Denison Parking Takes Remote Monitoring One Step Further
This article first ran in the January/February 2012 edition of NPA’s Parking magazine. Editor.
Close to 10 years ago, Mark Pratt of Denison Parking in Indianapolis, along with long-time friend David Harpold, began working with Derek Kiley of WPS North America to bring remote monitoring to Denison-controlled locations.
The concept: Integrate face-to-face, friendly and personable communication into pay-on-foot (POF) devices so that Denison’s parking patrons felt connected to the customer service representative on the other end of the line, bridging the gap between the tremendous cost savings of automation and customer service expectations.
The thought was that this sort of monitoring would advance the acceptance of POF technology as it integrated real-time 2-way audio / video communication between the parking patron and the customer service representative stationed at the “Command Center.” With this in mind, WPS and Denison set about turning the concept into reality. A short time later, Denison installed the first 2-way audio / video system in the Regions Bank parking facility in Indianapolis.
Denison and WPS, along with local equipment provider / expert Evens Time, have now developed a second-generation Command Center, allowing an even greater level of communication to and from its parking patrons in Indianapolis and across America.
If there is Internet capability at a parking site, Denison can offer 2-way audio / video communication and improved customer service. A great many locations in Indianapolis currently have this high level of service, but the concept can be carried to any location, anywhere.
The second-generation Command Center, made possible after a substantial investment by Denison Parking and the on-going expertise and commitment of Evens Time, increases the capabilities of Denison by allowing the company to serve its customers with greater connectivity and clarity through the use of digital versus the older analog technology.
The sheer number of facilities that can be monitored at the Command Center has been greatly increased. Most important, it can accommodate 2-way audio / video from a newly developed source that is not integrated into the parking equipment.
Technology Increases the Net
Denison’s Pratt, like most other parking operators, sought a competitive advantage. His idea was no different from many others in the industry: Automation will allow for an increase in operating profit by reducing or eliminating cashier labor costs.
While POF was certainly not new even 10 years ago, Pratt feared that his parking patrons saw the devices as cold, sterile, hulking boxes. Those were the days when the only communication was via intercom, which at times had clarity equivalent to something that might be heard in a subway in Chicago or NYC.
Not good, and certainly not warm or friendly. Technological advances were occurring on an almost daily basis, allowing for virtual face-to-face conversation over desktop computers. Pratt surmised that the same process could be integrated into parking equipment. This sort of face-to-face communication would ease the concerns being raised about the impersonal nature of current automation.
The automation augmented with the 2-way audio / video communication – referred to as Parkview / Parkvision by WPS – has performed better than imagined, Denison executives said, and has given parking patrons a means of greater and more personal interaction with its customer service representatives.
In addition to the virtual face-to-face communication, the system also digitally records the parking payment process at the POF.
There have been numerous instances where a customer service representative has reviewed the recorded parking transaction so as to inform a confused customer that their paid parking ticket was in their shirt pocket or “the little black purse inside your larger red purse” as the customer sat at the exit verifier. This will typically elicit a response of “how did you know that?” from the parking patron, but they greatly appreciate the assistance the process brings in the long run.
Denison customer service reps typically field 20 to 100 calls per day from parking patrons seeking assistance with their transactions. Its executives said that being able to communicate so readily, with audio and video, sets the customer at ease and serves to distinguish the company from the competition.
If you’d like to discuss this communication technology in greater detail, feel free to call Mark Pratt, Scott Gould or John Hedge of Denison Parking at (317) 655-3100. Editor.
Editor’s note: Pratt and Harpold filed for a patent related to the 2-way audio / video communication process. In May 2010, they received patent number U.S. 7,711,601, protecting their rights regarding the use of this technology in a parking application. The licensing of this process must be granted through the company created to address this issue, TechPark Partners LLC. If you are using this process in your parking facility and do not have a license granted by TechPark, you may be infringing and may be subject to litigation.
Reprinted with permission of Parking (January/February 2012 issue), the magazine of the National Parking Association (NPA),