Can revenue control systems be convenient?
Combating Competition with Convenience
Thomas H. Rollo
Increased competition. Intensified security issues. Changing consumer expectations. Many factors are affecting today's parking operations providers, but none more so than the rising customer demand for convenience. Many recent innovations focus on simplifying the consumer experience, and customers have begun to expect such improvements to all areas of their lives, including parking. With customer loyalty at stake, parking facilities must leverage technology to not only tighten internal processes, but also improve parker satisfaction.
Although parking operations of all sizes are combating these challenges, airport garages are positioned squarely at the front line. Global events have softened the travel industry considerably, and airports are taking dramatic measures to re-instill consumer confidence. Because the parking process bookends the consumer's travel experience, airports have turned to these facilities to help improve traveler satisfaction.
To overcome this series of obstacles, pioneering airport parking centers have or will begin to deploy comprehensive revenue control systems.
Originally, parking operations viewed revenue control systems as primarily cost-savings solutions. Although simplified administration, reduced accounting fees, and more efficient use of resources are attractive benefits, it took the potential for customer satisfaction-driven revenue to bring parking control systems to the forefront of the buyer's mind.
Why is meeting customer needs so critical for parking facility owners? The reason is twofold: Customer satisfaction reduces costs and increases revenue. Converting new customers is expensive. In fact acquisition costs exceed retention costs by a factor of 10. Additionally, loyal consumers offer a much greater share-of-wallet than one-time customers. They not only park more frequently, but also are willing to try premium services and volunteer invaluable word-of-mouth referrals.
By eliminating unnecessary "events," or steps in the parking process that require deliberate parker action, today's advanced revenue control systems streamline administration by removing the very points of customer frustration. The benefits associated with guiding space selection, adding payment options, and incorporating express exit lanes extend far beyond basic revenue control. They also meet the pressing and evanescent needs of the modern-day parker.
These advanced platforms are designed to expedite entry and egress, maximize space availability, facilitate all types of payment, and increase services. By integrating revenue data with existing financial databases, these systems also improve logistical efficiencies at each phase of the parking process. But clearly the greatest advantage is the increase in customer satisfaction ... and by extension long-term customer retention.
High-tech revenue control systems also make possible a host of value-add services, such as Web-enabled reservations, time-of-entry tracking and intelligent paid grace periods. These services eases what is often the most stressful phase of the parking process: departure.
Time-of-entry tracking, which can be accomplished through manual or license plate recognition systems, helps resolve lost ticket disputes with minimal stress to the customer. By accurately identifying when the parker arrived, the facility can avoid issuing a loyalty-threatening penalty to the customer. The intelligent grace period feature automatically calculates the distance between the payment terminal and the customer's automobile, dynamically assigning an appropriate amount of time for the parker to locate the car and exit the garage. This feature is particularly effective when used in conjunction with pre-pay kiosks situated in the airport terminal or the automatic pay-on-foot machine.
A prime example of a parking industry pioneer is Logan Airport in Boston, which is run by the Massachusetts Port Authority, an independent public authority that develops, promotes and manages the state's airports, the seaport and transportation infrastructure, Logan's parking operations recognize the importance of customer satisfaction in trying social and economic times.
Logan is preparing to install the most expansive and integrated revenue control system in America today. The soon-to-be-deployed system will extend all of the capabilities detailed above to on-airport and remote parking locations at public transportation hubs in the outlying suburban areas. The platform will couple hybrid cash/credit card pay-on-foot terminals with express exit lanes for rapid, event-free egress. Wireless connectivity at overflow sites is also a novel component of the Logan project. By equipping parking personnel with handheld devices, even those travelers who have had their parking experience hampered by construction will enjoy all the advantages of the airport-wide system.
While it remains critical for parking facilities to maximize efficiency and minimize expenses, it is equally essential for them to nourish the customer relationships that are now threatened by fear and competition. The ideal way to improve satisfaction is also the most simple: Make parking effortless. Revenue control systems provide parking facilities with a jumpstart in the race toward the ultimate goal of non-event parking. Not only do they reduce operational costs, but they also pave the way for long-term, lucrative relationships with their most important constituent - tomorrow's parker.
Thomas H. Rollo is Executive Vice President for Scheidt & Bachmann USA, Inc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Article Abstract from January, 2003