Leveraging Technology to Humanize the Parking Experience
Let’s admit it - parking is a pain. According to a 2017 INRIX survey on the subject*, Americans spend an average of 17 hours per year looking for parking. Parking costs an estimated $345 per driver in wasted time, fuel, and emissions. Some 34 percent of U.S. drivers abandoned a trip because of parking issues, 23 percent felt road rage, and 63 percent avoided driving to shopping sites, airports, leisure or sports centers, and other destinations due to parking challenges. These aren’t just statistics, these are experiences - and if there is any experience in our daily lives that could use TLC, it’s parking.
Technology is often thought of as a stoic, emotionless entity -
and, in and of itself, it is.
The good news is, alongside the surge of mobility options becoming available, the process of parking is continually being refined. Technology is facilitating this transformation, with solutions for prepaid parking, cashless payments, and more transparent systems for parking LPA arriving day by day. As these options multiply, compete, and iterate, it is imperative to remember the end goal. From the businesses that create the technologies to the businesses that incorporate them, the goal is improving the experience.
Technology is often thought of as a stoic, emotionless entity - and, in and of itself, it is. While it cannot replace the human touch, it can greatly enhance it. In today’s marketplace, that enhancement is not only nice to have, it’s necessary.
So, how can you leverage technology to humanize the parking experience?
Empower the user and, in turn, the customer.
Product usability is where it starts. Technology can greatly improve the parking experience as long as it empowers the user.
Consider a situation where an employee has been given a tool he or she is not sure how to use and has difficulty using. When interacting with that employee, a customer or colleague immediately senses a hurdle and becomes frustrated. The employee is frustrated due to a feeling of incompetence and too distracted to make a meaningful exchange or impression. This poor experience may be seen as a lack of training or a personal fault.
Often the issue can be traced back further to the technology itself - to how effectively the product addresses the problem at hand and how easy it is for the business to adopt it.
Products that truly solve the problem and are easy to use, that an employee can effortlessly pick up and instantly see a benefit, eradicate friction and create confidence on both sides of the operation. Staff is empowered by the tools they have been given. The tools make their job easier. They spend less energy frustrated with equipment and more time connecting on a human level - whether they are taking payments or analyzing data through software. They have the time, tolerance, and confidence to create a better experience.
The customers are empowered to move unhindered on their journeys, receiving help and affirmation along the way.
Build an ecosystem of integrated technology.
Various solution providers are able to improve a portion of the parking experience. Integrations help produce a seamless, organic experience versus an obstacle course of siloed processes.
An example of this is seen at well-orchestrated events - a ticketing business provides tickets to the event and parking can often be provided by the ticketing provider and/or a presale parking partner. As the customer arrives at the venue the prepaid passes will be scanned and validated to avoid duplicate and invalid pass use, while customers paying on site are offered options for payment. Meanwhile, the ticketing provider may interact with an access control system, or parking data may pool into a business intelligence system. Data gets passed from partner to partner so that these interactions can happen quickly, securely and in real time.
Businesses that construct an ecosystem of partnering technologies are able to capitalize on the individual strengths of the providers while consolidating processes and data sources. They have profound visibility into the needs of their staff and customers.
For the staff, this means streamlined operations and a source of truth - i.e. a platform that data from these various sources can feed into, be monitored and, over time, convey trends. That data can be used to further refine the overall experience for everyone involved.
The customer may not consider or be cognizant of all the systems at play. And that’s the point. They come prepared to trust that the business will be buttoned up, that they will feel cared for, and that the experience will be satisfying.
Bolster digital initiatives with security.
A business can have every bell and whistle at its disposal, but without establishing security, technology is frivolous. This is why it is critical to choose technology providers that champion integrity and take no shortcuts.
Security touches every facet of the operation and every stage of the customer journey - whether it is PCI-compliance in payment processing, certified integrations and secure data transfers, the reliability of product used, or the dependability of customer service. Trust is the most valuable commodity a business holds and it is a purely human asset. As we create efficiencies in processes, we must keep people - our customers, colleagues, partners, and peers - at the heart of the aim.
Parking operators have the incredible challenge and incredible opportunity to transform an experience that everyone dreads. Parking technology has the ability to fast-track this ambition and, when thoughtfully incorporated, proves a fruitful and rewarding investment.
*Insights from the INRIX Impact of Parking Pain study
George Baker Sr., is Founder and CEO, ParkHub.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org