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Say Goodbye to the Complacent Commuter

May 23, 2018

Jake Smiles

For many operators, commuters are the MVPs. They park consistently on weekdays, for the length of the workday (or longer) and show loyalty to their locations. They drive because it’s convenient; it lets them structure their workday how they want or need to. And as more on-demand services enter their worlds, the convenience factor is increasingly more important in their transportation decisions. 


To keep these high-value customers coming back, parking needs to deliver an experience that aligns with what they value – both on-site, in facilities, and online, where they’re making the decision whether or not to drive to work in the first place.



What does your commuting customer value?


I did some deep dives into this very question. Who are these customers who use an app to book the same parking spot 3 to 5 days a week? How does their commute fit into the larger scheme of their day? What do they need in order to feel like driving and parking is their best transportation option? And how can we in the parking industry, working together, make sure they’re getting it from us? 


After many enlightening conversations with our commuting customers, we were able to identify three leading values: flexibility, predictability, and convenience.



Commuter Value #1: Flexibility


In many industries, the Monday to Friday, 9-to-5 gig is becoming a thing of the past. Recent CareerBuilder research found that 65 percent of full-time workers aged 45 to 54 believe the 8-hour workday is outdated, and 42 percent of workers aged 18 to 24 agree. Because their work schedules are more flexible than ever, they can’t – and won’t – be tethered to inconvenient travel parameters. 


Transportation multimodality is one method commuters use to achieve flexibility. According to a recent study in Transportation, only 30 percent of Americans exclusively use a car for travel in any given week, and 65 percent rely on a mix of car and car-less methods. Of that multimodal portion, almost 50 percent are making at least three non-car trips per week. This means relying on ridesharing or public transit when driving and parking doesn’t fit their needs. 


 


How can operators provide flexibility?


To accommodate commuters, you need to collect data that reveals patterns in their schedules. Monitoring weekday entry and exit might reveal that drivers who work nearby tend to arrive later and stay later – which may mean swapping out your “early bird” for a structure that affords them the same elasticity offered by on-demand transportation modes like ridesharing. Understanding when your commuters are parking not only helps you provide a better customer experience but also maximize revenue through demand-based pricing.


Commuter Value #2: Predictability


Modern commuters access predictable, on-demand services in all other aspects of their lives and are unwilling to deal with an uncertain commute. The average American spends 50 minutes getting to work; and in big cities like New York, it’s closer to 80 minutes. When you’re spending that much time getting from A to B, waiting an extra 10 minutes for rideshare or dealing with train delays is the last thing you want to do.


We may not be able to wave a wand and make traffic or construction go poof, but we can provide predictability. When commuters drive and park, they’re using GPS apps to know how long their trip will take, and they want similarly predictable information about parking: what it will cost and exactly where they will arrive in relation to their final destination. Driving in circles looking for parking that’s both close enough and at the right price point epitomizes the inconsistency and uncertainty that commuters try to avoid. 


 


How can operators provide predictability?


Third-party technologies like online reservations and navigation platforms display exact locations, routes and rates online, giving access to predictable pricing and availability and arrival time. Although ridesharing may claim many of these advantages, only parking has true predictable pricing (no surge) and real departure predictability (no driver arrival variability), plus the security of piloting your own vehicle. 


 


Commuter Value #3: Convenience


We can sum up modern commuters – really, modern consumers – by saying they just want to make their lives easier. Online invisibility, lack of transparency into availability and rates, confusing directions, complicated payment and redemption processes… these are all barriers, and adding complications detracts from convenience. 


Commuters are adopting convenience-geared technologies at lightning speed. Their expectations are both informing and being informed by technologies like voice commands, which 76 percent of consumers confirm using on their devices. Being easy to find, easy to buy, and easy to use was how companies in industries like food delivery, hospitality, and travel saw success in a changing consumer landscape – and it’s how parking is going to win, too.


 


How can operators provide convenience?


Convenience starts with making parking visible when commuters are researching their options. This means not just relying on your on-site signage, but getting “digital signage” online during the exploration part of the customer journey. It’s critical that the offline experience is just as convenient: operators need to make it easy to arrive, redeem, and leave, integrating seamless features like scanners or LPR.


Innately, driving and parking offers the flexibility, predictability, and convenience required to make it the clear choice in this multimodal world. But it’s critical that the clear choice is also the easiest one to make. With today’s parking technologies, operators can parlay commuters’ high expectations for convenience into an opportunity to increase their level of customer service and their bottom line.


Jake Smiles is an Account Executive at SpotHero. He can be reached at jake.smiles@spothero.com



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