What is the appeals process at DRP?
In today’s blog, David Chalmers and Ronel Lightfoot, DRP Appeals Team Leaders, explain how appeals are conducted at Debt Recovery Plus and why shared knowledge is key to ongoing success.
Firstly, over to David…
I have worked with Debt Recovery Plus (DRP) since 2019, starting as an Appeals Handler before being promoted to Senior Appeals Handler and most recently, Appeals Team Leader. In that time, the team has grown from 6 to over 30 personnel across two offices. I now look after a team of 15 appeal handlers and make sure any training and development needs are identified and addressed, as well as ensuring the appeals process functions smoothly and efficiently for all of our clients, who operate various types of parking management, ranging from railways to hospitals to retail and leisure facilities.
The appeals team at DRP is on-hand from the moment a Parking Charge Notice (PCN) is issued. We work closely with our clients to ensure that appeals are handled in harmony with their stipulated rules and guidelines. Although in most cases we have up to 35 days to respond to an appeal, we work to maintain our service level agreements with our clients, which means most appeals are handled within 7 days. The number of cases we process varies over the course of the year, but our appeals team members can usually expect to handle up to 100 cases per day on average. As a team, we process upwards of 50,000 appeals per month.
Differences in client appeal processes can include the approach taken towards first-time vs repeat offenders. It is an essential component of the appeals team that we remain up to date with our clients’ rules, so we meet with them regularly to ensure any advice or guidance we provide on their behalf is an accurate reflection.
Our clients are Approved Operators of an Accredited Trade Association, being members of either The British Parking Association (BPA) or the International Parking Community (IPC). Therefore, it is important that we have a good knowledge of the various Codes of Practice and keep up to date with any amendments. We carry out a deep investigation into every appeal, but if we decline an appeal and the appellant disagrees with this outcome, we can refer them to the relevant ombudsman service for a second-stage appeal. Their appeal will then be considered by POPLA (Parking on Private Land Appeals) or the IAS (Independent Appeals Service). Once the appeals process has been exhausted and the charge remains unpaid, the case is passed over to Debt Recovery to collect the outstanding balance on behalf of our clients.
Our appeals team also operate an appeal advice line of behalf of our clients, and the calls are monitored by an in-house dedicated compliance team, whose aim is to make sure all customer and client data is treated fairly and correctly. This includes complying with GDPR. We have succeeded and continue to succeed because we measure quality as well as volume. As appeal team leaders we carry out hundreds of appeal quality checks each month following a strict KPI matrix and pride ourselves on being true experts in all things related to private parking.
Secondly, over to Ronel…
I joined DRP as the Appeals Team Leader for the Scotland office just over 6 months ago, focused primarily on a large airport contract, having previously worked in a variety of finance roles in South Africa. One of the key factors that attracted me to a job with DRP was the culture that was made evident right from my first interview. It sounds like a cliché, but there is a genuine family feel here, with everybody pulling in the same direction.
In my short time with the business, it has already become clear what key skills are needed to succeed in the appeals team. Patience is essential, as is the ability to show empathy and be sympathetic, whilst remaining firm but fair. A methodical approach helps to maintain efficiency and also creates the best foundation for success. The training aspect of joining a company like DRP is not just a box-ticking exercise during the induction process. It is respected as an imperative need and is an ongoing part of the job, setting the tone for the attention to detail required throughout an appeals team career.
Treating each case on individual merit is something I and the rest of the team remain passionate about. We look into factors like payment records but also consider the validity of someone’s reasoning. If someone says they were never at the location in question, could their vehicle number plates have been cloned? Was there a medical emergency that meant payment had to be avoided? Did they pay, but something went wrong? The technology available today often means we can analyse individual appeals for evidence and provide proof that the infringement being suggested is valid or otherwise. A fair resolution to any appeal is always the number one aim.
Taking phone calls from unhappy people is an unavoidable aspect of the role, so you must be patient and have the ability to remain professional and composed in the face of negative comments. What helps in these circumstances is the cohesive team environment I mentioned earlier. The support provided internally is second to none and everybody is open to sharing knowledge, experience, and advice.
It can be all too common in business that people keep themselves to themselves, including gatekeeping helpful insight. I am delighted to say that this couldn’t be further from how DRP operates. Friendly and welcoming staff across the company, as well as sister firms Bristow & Sutor and Credit Style, creates an excellent platform for anyone to achieve their goals at the Bristow & Sutor Group. At DRP, we recognise that sharing knowledge is fundamental to the ongoing success of the appeals team, as it is to our business overall.