As a professional in the publishing business I experienced the good, the bad and the criminal of consulting. There was the gung-ho guy who suggested we make all the changes Iíd already been requesting for two years. Somehow his opinion had the impact mine could not and the desperately-needed editorial and design updates were made (good, but annoying).
There was the consultant before him who saw the need for change but wanted to focus her time and our money on a huge reader survey we didnít have the staff power to conduct. So nothing happened (bad). And there was the ďdatabaseĒ consultant who took several hundred thousand dollars from the non profit I worked for and never delivered a database (criminal).
Iím a consultant myself. Every month I receive a digital proof of Parking Today and I read every word looking for mistakes. I check the text, the headlines, the ads, the folios (those little things at the bottom with the page number and title of the magazine), as well as the jumps, ad index and calendar and so on. One thing I do that seems really important to me is check the table of contents to make sure when you turn to page 32 you really find that article titled ďEmergency Preventing LED Lights that Watch Over Parking Lots Like the Eye of Sauron to Catch Criminals and Call the Police Automatically.Ē If that article which sounds so riveting in the table of contents isnít on the page you expect to find it, what are the chances you are going to keep looking for that article? Youíre more likely to be confused, and then annoyed, and then give up and toss the whole thing in the garbage. I clearly donít want that to happen, and neither does this magazineís publisher or its advertisers.
So I fully support the idea of choosing intelligent, experienced, useful and affordable consultants. If your budget is limited, consider, your most affordable consultants could be your own customers. I canít say how intelligent they are or how useful their suggestions might actually be, but you canít beat the price. Thereís a technique, not highly respected in the field of statistics, but frequently used by just about every marketing group, called ďconvenience sampling.Ē If you survey the people already parking in your garage you might not create Nobel-prize winning findings, but you will have data from a convenient source and ready-made focus group of people with experience in the area you wish to study. Just a thought.
Now, for a moment, I will offer some free consulting to the parking industry, from a member of the public.
1. If itís Saturday night and Iím in downtown San Diego with my girlfriends and we pull into your Pay and Display lot and find the ticket printer is out of tickets this is what I am going to do: call the number on your sign and find out your operating hours are 8 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday; put my money back in my purse; leave a note on my dash saying your machine is broken so please donít tow me; go out to dinner and spend that extra $10 on dessert. So donít do that, youíre going to lose a lot of money.
2. Donít tear down a 100-year old tree to build a parking lot. People get so angry.
3. Please find someone who speaks English Ė or whatever language(s) is most predominately spoken in your area Ė to write your signs. Get a second person to check for spelling, accuracy and grammar. Have the sign typed up and printed nicely on thick paper and hang it straight. Your operation looks like a screw up when your signs are misspelled, written in Magic Marker, and posted with duct tape.
4. Smiles are free and in unlimited supply. If that sounds syrupy, it is, I gagged a little when I wrote it. But itís true, good customer service begins and ends with a smile and sometimes nothing in between. Hire responsible people and tell them to smile at everybody they see.
5. I canít tell you anything about the construction or design of a parking structure, you need a consultant for that or youíre going to end up with one of those dark and depressing mazes we all avoid.
6. Itís the same for all your electrical, software, hardware, accounting, line painting, legislative, funding, and technology needs Ė I know nothing, but I wish you the best of luck.
Melissa Bean Sterzick is an Amateur Parker and PTís proofreader. She can be reached at Melissa@parkingtoday.com.