Customer Service in the Age of Automation
People are flying again. An airline industry that was devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic is finally recovering. In the spring of 2020, airport terminals were empty—virtual ghost towns—as were airport parking facilities. The past two years have seen a dramatic turnaround. Airports are packed, and if you’ve tried to find parking at an airport garage recently, there’s a pretty good chance that it wasn’t easy to find a space.
This is good news for airports, but it also creates challenges for travelers who want to easily find parking at the front end of their trip, and to quickly and conveniently pay for parking and exit parking areas, when their trip is over.
In fact, exiting is one of the biggest parking “pain points” facing travelers. Most airports long ago automated their parking operations, allowing parkers to pay at pay-on-foot machines before returning to their cars, or use credit card-enabled PARCS equipment. Automation allows drivers to easily exit with a minimum of queuing. But when exiting equipment doesn’t work properly, or if a driver has trouble figuring it out, automated parking can lead to bottlenecks. The last thing a tired traveler wants is to be stranded in a parking garage behind a gate that won’t raise.
That’s why having a customer service solution is such an important complement to automated airport parking systems. Whether issues arise because of user error or a problem with the equipment, a customer service representative can solve the problem and quickly get the driver on his or her way.
When a customer service solution is in place, it can provide a direct real-time connection, via video or audio link, to a trained customer servicer professional. The customer service rep can help walk the driver through the payment process and, if necessary, lift the gate for the driver if the issue can’t be resolved. Usually, the issue is a simple user error. But sometimes, payment equipment doesn’t operate as intended. In both cases, the customer service rep can resolve the issue.
Putting a customer service solution in place doesn’t just improve the parking experience, but it can also help airport executives improve their operations so they can continue to provide the best experience possible. For instance, with our software platform, we document every aspect of every call, as well as provide vital information about those calls. On which days and at what time were issues most common? Which pieces of equipment are most susceptible to problems? Did parkers have difficulty using certain pieces of equipment? What were the challenges?
This is important information that parking owners and operators can use to improve their operations and customer service. If there are too many invalid tickets, that could be an indication that the PARCS equipment located at the entrance is malfunctioning and needs to be repaired or replaced. The same conclusion might be drawn if there is an unusually high number of credit card payment issues at the exit. Or, if a particular piece of equipment experiences significantly higher numbers of user errors, perhaps the user interface should be reconfigured to be more intuitive.
No matter what types of problems arise, the data created by the system can help diagnose the issues and help parking administrators address them more efficiently and cost-effectively. The answers to these questions can help airport parking administrators better manage their parking technology and, if necessary, upgrade equipment that isn’t working properly.
Essentially, the data collection element of our customer service platform serves as a direct link to the customer experience. It lets airport parking administrators, and their operators, know when things go wrong during the parking experience and what the problem was. It also allows them to determine if problems were one-time issues or an indication of an ongoing equipment or operational failure. The information can be accessed in real-time, at any time.
Making Automated Parking Work Better
Airport parking facilities are busier than ever. Prior to the pandemic, nearly 20 percent of travelers used TNCs to get to and from the airport. Many others relied on public transit, cabs, or family and friends. In the post-pandemic age, travelers are driving themselves rather than taking crowded public transit or riding in vehicles with strangers. Experts expect this trend to continue for several years as we adjust to the realities of living with Covid-19.
This trend puts a lot of stress on automated airport parking facilities. More cars are entering and exiting each day, and it’s essential for people to be able to get in and out quickly. Just a single problem at a gate can cause backups that can delay exiting or, in the worst case, cause people to miss a flight.
A customer service solution can mitigate these risks by allowing customer service professionals to quickly resolve problems and keep people moving. In the automated parking age, utilizing a customer service platform is essential for airport parking facilities.
Brian Wolff is President & CEO of Parker Technology. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org