Commercial Parking Operators Speak Out
September, 2004A month or so ago, PT asked a number of parking operators two questions:
1. What are the biggest concerns OPERATORS have when dealing with their clients?
2. What do you think the biggest concern CLIENTS have when selecting an operator?
Here are their answers:
Operator Concerns: It's often difficult for us as a well-established local company to gain the trust of clients after they've had bad service experiences with mega-operators. We find they're hesitant to take our advice and skeptical of the "personal touch" we offer.
Client Concerns: Clients of absentee or non-responsive operators often become accustomed to solving their own problem situations. In selecting an operator, they worry about finding one that's "different" -- a company they can rely on to run the parking operation and relieve their own managers of those responsibilities.
-- Gerry Oguss, G.O. Parking
Operator: My biggest concern is establishing what the client really needs to meet his parameters, as opposed to what he thinks he needs or "can do without."
Client: I think the client's biggest concern too often is looking at the lowest price for the service, rather than what is the best value for the price. A client can be swayed by an operator that offers a rock-bottom price, but may not understand that he is contracting for a rock-bottom service.
-- Dwight Potter, Republic Parking System
Operator: One of the bigger concerns relates to effective communication. As long as the client is clear in their expectations, and the operator understands those expectations, the likelihood of delivering the desired results are greatly enhanced.
Client: Differentiating between the "sales pitch" and which operator is actually going to deliver on their financial projections and service initiatives.
-- Mike McKeon, Imperial Parking
Operator: Liabilities with respect to people walking through the parking lots.
Client: Management with respect to safety concerns and the liabilities of people getting injured in the parking lots.
-- Steve Meyer, Main Street Pedicabs
Operator: Our biggest concern is that the client is satisfied with the service and would come back again.
Client: Trust is the biggest concern for the client when selecting an operator.
-- Jim Gennari Jr., Pinstripe Parking
Operator: Many times you will discover that the communication lines between owner(s), partners and any middleman (i.e., Property Management Company) are not clear.
Client: Proper revenue collections and handling.
-- Mark Dobson, Lanier Parking Systems
Operator: My biggest concern when dealing with clients of management accounts is that they will not welcome the operator as part of their team working in the client's best interest.
Client: I think a client's biggest concern starts with having an operator they can be comfortable with. Knowledge and integrity of the operation are key to achieving this comfort level with clients.
-- Bob Baer, Cincinnati Childrens Hospital Medical Center
Operator: Getting the contract and then keeping it.
Client: Maximizing "NET" parking income from the property.
-- Doug Stuckel, Commissionaires BC
Operator: Working toward a level of understanding and professionalism. Gaining their trust that you, as the contractor, are working in their best interest in the operations of their parking facilities.
Client: Most clients are in a budget crisis, including governmental agencies. During their evaluation process, they will still bypass proven experience and customer service, etc. and concentrate solely on "low bid" with contract minimum qualifications. However, I have recently noticed that the more progressive clients are moving toward balancing price, experience, customer service, etc. in a "best value" company selection.
-- Ray Humbert, Standard Parking
Operator: Gaining managing control, and meeting expectations.
Client: Experience, experience, experience, and relationship.
-- Dan West, Metric Parking
Operator: Ensuring that contractual requirements are implemented and fulfilled, and working cooperatively with the client to attain day-to-day and long-term operational needs.
Client: Operator has a successful track record and the resources, both financial and human, to enhance and carry out the operational needs of the client.
-- Earl Mizuguchi, Five Star Parking
Operator: Will they return and become a repeat customer?
Client: Safety of their car, quick in and out, and price.
-- Tom Lombardi, AirportParkingReservations.com
Operator: Clients will cancel without listening to the current operator and will not take their suggestions. They cancel just because the client thinks they can get it cheaper from another operator.
Client: Is the operator going to bring in the money that the client expects? Are they honest? Will they service their customers well?
-- Louis Flokas, Standard Parking
Operator: That our clients find our car parks and the service we provide such that they make NCP their preferred parking company.
Client: Our market research tells us that the main concern motorists have about any car park is the proximity of its location to their destination. The second factor is the safety of their vehicle whilst parked in the car park.
-- Tony Sedgewick, National Car Parks, UK
Client: Cost, customer service and facility image.
-- Fredy Suarez, Standard Parking
Operator: The ability to place and retain qualified, proactive managers to oversee their location.
Client: Quality of management staff and their retention. They don't want to see a new face every few months. Back office/corp. accounting. No. 1.
-- Damon Anthony Noga, Standard Parking
Operator: Keeping the service end up to the highest level that the customer demands.
