalty. Just  a footnote, people do business with people and providing great caring service is the best form of marketing. It’s rare enough for me to make the effort to share this story. Thanks again AA Insurance.

Proposed Parking Changes on Apollo Drive in Auckland

I’ve just received a letter which has gone to all owners and occupiers of businesses on Apollo Drive, Rosedale, in response to complaints from local businesses regarding driving safety issues partly due to the large number of cars parked on the side of the road. I have a office on this road and I agree, it is dangerous. It is hard to get in and out of your driveways, both from the perspective of visibility around the parked cars and the heavy traffic on the road pretty much all day.

Cut down, the options they propose are “No stopping at all times” restrictions which means no parking on the road at all; or

A combination of “No stopping at all times” and “Time restricted parking” such as 2 hour parking, which means people have to constantly move their cars or get parking tickets and possibly towed away.

Auckland Transport is seeking views from people who are concerned about this. I have responded to the letter and invite you if it is relevant to also respond. If you have children who go to L’Academie de Danse in Apollo Drive, or to Bear Park Child Care Centre this affects you too. You can respond to Alok Vashista at Auckland Transport on 09-355-3553 and ask for a copy of the letter to understand their suggestions and it includes a form for you to reply with your input and suggestions.

Councils are very keen to encourage business development, construction of new buildings which is a good thing for the city. New buildings mean new jobs and growth of the community. The problem is that councils do not force the building owners to provide sufficient off street parking for the staff of the companies that occupy them. I believe it is the responsibility of Council to ensure that there are enough of street car parks on Apollo Drive. Their town planning people designed the road, specified that it would be an arterial road, which is part of the problem, but they clearly did not ensure there would be sufficient parking spaces both for the businesses and the types of businesses that use the road. The dance academy is a classic example of the problem. How can you have a dance school with hundreds of students share a carpark holding around 20 spaces with Pita Pit which is a very popular fast food business?

Auckland Transport could lay blame on the old council, but the fact is we need a solution now. I believe the solution is:

Vacant Space on Apollo Drive

1. Build some public car parks. There is plenty of space available and the problem was effectively caused by council.

2. Put a large roundabout on the intersection of Apollo Drive and Constellation Drive because part of the problem is people wanting to cross the road to drive in the opposite direction. This means having people give way in both directions.

3. Don’t allow future development of schools or other destination businesses unless they also provide sufficient carparking appropriate to the type of business. Apollo Drive and the side roads are continuing to develop and traffic will continue to grow.

The 2 options offered by Auckland Transport will not work. If people can’t park on the road they work on, where can they park? The problem gets moved and becomes a problem elsewhere, or companies will lose their staff. If people work 8 – 9 hours a day and they can park for 2 hours, they will simply have to hope in their cars every 2 hours, swap car parks, cause more chaos and disruption to the road and to their work day.

Again I say Council are responsible for this situation, not the building owners who had concent for their construction, or the tenants and their staff. They need to fix this in a way that works for everyone, at their cost and ensure that with the ongoing growth they do not allow new buildings to be constructed that do not have sufficient parking space for their neeeds.

If this affects you, here is a ApolloDriveAkTransport that you can download and the response form.

What Do You Hate About Car Parks?

I recently asked you what you liked about car parks. I guess based on 25 votes and 3 comments, most of you don’t really think about this subject, which is fine. I appreciate your feedback.

So lets look at the negative side of car parking. What do you dislike about car parks? I can think of lots of things and maybe I can start you off with a few things to think about and I will also add another poll.

I went down to the new Wynyard Quarter a couple of weeks ago on a sunny Saturday for lunch. We thought we’d have a look at this new development, have lunch and enjoy the new showcase area in Auckland. We drove the 30km from our home, drove through all the car parks, couldn’t find a single park (this was around noon) and after 20 minutes of crawling in circles went to Takapuna for lunch. I hate going somewhere and not being able to get a park.

I hate not being able to find a suitable car park close to my destination when its raining. We’ve had more than our fair share of that this winter in New Zealand.

I hate car parks with small parking spaces and large pillars, which going by the black and other colour scrapings on them, do more than their fair share of damage.

Car parks with small spaces means that often motorists overlap into the park next to them, so that that the vacant park is rendered useless to anything other than a Beetle or a motorcycle.

I hate car parks where the machines only take cash and I very rarely carry cash any more.

I hated having my car broken into in a public car park and finding that the only video security available was there to stop people leaving the car park without paying! I haven’t used that particular car park since. I either walk further or go to a more expensive one in that area.

I hate car parks where the machine doesn’t work and all the staff seem to have gone on a break.

I hate parks that cost more than the activity I want to consume.

So how about leaving a comment and participating in the poll, you can even create a new question in it yourself. I am going to be presenting to the Parking Association later this year at their annual conference and want to give them an idea, positive and negative about their business. This includes curb side parking by the way. Any car parking dislikes at all.

I haven’t forgotten special needs car parks, but I want you to tell me about your experiences:)

As a footnote, this is not a bitch session. We are a motoring people and we need car parks. I am looking for feedback with a view to coming up with ideas as to how to make car parking more user friendly and attractive. I believe that there are many improvements possible and many opportunities for car parks to engage with their users and their community.