And, lo, it came to pass: the 2017 Parking Industry Exhibition (PIE) arrived in Chicago (Rosemont, actually) earlier this year, and it was good, very good. More people, more booths and great presentations.

Now, axiomatically, a parking industry “boot camp,” which PIE features, is for those fresh to our business looking for inside information to kick-start their careers. But the room was crowded, and more than one person had gray hair.

When you think about just how quickly things are changing, it’s not surprising that a few old hands took the opportunity to catch up on the latest innovations.

But to go back to the beginning … It’s Sunday morning, 8.30 a.m. on Day One, a time when most civilized people are still abed, and Clyde Wilson kicks us off with the, by now, famous Parking 101 Boot Camp.

This year, additional presentations were given by Tim Maloney and Suzannah Rubinstein from SpotHero; Michael Civitelli from NuPark; and Codye Sides and Mary Beth McNair from The Parking Network.

Our speakers started with first principles — the three obligations to:

• Provide a parking space.

• Manage the inventory.

• Collect and account for income.

A generation ago, this was an arm’s length process where the only time we talked to customers was to take their money, or to fine them for a transgression. Now, increasingly, the money is virtual, with multiple payment options, and the customer expects an ever-more sophisticated service.

It’s not sufficient to just store the vehicle; now we need to satisfy bigger expectations, such as EV charging.

Information on pricing, and availability, is instantly to hand, and advance booking, discounts and directions are common services. We, in turn, can use data to manage parking rates dynamically, and the advent of so-called connected cars can only increase the tempo at which the process evolves.

The speakers told us that the challenges today are:

• The evolving customer. Customers are better informed; they know what is available and where, and what it costs. They can pay before they park, meaning they are more likely to find a better deal. More than ever, we are having to compete for business.

• Increasing automation means that 24/7 use no longer relies on a staff presence, as parking sites can now be monitored centrally. Automation also allows much greater accuracy and, dare we say it, less “sticky money.”

• The growth in mobile payments allows payment to be removed from the site.

• Better space management with new systems that allow both the operator and the customer to be better informed and, hence, make better use of the available resources.

All this will allow a better service for the customers, with improved efficiency for our business and better accountability. But to achieve this, we will have to develop increasingly more sophisticated and robust processes to evaluate the new opportunities and to fit them into our businesses and to bring staff on-side.

Customers are better informed; they know what is available and where, and what it costs

The Boot Camp session ended, as always, with the by now famous LEGO Game; I won’t spoil next year by giving away the secret of this uniquely sadistic Wilsonian experience. Come along next year and enjoy; it’s worth the trip.

Contact Peter Guest, PT’s European editor, at peterguestparking@hotmail.co.uk.

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Peter Guest
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