Information for MSA Operators
This page is for MSA operators. It should tell you a bit about what Motorway Services Online does, what information we handle, and our thoughts on how this affects you as an MSA operator.
We have tried to anticipate every concern you may have, and provide our official position on it, as well as a few pointers on how our resource can help you.
If you're not an official representative of a service station operator, then this page is not meant for you. You can read on if you wish, but you won't get much out of it.
Introduction: Why Do We Exist?
Motorway Services Online dates back to a project in 2005, which realised that if somebody wanted to work out which MSA to stop at, they had to learn the name of every MSA operator in the UK and visit each operator's website individually. That seemed unfair, seeing as "learning the name of every MSA operator" is not in the Highway Code or school curriculum!
A lot has changed since then, but we still believe this original cause is important. For example, during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, people wanted to know what facilities MSAs were providing, but they still didn't want to Google every MSA operator's name individually. As a third party, our ability to list all the MSA operators side-by-side and link to all of their websites was valuable.
Our lists of facilities come from user contributions, cross-referenced with official MSA operator websites, statements and social media pages. We encourage MSA operators to contact us privately with new information; it is in your interest to promote what you are offering. We respect embargoes on new information.
Some things are different to 2005. We have reduced our emphasis on ratings and reviews, as we feel that MSAs can fix things (or make them worse) very quickly. We have spent a lot of time reading about MSAs, and have turned our website into a giant library of historical MSA information and photos, documenting how the industry has changed. We know that our historical information is more extensive than many MSA operators' internal records. We've read a lot about MSAs.
As well as the usual car and lorry drivers, we provide information for a wide base of retail enthusiasts, social-history enthusiasts, and architectural enthusiasts. We would place ourselves in all three categories. It's OK if you can't understand why we find your workplace interesting!
We are happy to work with MSA operators to clarify any historical MSA queries, or gaps in your records. We don't pretend to know all the answers, but we're happy to try.
If you don't have our contact details, you can request them by email. All of our webpage addresses contain either motorwayservices.uk, motorwayservices.ie or (historically) motorwayservicesonline.co.uk - we can't speak on behalf of anybody else, no matter how similar their name might be.
Next on this page we'll talk about what happens when someone complains to us about an MSA.
When We Receive MSA Complaints
If the public have heard of you, they will be talking about you on the internet. That conversation will contain helpful feedback, but inevitably there will be times where such feedback only tells half the story.
Although we tell everyone how to complain to a service station operator, we appreciate some people would rather send their comments to us as a third party. What we read can offer us an interesting insight into what's going on, but we realise that our nosiness that doesn't get problems fixed.
Where a complaint about a service station is shared with us, we encourage the operator concerned to respond. Whether the operator wants to or not is your own decision. We created this guide to explain how you can respond - if you want to.
To some social media handlers/marketing professionals this section may be like being taught to suck eggs. However, we want to get everyone singing from the same hymn sheet.
Most of our service station and brand pages include a built-in CommentBox app where readers can leave comments, advice, feedback and observations they have. It is not intended to be the first port-of-call for complaints or questions, but we know it does sometimes get used that way.
All of these comments can be replied to by anyone who is registered with CommentBox or one of their social media accounts. You simply need to click the 'reply' button beneath the comment, and you can type your reply. We would recommend that authorised spokespeople log in to CommentBox using their company's Twitter account, which means your replies will show up as being from your company, rather than an individual. This is a great way of pro-actively addressing complaints and queries.
Due to the volume of comments we get, we can't inform the operator of every comment we receive. Instead, we have created a page which allows you to monitor all relevant comments from one page, which we suggest you bookmark and check periodically. Select your employer from below:
If you require us to tailor these pages, we may be able to do it, so get in touch.
Our comment box was powered by Facebook until December 2021, when it was removed because a number of GDPR issues had made it unusable. These old Facebook comments are no longer displayed publicly but have been archived for a set period. The change of comment box provider has created a number of additional issues, which we are hoping to resolve.
There is always a deal of caution required when dealing with online ratings and reviews. While we know the majority of ratings we receive are genuine, we appreciate there is a risk some votes will be driven by an unfair prejudice or sheer bias. What we offer is an interesting tool for measuring success, and it should be used as a tool. We say that to operators and to the public.
Facebook Page Public Complaints
If we receive a complaint about an MSA on our Facebook page, we will tag the operator concerned in it. The company's social media monitor should receive a typical notification when we do this, but if not, you can get notifications by going to your brand's Facebook page (when logged in as an administrator) and clicking 'Notifications' (below the blue bar).
Before replying to the complaint remember it's on our Facebook page, so Facebook will usually assume you're replying in a personal capacity. Next to the options like / comment / share , you will see a small icon with a drop-down box. If this is showing your profile picture, your reply will come from your personal account. You should change this to your company's picture. Your reply will then show as being an official reply from the operator.
(If you do forget or don't want to change the profile, there's nothing wrong with this, but you will come across as a member of the public who gets very upset about MSA complaints!)
Some of you may have a brand policy that all complaints must be made by email / telephone / private message. We would like the complainant to receive that instruction from you, rather than us as a third party. Besides, when we tag an operator in a post, the user has the option of following that tag to arrive at the operator's official channel anyway.
Facebook PMs/Twitter DMs
Complainants who use Facebook's private message or Twitter's direct message features to contact us with any complaints, or questions we can't answer, will be directed to the operator's Facebook/Twitter page as appropriate.
Twitter Public Mentions
People do like to share with us their observations as they travel, and we like that. If we get tagged in something we feel the operator should know about, or if we think the complainant has mistaken us for you, we will tag you in it. We will send a website link for operators who don't use Twitter.
