9 Ways to Improve Revenue, and Customer Satisfaction

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9 Ways to Improve Revenue, and Customer Satisfaction

As a developer or private owner of any parking facility, whether large or small, many of you face the same dilemma: a need for more revenue and greater client participation. The two are linked.
Recent years have seen a decline in carpark usage. Fortunately, we are now seeing growth once again as the economy slowly rebounds. Many owners delegate their property to parking operators to manage for a fee. But accommodating growth during hard times is complicated, ever-changing and requires new thinking.
Is everyone aggressively keeping up with the times? I don’t think so. Owners should take a greater interest in their operations, understanding the real worth and potential of their parking facility. Always ask: Can more be done to maximize profit and client convenience? The answer is, absolutely!
Only you can decide if your facilities are underutilized.
Since change is not always comfortable or easy, more often than not resistance comes from within an organization and not from customers using the facility.
One has always been able to improve operations. After all, we are in the people business, and in any well-run enterprise, it always comes down to how well the people are running it, and there’s always room for improvements somewhere.
Continual improvement can always be achieved as long as we stay focused and push for more new ideas.
Change is scary. Will it upset my customer base? Do they all have credit cards? Will change cause my friends to lose their jobs? Is advertising appropriate? Will I get a return on my investment?
The parking industry has proved, through statistical analyses, the benefits in saving operational money and improving speed
of throughput.
The following is an overview of nine parking services or applications that have proven able to generate additional revenue and customer satisfaction wherever they have been implemented and, at a minimum, should be explored further by you as the owner.
(Short articles such as this limit our ability to get into too much detail. Still, I wish to just open a new avenue of thought to be considered. There’s always time to get additional details if any one of these suggestions captures your fancy.)

Consider using pay-on-foot stations: POF machines, installed in lobbies, for example, process patrons four or five times faster at the point of exit than exit cashiers do. That’s why so many airports use them; these machines have virtually eliminated long lines. They tend to work 24/7, seldom make costly mistakes, avoid arguments, and guarantee that all money is accounted for.
In most cases, they pay for themselves in under two years, if you factor in all labor costs and fringe benefits that they save.
POF stations are merely one way to increase revenues. The problem is, you’ll never know how much more revenue will be generated or if your patrons will prefer POF until they try them. Folks have acclimated to ATMs and self-services, so why not POF?

Another great service is web based reservations. Most all parking operations have a website these days, but are you making full use of it? The traveler today is married to the Internet. They also are more than willing to pay a premium (as much as 20% more) for a guaranteed spot to park when they get there. Being able to reserve a premium parking space in advance from the comfort of home or office is a welcome advancement that can generate additional revenue for any owner or municipality, all the while providing greater convenience.
Aside from collect money for spaces well in advance the single biggest advantage seldom discussed and often not realized is that for the first time ever, owners can manage their operations well into the future. You have the capacity to know if your garage will be empty or full a week or month from now, and can do something now about the outcome. You can try to fill it through promotions if need be, again maximizing revenues.

Market ‘intel’: Parking facilities reap other benefits from a reservation system as they now “gain marketing intelligence” as
well, such as demographic information on their customer types. When have they previously been able to communicate
directly back with their customers via email? Once customers fill out the web-page for their reservation, valuable information is collected that the parking owners can take advantage of to promote parking spaces.
With airports, for example, airlines sometimes even pay for this information, which could be another form of income. Couple this with advertising revenue and loyalty programs, and the parking facility owner or airport parking services can take advantage of these and really contribute to the bottom line.
Many European carparks state that most of their patrons now book parking through their reservation systems way in advance. Some say as much as 73% of their total bookings are by online reservations, and these percentages are still increasing. Couple this with customer satisfaction surveys that are at all-time highs for such services.
Web-based reservation applications allow the customer to request a paper barcode copy to use as an entry ticket, or they can use their credit card number or their cellphone that can display a QR bar code for entering the parking facility.

