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Standards and the Parking Industry... Round One

Robert Milner

Someone asked me if I thought the parking industry would ever adopt some type of standards with regards to such areas as cleanliness, maintenance, training, security, etc. I thought the question had merit and began to give some thought to standard setting and what effects such standards could conceivably bring to the parking industry. After all, setting some sort of standards could only elevate the
expectations of our customers.
My initial reaction to setting standards in the parking industry is a negative one. Let's face it, anytime minimum standards are set in industry most people question anti-competitive effects like:
* Would standard setting take away some organizations' current edge over the competition?
* Would it raise a rival's cost to meet these standards?
* Could the standards be manipulated?
* Would standard setting provide a forum for collusion (either tacit or explicit)?
The next big question in the scheme of things is, "from where would this standard setting body derive?" Who would participate in the standard setting endeavor? Obviously, denying access means that some organizations would be excluded. I think it important to note that research has shown larger groups tend to not function as effectively as smaller groups in establishing standards.
Having stated the above, I feel you will be as surprised as I was when I came across the COPC-2000 Standard. The COPC-2000 Standard was written in 1995 by a core group of users of call center services and associated distribution fulfillment operations, including representatives from American Express, Dell Computer Corp., Microsoft, Novell and L.L.Bean. The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award criteria and framework were used as the basis for the standard. These standards were developed for five primary reasons, which all relate to the parking industry in one way or another.
The outsourcing companies were very dissatisfied with the performance of their existing call center service providers. "They're not delivering what they promised."
These buyers of services did not believe that third-party call centers would get better without "a little encouragement."
Implementation of improvement standards have led to significant increases in product and service quality, particularly in the manufacturing sector. For instance, the overall quality of automobiles is significantly higher today than 15 years ago. The group felt the same advances could be made in service environments.
These companies wanted something to distinguish the "really good" from the "mediocre" call center and other service providers, and wanted to be able to do this prior to granting business to the provider(s).
The majority of call centers were having trouble relating to existing standards (e.g., ISO 9000) because they were viewed as being very manufacturing-oriented. Furthermore, those service companies who had become certified to ISO had not gained the operational benefits they had been seeking, and many companies had lost enthusiasm for the initiative. Consequently, the vast majority of call centers had no model in place to improve performance.
Even the COPC mission statement is noteworthy: To develop and drive initiatives that support superior performance in customer-touch intensive environments, as measured by the criteria of customer service, customer satisfaction, and operational efficiency. These initiatives are developed and implemented in a collaborative, consortium environment, which includes practitioners from both external and internal Customer Service Providers (CSPs), outsourcers, industry suppliers, and other industry experts.
Now, before everyone jumps down my throat, I understand a parking facility is a lot different than a call center, but I do believe they both offer service to the customer. (Besides what did the call center organizations compare themselves to before they set these standards up.)
Having stated the negative, now let's take a look at the positive points on setting standards.
* The public will be cognizant to the fact that the parking industry has taken the initiative to implement a total quality program.
* Standards will raise the bar and ensure our customers we, as professionals, provide an approved level of service.
* Standards will provide a structured approach to continuous improvement of business practices and customer satisfaction.
* Parking organizations, both small and large, will be able to demonstrate their ability to comply with a third-party quality audit.
As indicated in the title of this article, this is only Round One, and I personally believe it is worth further discussion. But, I also must admit that at first I found myself on the fence as to whether the parking industry and standards are a fit. However, take a moment to give this some thought. Would we, as an industry, operate any of our facilities differently knowing the possibility of unannounced third party audits could take place at anytime? Someone please help me, I think I am falling off...
Much of the above COPC information was taken directly from their web site (www.copc.com). Thoughts, comments, and viewpoints should be
e-mailed to: editor@parkingtoday.com.

Robert Milner is Associate Director of Parking at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. He has been in the private sector as a senior manager with Penn Parking and Central Parking. He can be reached
at rmilner@parking.umaryland.edu

Article Abstract from January, 2003




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