Creating Affinity - Low Expenditure, Huge Payoff
A few months ago, I wrote about the concept of “who does it best?” and how your customers aren’t comparing you to the experience they have in the garage next door. They are comparing you to the best customer service experience they’ve ever had. So, you can begin to make measurable change by asking yourself “who does it best?” answering honestly, and beginning to incorporate those exemplary elements into your customers’ parking experience. This month, I’d like to continue the transition from illuminating a good experience to executing a great experience, and why that’s important.
As the parking industry continues to be “vaporized,” or transformed by technology, the power of choice is now beginning to drive more and more parking decisions. By contrast, in the “old days,” parking customers “cruised” around looking for a parking spot close to where they had an appointment, or close to their office. Today, they can choose and pay for that spot long before they arrive by using a mobile parking reservation app or Google Maps.
In addition to that, your parking customers can do a ton of research about you before they even arrive. In other words, your reputation precedes you, which leads me to my point: you must begin to think more deeply about ways to build and maintain a relationship with your customer and create affinity between you.
Don’t panic, building affinity is relatively easy, and if you are successful in building a relationship with your customer, you will naturally create affinity. Webster’s Dictionary defines affinity as “a natural attraction, liking, or feeling of kinship.” Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find ways to create a natural attraction between you and your customers. Sounds hard, right? Nope! Allow me to share the most mundane example of how easy it can be.
Last month, I was hurtling down I-65 when I noticed something in my nature that was so subtle, it was almost undetectable. Yet, the more time I spent thinking about it, the more powerful the concept became. A Chevy SUV had tucked in behind me at 79 MPH (9 you’re fine, 10 you’re mine) and off we went around trucks and cars alike. When I pulled out to pass, they followed and when I moved over, they followed. Of course, that’s not interesting, but what was, is that, subconsciously, I had developed a kinship with that driver and even though we had just “met” and likely would never “meet,” I discovered affinity. Wait, what? It’s true.
The eureka that I had that afternoon started me thinking about what little effort it took to create loyalty and affinity in a parking setting. You see, creating affinity is not difficult – heck, I did it with a car and a driver I’ve never met. Wait, there it is – a car and a driver I’ve never met… just like you and your parking garage.
How did this happen? Well, the SUV demonstrated some deference to me by following. You can show deference to your customers by making sure the little things are attended to – like lighting, cleanliness, attentive ambassadors and timely responsiveness to the “help” button. Once you demonstrate to your customers that you care about their experience, in the smallest way, you clear the way to build a kinship and affinity with them. The payoff for that is HUGE. Why?
Because parking customers are human, and most humans are creatures of habit or naturally lazy and/or loyal. In fact, in several articles that I read to prepare for this column, I read the same material repeatedly about resistance to change. Once you’ve created affinity with your customers, by showing deference to their experience, those parking customers will continue to park at your garage for several positively human reasons such as: fear of change, not wanting to learn new things, change means more work and finally, because your parking garage has become like an old comfortable pair of shoes. Nobody wants to get rid of an old comfortable pair of shoes…until the strap breaks.
This customer experience “thing” is hard. Indeed, it is and that’s what our audience heard in September when I had the honor and privilege of co-presenting “Answering the Call to Improve the Customer Service” with Brandy Stanley at SWPTA. The reviews were so good, JVH asked that she and I freshen up our material and present it at PIE this spring. Given my great affinity for JVH, I accepted the invitation. But you don’t have to wait until March to learn more about creating affinity, delivering authentic concern and providing a better customer experience. I will be back, right here, next month to share more of my experiences to help you delight your customers.