Loyalty programs are a great perk, so why would any parking facility owner not want one? They encourage their client base to earn certain benefits and privileges, provide incentives, and encourage their purchases of additional services, all of which makes the parking experience that more satisfying.
Frequent users accumulate points that can translate into parking discounts or additional benefits, such as parking spaces closer to the front entry, car washes and valet service, or even discounts at certain stores. These software applications are readily available and can usually be added to your existing parking system.
Credit card systems at parking facilities, private or municipal, airports or universities – I see no reason why any lot or garage wouldn’t have specific credit card lanes, at least for exiting vehicles. I’m not talking about merely accepting credit card payment. I’m talking about exit lanes dedicated to credit card usage in real-time.
Credit card transactions are fast; it takes maybe 4 to 5 seconds for the gate arm to go up. There is no fumbling with change, for example, and all the money owed is accounted for for auditing purposes. Once implemented, most operators today say, 70% of their collections are with credit card, and some locations are as high as 90%. Yet so many parking facilities haven’t taken advantage of this technology or still have cashiers using dial-up systems that are slow and cumbersome.

Valet and VIP parking: The typical businessman cuts his drive time to the airport rather close, and having a valet service really helps to get them to the gate in a timely fashion. Valet service can be profitable, but more important, when surveyed, it always ranks very high at most parking facilities.
VIP parking is also popular, and can apply to any facility that handles monthly clients, for example. Customers know they can park in premium areas, thanks to technology that’s very fast and automatic.
This often is implemented through the use of long-range transponders known as automatic vehicle identification (AVI), sometimes called hands-free parking. There is no need to stick your hand out the car window on a rainy day and wave a card. Most AVI systems take the form of a card or tag or puck-shaped sensor in the vehicle itself that can be read from some 15 feet or more away. The VIP vehicle doesn’t stop to get a ticket; It is automatically registered in and billed accordingly. An AVI system should be a must-have in most professional developments.

Dynamic pricing, also known as congestion pricing, is gaining popularity. As your garage or lot fills up, the hourly or daily rate increases. Conversely, as more spaces become available, the price goes down to encourage customers to park. Legally, you need to post the current price before they drive into your facility, so use a variable messages sign at the entrance that can accommodate price changes. To further support the idea, you’ll need a ticket dispenser capable of instantaneously changing and printing the appropriate rate on the ticket.
Advertising generates additional revenue. I like to see nice billboards in parking facilities as advertising. It’s so much more interesting than a blank wall; plus, it helps me remember where I parked.
Today, your ticket dispenser LCD display can be programed to show advertising during certain periods or even a short video. Most all web-based applications have the capability of offering ad space. Print-at-home tickets also can display ads. Also, the entry gate dispenser should be able to print on the parking ticket itself an advertiser’s logo or message on demand and switch to another advertiser every hour or so. Or the tickets themselves can be preprinted with ads and coupons.

The interdepartmental free pass given to VIPs or business visitors for free parking or discounted parking – often used in hospitals, universities and professional business buildings – are hard to track and to know with certainty whom to bill-back. Free passes with just a signature on the ticket or some kind of stamp are hard to monitor and usually lead to shenanigans, They really should be avoided.
The best way to provide this service is electronic validation. The receptionist at the office you’re visiting merely enters your parking ticket number into their online desk computer. This communicates with the garage parking system, telling it that when ticket number xxx appears, it’s free, or gets a pre-programmed discounted rate.
When the ticket appears, it is processed automatically, back-billing the particular department that issued it. Better still, we know not only what office/department issued it, but also the particular receptionist or individual who assigned the free pass, because it is all monitored and audited.

Don’t accept the status quo. These systems are not that expensive to deploy. If you find that your current parking system cannot support any of these 9 ideas, it may be time to consider upgrading, so that you and your customers can all enjoy these benefits.
There are infinitely more applications coming for smart phones and Cloud based systems that will enhance the way you currently do business. I know that we at Skidata have had Cloud Based sites working in Europe for some time. I can’t wait for this new class of software to come here, but that’s another article.
Having been in parking for 44 years as a manufacturer and consultant, I must say that, as an industry, we are slow to accept innovations, especially from the UK side of the pond. Our system of specifying, purchasing and managing for whatever reason is far too accepting of the status quo.
Granted, it’s never easy. Things are changing at a phenomenal pace these days. We all should be keeping our eye on the ball, pushing the envelope, asking more of all those involved in continually looking for better and faster ways to improve our services, profits and customer conveniences.
Contact Pierre Koudelka, a Regional Manager for Skidata, at pierre.koudelka@Skidata.com.

Article contributed by:
Pierre Koudelka
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