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Our business is based on service

A Parking Business that Grew from Selling Cars

Our business is based on service. That tells it all at Cramer Airport Parking in Harrisburg, PA. Stanford Cramer and his wife Lynn have made a good business keeping that credo in mind.
The 1000 space facility, soon to be expanded to 2000, competes favorably with the "on airport" parking operation. "We feel if they park here once, we have them forever," says Cramer. "We are a personal business."
The way the vans operate at Cramer is a case in point. The company has purchased special vans made by Daimler Chrysler, the Mercedes Sprinters, that have room in the rear for bags. The drivers are instructed to place the parker's bags in the back and then unload them at the airport.
This serves two purposes, notes Cramer. First, we give great service to our customers; they don't have to lug their bags on and off the shuttle. This is particularly important in the middle of a snowstorm. Second, it gives the customer the opportunity to tip the drivers. This means the drivers are motivated to provide the best possible service.
"We also insist that the vans wait beside the person's vehicle until their car is started," adds Lynn Cramer. "When a car sits in 10 degree weather for a week, it might not start. We are there to help. It just gives the customer a feeling of security. If they do have a problem, we are right there and they don't have to start looking all over the lot for help."
Gold Coins
The Cramers charge $5 a calendar day. If a person is in 25 hours, the charge is $10. They have had a few complaints.
"When someone complains, I just walk up to the driver's side of their car and hand them five of the new gold dollar coins, "says Cramer. "This doesn't happen very often, but when it does we have them as customers for life. Plus they tell their friends about the gold dollar coins they got at Cramer's."
Perception is important to Stan Cramer. "I don't give them the coins from the booth, but walk outside. I want to meet the customer on his level. I don't want to appear condescending; I want them to know that I care what they think about our operation."
The Cramers had been in the car business for years. In 1968 they purchased the Budget Car Rental Franchise for Harrisburg and in 1976 moved their auto sales (Honda and Oldsmobile) operations to the property near the airport. They sold the Honda dealership, and Oldsmobile is no more. This leaves a very happy Stan Cramer with a 1000 car off airport parking operation, the car rental service, and a complete auto repair and maintenance facility.
Working out of the same showroom they have had since moving to the airport, Cramer Airport Parking can provide auto service while you are away, plus secure parking, and car rental services.
"Until this year we had no gates controlling our operation. When we felt we needed more control, we couldn't find companies that would mold their products to our way of business," says Lynn Cramer. "We have many different coupons, auto service, loyalty cards, and the like. We needed a system that could track them all."
New Controls and Software
After a couple of years of research, Cramer Airport Parking settled on a system from PTC for their controls. "The important thing was that they were able to alter their software to fit our needs, and that the person that provides us our existing software could interface with the new system. It's going in now and so far everything is as we would like it."
Not all their customers come to fly out of the airport. Many bus companies contract with Cramer to allow people to park there and then pick up the charter for Manhattan, Atlantic City, or in some cases cruise lines or tour groups leaving from JFK, Newark or Philadelphia. 'It's very convenient. The group members drive here, drop off their cars, are picked up by the bus, and they are off. Good service for them, good business for us."
Cramer works the travel agents. "They are the secret to our new business. We provide them with coupons and track which agent really supports us." Of course the internet has changed that a bit. Many air travelers don't use travel agents any more so Cramer must rely on signage and word of mouth.
"Our signs were done by the same company that does the state road signs. They have the same look. The state wouldn't let us put up signs on the main access road so we put up ours nearby. It still works well."
The new software will allow Cramer to track their customers by their license number. They can then provide frequent parker discounts based on the driver, not necessarily on a punch card that could be lost. "Our cashier knows when they key in the license number the parking history of the vehicle and can offer a discount when it's earned, or give the customer the option of saving them up," says Lynn. This interaction between customers and his employees, some of whom have been with them for over 40 years, is important to Stan Cramer.
"We considered pay on foot, but rejected the idea. We want our employees to interact with the customers, and provide whatever service we can, even if it's only a warm smile and a greeting. You can't get that from a machine," says Cramer.
Cramer Airport Parking fills the facility from the rear to the front. This means there are spaces near the front for people in a hurry, and makes it more convenient for the van drivers to drop off people near their cars. Also, when people drive by, they see empty spaces. It makes the facility more inviting.
We wanted to decrease the exit time with the new equipment and have accomplished that. If there is nothing else I have learned about this business over the past 30 years, its that the only thing a customer wants when they get in their car is 'out.'" Our goal is to make that happen as quickly and easily as possible.

Article Abstract from March, 2003




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