Client: Today's parking world relies on security a lot more than in the past. Our facilities need to be well-lit, clean and safe. Along with this, the operator needs to provide a reliable and consistent parking experience.
-- Kevin Welsh, Preflight-RDU
Operator: To be afraid of losing a deal / not getting a business.
Client: Safety (person and vehicle) and parking rates.
-- Ivana Sejkora, Ampco System Parking
Operator: Fending off irresponsible and unethical attacks from competing operators.
Client: Discerning the truth.
-- Steven Friend, Standard Parking
Operator: Clients are making award decisions based on the price of the management fee proposed by an operator. They don't make decisions based on the quality of the operator, for the most part, and don't realize that a poor operator who runs a facility for $500 per month could be losing them $100,000 per year in revenues due to poor management.
Client: They seem to want very high-quality services at very low prices.
-- Brandy Johnson, Standard Parking
Operator: Our biggest concern is that the client is confident and comfortable that they are receiving what they bargained for, that being: first-class parking management services being presented to their tenants, guests and visitors that is fiduciary responsible with an emphasis on exemplary customer service.
Client: Will the operator live up to all their hype and implement the programs, policies and procedures as presented in the glossy, highly choreographed written proposal and impressive "Powerpoint" presentation and interview? (Answer: Probably not!)
-- Bob Hindle, Parking Concepts
Operators: Want to give the best service possible to their clients, and that means monitoring what your employees do when you aren't looking.
Clients: Want an operator that is reputable. So many parking operators get a client and then go out of business. The only way the client finds this out is to call them and find the number disconnected.
-- Joel Touchet, Deseret Parking
Operators: Reasonably fulfilling their expectations.
Clients: Reasonably receiving what they are promised: service, attention, value, revenues.
-- Al Niknibard, City Center Parking
Operator: High level of customer service, so it could bring repeat business and, as a result, profitability and growth. Then, it would be security for cash management.
Client: Cost of parking and safety and security for clients and their vehicles is first when they choose an operator. However, once they use the operator, then they will consider level of service and time they have to spend to get a ride to their terminal and amount of time they have to wait in order to get back to their vehicle.
-- Mason Shayan, LAX Park.com
Operator: Being able to fulfill the professional expectations I have for my clients within a budget they can find attractive enough.
Client:. Will the operator be trustworthy and meet the expectations while keeping a professional, safe facility.
--Chuck Taylor, Republic Parking
Operators: Under most Parking Service Management Contracts, the Landlord is required to cover the expenses associated with the operation of the facility. Sometimes the way in which the facility should be operated conflicts with the Landlord's desire for maximum bottom-line performance.
Client: The biggest concern? Integrity.
-- Paul Gnasso, Imperial Parking
Operator: That the client understands that the operator is working 24/7 to maximize revenues, and with a quality IT staff, we ensure this happens.
Client: Their qualifications to understand the checks and balances of a PARCS System and their ability to make it operate at 100% efficiency at all times.
-- Bill Henderson
Operator: In many instances, it is still the continuing personal relationship between the operator and the client that is the determining factor in dealing and retaining the operator/client relationship.
Client: In too many cases it's the adage: "It's not what you know; it's who you know."
-- Mickey Meyers, Ampco System Parking
Operator: Communication. Being able to share ideas and listen closely so that both parties are headed in the same direction.
Client: Consistent management talent. (Turnover of Managers and Supervisors.)
-- David L Meyer, Standard Parking
Operator: Communicating with property managers to ensure that they are satisfied with service. Sometimes a property manager might be happy, but others up the line are not, and that is not communicated to the operator.
Client: Keeping their tenants happy while still maximizing revenue.
-- John Moore, Classified Parking
Operator: Whether the client representative I'm dealing with today is going to be there tomorrow. There is huge turnover in property management companies, as well as in building ownership -- it's a hot market here in D.C. these days.
Client: Is their operator going to keep them informed, with the truth, and whether the operator is available and responsive when called.
-- Mark Howard, Colonial Parking
Operator: Losing a location to another operator because of a relationship with the property management company/ownership.
-- Larry Isrow, Five Star Parking
Operator: Some clients are solely fixated on the bottom line. Of course, that is my main focus as well, but as a parking professional, I like to emphasize the full range of our services. Depending on the type of operation, customer / employee relations, cleanliness, safety and communication can be nearly as important as income.
Client: Aside from income, my clients seem to be concerned with the professional approach taken by their operator. In particular, the handling of customer complaints and conflict resolution are of the highest priority to corporate clients.
-- Scott Zollars, Parking Company of America
Operator: That the clients leave happy, and leave quickly for fast turnover.
Client: Price and good appearance.
-- Mark Hampton, Parkway Corp.