The transition to gateless parking is an important trend in the parking industry and it has significant implications for customer service. In the right circumstances, removing the gates from parking entrances and exits provides a more parker-friendly and frictionless experience. There are no delays or queuing on entering and exiting facilities, and drivers are often able to make mobile payments with their personal devices, rather than having to pay at exit gates or a pay-on-foot machine. It’s a simple matter of convenience.
Gateless parking also provides several important benefits to owners. First and foremost is the capital savings. With gateless parking, owners no longer need to invest in costly access and revenue control equipment, and then pay for maintenance and repair. The same traffic flow improvements that benefit parkers are also an advantage for owners, who want their parking operations to run as efficiently as possible.
Also, gateless parking offers flexibility. It can be less complex to implement new cloud-based parking management payment tools without regard for integration into existing hardware. This makes it easier for owners to take advantage of the most advanced parking management tools as soon as they are introduced.
Gateless parking also offers human resources benefits. Industries across the spectrum have had difficulty finding workers in recent years, and parking is no different. In an environment in which companies are finding it difficult to find staff to hire, automating parking operations allows owners to reassign staff from payment booths to serve other roles. Removing gates altogether facilitates the process of reassigning staff. The one caveat to this, from a human resources aspect, is that to maintain the integrity of the parking operation the focus of your human resources now must shift to enforcement. Gateless only works when your parking customers are provided with “feedback” about not having paid.
Gateless parking has become increasingly common in university and residential settings in particular, and it’s likely to become common in other parking settings in the coming years.
Customer Service Challenges
Yet, gateless parking doesn’t always provide a flawless customer experience. In fact, eliminating payment equipment and booth staff from parking facilities can create new challenges. As inconvenient or time-consuming as payment equipment can be, it is generally easy and intuitive to use. Parkers, particularly those who park frequently, generally understand how ticketing and payment works.
However, in a gateless environment, payment procedures aren’t always as clear, particularly for parkers who are new to the facility. And if parkers don’t pay, they may be subjected to ticketing or towing. When patrons are having difficulty figuring out how to pay for parking, the lack of on-site staff can exacerbate the problem.
The answer to this common problem in gateless parking facilities is the addition of customer service technology providing a direct connection to a trained customer service professional. When a payment (or really, any) issue arises, the customer service professional can solve the patron’s problem, answering any questions they may have about payment, where they are entitled to park, how long they are permitted to park, or any other customer service issue they may be experiencing.
The technology can also serve as a workflow management tool for owners and operators who prefer to rely on their own customer service team or who wish to take a hybrid approach utilizing both in-house and off-site customer service professionals. Either way, the technology is there to help patrons manage their parking sessions easily, conveniently, and with a minimum of fuss.
In a gateless facility, patrons access the customer service platform with their personal cell phones or smart devices. QR codes are prominently displayed throughout the garage or parking lot and then patrons use that QR code to reach a trained customer service professional who can answer the parker’s questions or help solve a problem. To serve patrons who don’t have a smart phone, owners have the option of providing a phone number to reach a customer service professional. The process is easy to navigate, and provides a customer service safety net in gateless, fully automated parking facilities.
Customer service technology also provides valuable data that can be used to manage parking more effectively and efficiently. Each call is logged, leaving detailed reports of what the issues were and how they were resolved. When owners know what issues their patrons are having in their facilities, they are better equipped to address—and ultimately avoid—them.
This approach isn’t just for gateless parking structures and lots, though. It can be just as important for on-street metered parking spaces. The introduction of smart meters offered cities extraordinary efficiency, improved billing accuracy, and reduced meter reading costs. Unfortunately, for some parkers who are used to using old fashioned mechanical meters, they can be confusing. That’s why cities like Omaha, Nebraska and Colorado Springs have implemented customer service technology for their on-street parking.
As with gateless parking facilities, the solution helps drivers who are having difficulty paying for their on-street parking space. Drivers merely use a QR code or call a phone number to reach a trained customer service representative who can solve their problem or answer their questions. Perhaps the meter instructions are confusing. Or it’s unclear what times of the day require payment, or how long the driver is permitted to stay in the same space or on the same block. These are all questions that can be answered by the customer service professional.
QR codes and telephone numbers can be prominently posted on meters and signs near meters. Some locations even offer customer service kiosks on sidewalks with the QR codes and phone numbers.
For parking departments with budgetary constraints that keep them from hiring full-time parking ambassadors, or those that are having trouble finding ambassadors in this challenging hiring environment, this solution is an efficient and cost-effective technology for improving the parking experience and making parking easy and convenient.
New Solutions to New Challenges
The introduction of gateless parking in parking facilities and on-street smart meters have created a more streamlined, frictionless parking experience for many. However, the benefits of offering a more convenient and customer-friendly experience also creates challenges when parkers have difficulty figuring out how to pay, where they are permitted to park, or how long they are permitted to park. Gateless parking customer service technology overcomes these challenges by providing direct access to a trained customer service professional who can answer any questions and solve any problems that arise in the gateless or on-street parking environment.
Brian Wolff is President & CEO of Parker Technology. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.