If you don't regularly, you should check your Twitter settings (Twitter > Profile > Settings > Web Notifications etc) to ensure you are being notified of what you want to be.
You may have already discovered that it can be very difficult to tell a genuine complaint apart from an online rant. We do our best to tell the two apart. Genuine complainants are directed to the MSA operator, generic rants that we happen to be tagged in are ignored. If a complaint is made worse by us not replying to a tweet, it is only fair that we are held responsible for our contribution to the problem.
Despite various attempts to direct lost people the right way, people still use our online contact form to send us formal complaints about MSAs.
If it is clear from the correspondence who the email was meant for, we will send it to the customer service email address we have on file for you.
Due to the volume of emails received, we aren't able to respond to vague complaints such as "I stopped for a break on my way home" to fish out the necessary information. Our contact form does state this. If a complaint is made worse by us not replying to an email, it is only fair that we are held responsible for our contribution to the problem.
This information is not about complaints - mercifully, but it may still be of interest.
Since the advent of smartphones, the majority of people taking photos within a service station will be doing it to update their social media profiles. However, a lot of enthusiasts enjoy taking photos too.
For us, photos are an opportunity to illustrate the information on the website, and in the future they will be key to understanding the history of the industry just like archive photos are now. We therefore encourage our members to send us their photos.
You may be interested to know we have a photography code of conduct which we ask all our members to abide by.
We are grateful to everybody who volunteers to add new information to our records. However this does not mean that every enthusiast you encounter (online or in-person) is an official representative of us.
Only communication received from an official Motorway Services Online email address, social media page or delegated spokesperson should be regarded as a statement we endorse. Please be wary that there are, incredibly, other websites with similar names, and we can't speak for what they do.
Right Of Reply - Social Media
We maintain our ownprofiles to provide information and observations which we think will be interesting to people who are interested in travel/hospitality.
The informal nature of social media means we will probably come across more opinionated than we would do in long-form text. Even so, false or biased updates are of no use to anyone. If you feel we've got it wrong, or you just want to reply, you are welcome to do so in either a formal or a personal capacity. On Facebook, you should comment on our post as per the Page Complaints instructions. From Twitter, you can just reply. We try to acknowledge all MSA operator replies.
On Twitter, we retweet a small portion of the posts we find interesting. As ever, there is no agenda to this (although we do share Twitter's obsession with MSAs that sell wooden ducks).
We have no profile on Instagram, or Snapchat, and we don't even want to think about TikTok.
UGC: Inaccuracies and HR Issues
Like many websites we allow users to publish "user generated content" via our built-in Commentbox app and our MediaWiki software. If you believe this has caused something to be published which shouldn't have been, please let us know so we can investigate.
We do not want MSA employees to use our channels to publicise internal HR disputes. If we witness this, we remove it, and will engage only to say that we don't want to be involved. We do not normally inform the employer of these incidents, except in exceptional circumstances.
Obviously we can't take responsibility for what your employees choose to publish online. However, in terms of the communication we receive privately, we wouldn't publish anything that would bring an individual into disrepute, and we don't scout for company information from employees who are not in a position to speak on behalf of their employer. (Occasionally we do ask for stories from frontline staff, but these are never attributed to a specific MSA, brand or operator.)
What We Leave Out
As a business, you may have concerns about information our database leaves out.
Our policy is that our database will list every service station which is officially recognised by the highway authority with a number of road signs. In Britain, this is known in the trade as a "Diagram 2313" and is supposed to be accompanied by a TSA. In more simple terms we are looking for road signs with both symbols and the word "services".
In addition, our search engine includes a number of additional places of interest. These exceptions are:
- places which have many of the characteristics of an MSA even if they are not one: this considers opening hours, parking areas, variety of facilities, integration with the major road network and publicity.
- places which we receive a lot of queries about.
- places which are of historical interest or relevance to the MSA industry. For example, Dover Ferry Port used to be branded up like a Granada MSA, so that earns it a place in our database.
If you believe our database unfairly overlooks your business, you are welcome to make your case to us, but we will generally stick to the position outlined above. We don't want to become a list of every restaurant in the country, because that would be unmanageable.
Complaints About Us
Seeing as most of this page has been talking about us forwarding complaints to you, we thought it would only be fair to allow you to do the same to us.
People who complain about us are normally told to go and create their own website about motorway services. In the very unlikely event you receive a complaint which was meant for us, you probably won't want to quote us on that, but instead you are welcome to direct them to us:
- On Facebook you type @ and then 'Motorway Services Online' it should allow you to tag us in a public thread like we do to you. For private Facebook messages, you'll have to send them our link: https://facebook.com/MotorwayServices
- On Twitter our handle is @mwayservices - simply tag us in the thread or tell them to message us
- Or send them a link to our email form. If you have our email address you are welcome to pass it on, but we aren't publishing it here in case the spam-bots pick up on it.
Be wary that since we started doing what we do, a lot of websites with suspiciously similar names have cropped up. People will get us mixed up with other websites and we don't mind clearing up any confusion when this happens. For the avoidance of doubt, all of our webpage addresses and emails contain either motorwayservices.uk, motorwayservices.ie or (historically) motorwayservicesonline.co.uk.
Any Other Queries
If you have a concern which hasn't been addressed here, or you have seen something you'd like to resolve offline, please contact us. If you are contacting us in a professional capacity, please use your company email address so we can be sure you are genuine.
We are happy to provide internal email addresses and phone numbers to MSA operators.