Global Disruption Ushers in New Practices in Valet Operations
Before March 2020, a digital valet solution was all about convenience: No need to carry cash, faster service, two-way communication between parking staff and parker. Hospitals offer front door valet services to improve their patient satisfaction scores, making parking more convenient for patients with compromised health or anyone hunting for a parking spot that wants to avoid a long walk back to the car.
Several facilities temporarily suspended valet service to combat exposing their visitors and patients to COVID-19, but valet service isn’t just an amenity at some facilities. At St. Mary’s Medical Center in San Francisco, California, it’s a necessity.
Most of the complex is open 24/7 and offers cancer and cardiac care, rehab and therapy, diabetes services, ER and Urgent care, orthopedics, and more.
“Valet operations already needed to get out of the caveman days, especially in a place
like Silicon Valley.”
Like most San Francisco flat lots, a valet stack parking service is required at this complex, and within most underground garages, tandem parking stalls must be managed.
Kyle Baldasano, Regional Director at Corinthian International Parking Services, Inc. who oversees operations at St. Mary’s, developed extra steps for his employees to practice beyond mandated mask wearing to protect their vulnerable patients and visitors.
“We mirror the processes implemented by the hospital,” said Baldasano. “But we introduced rolling down all the windows and airing out the car before our team gets into it and also before delivering it back to the customer. All our attendants get a temperature check before starting a shift and use sanitizing solution before and after entering any car. We use SMS Valet to run our operations, so payment and tipping for valet parking is already a contactless process. Adding these new steps helps us limit exposure to our own staff and hospital visitors even more. We’re not reinventing ourselves, just doing valet parking differently to provide that same convenience and enhanced service our customers and their visitors expect to safeguard everyone’s health and safety.”
This is a new normal for valet operators, with many states mandating the use of masks and face coverings in public due to the rising numbers of new coronavirus cases across the U.S.
The pandemic brought global focus on using contactless payment options in every industry, but abruptly ended valet service in healthcare facilities or hospitals that didn’t already have a touchless platform. Baldasano had long left the paper ticket system behind as an early adopter of SMS Valet, a ticketless mobile payment solution that features touchless, cashless payment and two-way communication.
At that time, implementing a digital solution was for the extra convenience, visibility into operations, and to differentiate Corinthian from other valet providers.
“Valet operations already needed to get out of the caveman days, especially in a place like Silicon Valley. The customer expectation is that companies here should be technology forward. When I first started implementing SMS Valet, I was surprised that many of our competitors still used outdated paper ticket systems instead of embracing technology. These days, it’s about your business surviving. If you don’t offer a contactless experience, it’s a reason to switch providers.”
With SMS Valet, valet attendants check in cars, note any pre-existing damage, and speed up check-in for returning visitors, which is more common at healthcare facilities. It’s not an App—visitors just give valet their cell phone numbers and click the link in a text message received from the attendant to request their cars.
The car request can be sent while patients are checking out, reducing their wait times significantly and shortening the time they spend inside the hospital after check-out. Because payment (and tip) are done online, the transaction is cashless, contactless, and eliminates paper tickets.
As a true partner with the hospitals they serve, Corinthian also provides other services customized to meet St. Mary’s needs. They don’t just park cars now. Valet attendants are ambassadors who greet patients in the lobby and offer directions, conduct traffic control, assist security when needed, qualify patients at entrances by doing temperature checks, and provide courier services for lab tests.
“During this tough time our attendants are directing traffic for self-parking hospital employees, ensuring lot space is optimized while allowing the greatest number to leave whenever they want,” said Baldasano.
“We are sectioning off stalls for people to self-park, reducing the necessity for front door service while fulfilling the need for patients or visitors who can’t walk the distance from the lot to the hospital. It’s important to be flexible and meet the needs of the healthcare providers we run valet operations for.”
That flexibility was most evident in the early weeks of the pandemic when the hospital temporarily suspended valet service to help flatten the curve.
“We’re a service provider, not selling a product,” said Baldasano. “We were up and running at St. Mary’s almost immediately when they brought valet service back. Businesses have to pivot to meet new customer and end user needs. It’s crucial to business survival after this pandemic.”
Mark Berglund is in charge of sales for Tez. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org