How Technology Continues to Improve Your Garage’s Bottom Line
From Cigar Boxes to LPR:
By Giselle Seychett
One of these days, perhaps very soon, we’ll drive into an attended parking garage, hand off the car keys, return for pickup and pull away without ever taking a receipt or reaching into our pockets to pay.
License plate recognition (LPR) or radio frequency identification (RFID) at the garage will recognize our cars and, on checkout, our bank accounts or credit cards will be automatically charged before we drive away. Soon, facial recognition technology may facilitate transactions by identifying our faces!
Over the last 20 years, we’ve come to expect that when it comes to technology, what you know today is bound to be obsolete tomorrow. Instead of “adapt or perish,” it’s “adopt or go out of business” – and everyone must keep up to stay competitive.
Back in 1980, when in my own parking infancy, I was working in the billing department of a data-processing company in New York City. At that time, revenue control in parking was a bit like the Wild West, even in the East.
In New York, for example, garage control systems consisted of a simple time clock to track car entry and exit times (no different from those used to track employee hours). In those days, credit cards were not accepted, and cash payments were collected in cigar boxes – literally.
Revenue control was non-existent, and revenue shrinkage was commonplace. I recall stories of “invisible” vehicles at garages that never showed up in any of the minimalist tracking systems.
Complicating matters further, garage attendants had to calculate rates themselves; in New York City, where parking rates and taxes are notoriously complex, this led to erroneous billings and compliance failures.
The conversion from manual to systems-based, instant information processing was truly an evolution for the parking business, automating tedious, labor-intensive and paper trail-heavy tasks.
Until then, most operators relied on after-the-fact, time-consuming reconciliation of disparate lists and records for insight into operational efficiencies. With the advent of computerized rate calculations and easy reporting capabilities, reliable data transformed business analysis and planning.
In New York City, we’ve heard that operators who shift from manual controls to the use of revenue control software estimate gross revenue increases of up to 20% immediately following installation.
Many operators have similar reactions: “Wow, we knew we were losing some money, but not that much!” Suddenly, garages that were marginally performing financially realized they were doing quite well, and possibly had been for quite some time.
The right revenue control solution not only offers potential for an immediate improvement in the bottom line, but also positively impacts business value in the long run.
Anecdotally, we’ve had many clients tell us that they will neither open a new facility nor acquire existing facilities without revenue control software in place. Further, with the newest systems offering ever more accuracy and dependability, parking businesses have an operational and reporting tool that can be used to attract third party investment.
Still, it wasn’t until a few years ago that revenue control software reached the unprecedented levels of technological sophistication that we see today. The best of today’s platforms are flexible, “integratable” and interconnected, either online or in “the cloud.”
New modules and add-ons are launched regularly, providing remarkable levels of accountability, efficiency and information that improve business evaluation and increase sales. Operators can easily obtain better usage and traffic flow data on peak days and times, and by integrating the latest applications, they can literally drive new customers to their door.
Systems continue to evolve and improve; right now, even the best of the best cannot prevent cash-only cars from being “slipped” into a full garage without being ticketed, but LPR and related offerings have started to address that as well.
To date, adding LPR has been cost-prohibitive for most New York City operators, but as technology advances bring down the price, operators can look for systems that automatically compare LPR footage with tickets issued.
The result would be an excellent auditing tool that could put the kibosh on parking garage “leakage” once and for all.
Contact Giselle Seychett, Ticketech’s Chief Financial Officer, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Article Abstract from January, 2014