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Opinionů Is Our Industry Failing its Customers?

August, 2019

John Van Horn

Why does parking have such a bad reputation? I think it’s because nearly everyone, EVERYONE, in our industry talks about the business of parking, but no one talks about the person parking the car.


Blog after blog details issue after issue, whether it’s how to control EV chargers, or what technology to use for permits or citations, or how to raise pricing so we can force people to park where we want them to. Few seem to want to talk about how to make the parking experience better for the parker.


Let’s look at the topics to be discussed at an upcoming regional parking event: financial planning, business strategy planning, conflict resolution, how to implement programs, reformers – friend or foe, transportation demand management, can parking and transportation play together?, land use, gateless garages, marketing, mobility, LPR, enforcing the curb, the commute – it goes on and on.


The next time you plan a seminar, have people talk about how they work to make their customers, the parker, the center of their work.


Not one seminar discussing how to make parking a better experience for the parker.


Review the web sites of parking suppliers – find one that discusses how their product or service actually helps their customer make the parking experience better. I found two, out of a couple of hundred.


We reached out to everyone in the industry in our call for speakers for PIE 2020. We specifically asked for presentations on how to make the parking experience better. Out of 60 responses, less than 10 percent responded with discussions about the parkers.


Even when we try to begin a conversation about the parking experience we fail. It’s in the parking DNA. This is a business and we need to discuss ways to run the business better. Customers are an afterthought, if we give them any thought at all.


The next time you plan a seminar, have people talk about how they work to make their customers, the parker, the center of their work. Talk about how making the parking experience an ‘excellent’ experience can not only create happy customers, but also make for a more profitable and smooth-running parking operation.


You may find that you are talking about the same topics as those listed in the third graph above, but from a different point of view. Who knows?


Just Who are Our Customers?


I completely understand when suppliers focus on their customers. But who are they? The people who buy parking control equipment and services are the operators, garages, cities, universities, airports, hospitals, venues, office parks, and building complexes that provide parking for their customers, students, and tenants.


Therefore, when a supplier advertises and promotes, they speak to THEIR customers, not to parkers. Their customers want products and services that make their lives easier – that generate more money, reduce staff, are easy to use, and perhaps even make more parking spaces available for rent.


This makes perfect sense. But is it the right approach?


Some suppliers advertise directly to the end user. Intel, for instance, has their famous “intel inside” pitch. What they are doing is telling the end user that if they buy a computer with an Intel chip, they will have a better customer experience. Bose, although they promote headphones and speaker systems, also market their sound systems that are installed in high end automobiles. What about Archer Daniels Midland? They are the largest supplier of food stuffs, but sell to companies that actually market prepared foods. I see their ads in major magazines all the time.


This is not to mean that our parking equipment manufacturers should advertise directly to parkers, but perhaps they should point out to their customers how their products help make the parking experience better.


Finding a way to show your customer that installing your product is going to make the industry better, and is going to give the parker a reason to park in that facility, can only help them decide to purchase your product or service.


Yes, your product will make the parking operation better and generate more revenue, but it will also ensure that the parking experience felt by the parker will be excellent. In the end, that is our goal, right?


JVH


 



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