Magazine

Super Park – Success in the ‘Cloud’

John Van Horn

“Sometimes when you turn over a rock,” said Super Park Owner John Hammerschlag, “you find more rocks, worms, snakes, bugs, etc. At Super Park, when we turned over rocks, we found only gold nuggets.”

An investor group led by Hammerschlag purchased the distressed off-airport garage across from Houston’s Hobby airport in 2010. He set about changing the operation. Some of his changes were by design; some occurred as unintended consequences.

“Typically, off-airport operations pick up and drop off customers at their cars,” Hammerschlag said. “At Super Park, instead, we needed to drop them centrally on the first floor only, at the pay stations we were planning to install.  We also created a premium parking area on the first floor and added 150 parking stalls, half of them on the first floor. 

The unintended consequence? “A higher proportion of premium parkers vs. economy parkers, and twice the number of trips to and from the airport with the same number of shuttles, which expedites the customer experience. 

“We can deliver the customer to the front door of the airport with his/her bags quicker than if the air traveler parked in more than 80% of the airport parking stalls, and we provide a significant savings over airport parking fees.”

Hammerschlag retained ABM Parking Services to run the off-airport facility. The on-site manager is Jesus Mercado. “When we opened, we wanted to fill empty spaces, so we promoted contract parking,” Mercado said. “As our popularity increased, we restricted monthly contracts to airport employees only. “It’s a ‘timed nested’ facility,” he explained. “The first floor is premium parking, and the two upper economy floors are in the nest. If a parker does not go into the nest on a timely basis, their ticket is charged at the premium rate; if they do and exit from the nest promptly, it’s at the lower economy rate.

“We don’t have a license plate inventory (LPI) system. We wanted to see if it would be necessary. We find that we have about one lost ticket a week, and we ask those customers for their printed flight itinerary. We then charge them based on that. The customer service rep retains a copy of the itinerary for the auditors. “License Plate Inventory seemed pricey for the perceived benefit for now,” Mercado said. “Plus, 95% of our customers pay by credit card, and most use the pay-on-foot equipment. There is very little opportunity for ticket manipulation.”

Super Park’s revenue control system operates on a “cloud-based” system, using T2 hardware and software. “We needed a hosted cloud solution for true automation with bells and whistles,” Hammerschlag said. “As we are a small shop and don’t have an in-house IT department, we needed a company that would react to our specific requirements. We investigated other software solutions, and those providers were clearly deficient in believing in our view of automation and the deliverables we required.

“Was the installation completely without issues? Of course not and we are still working out our issues diligently. You cannot expect specialized, one-off software to work perfectly every time,” Hammerschlag said. “What you need is support that can perceive the parking customer’s needs, react quickly, and fix problems as they arise. The cloud-based system makes that easier to accomplish, because the software resides with the manufacturer which can make changes and fixes quickly. I’m sold on ‘the cloud.’”

Super Park has two pay-on-foot machines that take credit cards—only one of them takes cash. When asked if 95% credit card use is a good thing for owners,” Hammerschlag responded. “If I could have 100% credit card usage, I would take it. Get rid of the cash for all the reasons that we all inherently know.  Also, as a side benefit the pay stations recycle the change.  We have yet to require change from the bank.”

“We are in the process of building an online loyalty program that tracks customer’s usage and provides points they can use for complimentary parking,” Mercado added. “We will link a credit card to the loyalty card, customers will require only one card when processing a transaction, and the system will record the usage and adjust the rate depending on the points available.”

There also is an online coupon program that enables customers to receive discounts based on printing a coupon and scanning it when they pay their fee. The barcodes are unique, so after the coupon is used; it cannot be copied and used again.

Mercado pointed out that the location of Super Park is perfect. “There are no stop lights between our driveway and the airport. We can get to the drop-off points quicker than any of our competitors. We promote that fact online, on our signs, and our newly ‘wrapped’ shuttle buses.”

“Once a customer sees how fast we are, how often our shuttles run, and our attractive parking rates,” Mercado said, “they are sold, and come back again and again.”



Reasons for ‘Cloud-based’ System

• Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance.

• Real-time support and upgrades.

• Complete system backup.

• Patches made in real-time.

• Access all info from iPhone, iPad, any Internet browser.



John Van Horn is Editor of Parking Today. Contact him at

jvh@parkingtoday.com.

 

Article Abstract from October, 2012




Green Courte Partners BANNER SKY Parking Today Subscribe BANNER