Magazine

Valet Parking: The Complete Guest Experience

Andrew Tuchler

When looking for a definition for valet parking, you get “parking arrangements provided by an establishment, whereby patrons leave their cars at the entrance while attendants park and retrieve them.”
But is that what valet parking is all about?
I would argue that valets are not just attendants who park cars, but individuals, when successful at their job, who create a warm welcoming environment on the way in and a problem-free goodbye on the way out. With a sincere greeting, the opening of a door and a simple smile, a valet parking attendant can make any guest feel special.
In essence, it is more than just parking cars. It is guest service!

Creativity: Leave a Mint on the Dashboard
When looking at a hotel operation, you realize the goal of all departments is to ensure that every guest leaves satisfied. How valet parking department begins and ends the experience for a guest can make or break their visit.
Hoteliers are always trying to find new and creative ways to attract guests and to keep them returning. Valet parking can provide a unique opportunity to service a guest that no other hotel department can. We are responsible for a guest’s most prized possession, their vehicle. This provides us the opportunity to create imaginative ways to service guests.
With proper planning, the following services can be arranged and will increase overall guest satisfaction by making their stay memorable and headache-free.
Car washing and detailing. Giving a guest the opportunity to have their vehicle cleaned before an important business meeting or picking up friends and family is a nice touch
Fill the gas tank. Coming to a new city can be difficult for a guest. Having the ability to take a guest’s personal or rented vehicle to a local gas station for them can save time and
worry.
Check tire pressure. An often-overlooked item on a vehicle is tire pressure. Having an air pressure gauge and portable tire pump in the parking department can become a valuable addition.
Oil changes and check fluids. Many guests are traveling long distances to get to their destinations. Having the ability to get the vehicle’s oil changed and check its fluids can provide reassurance that it is operating safely.
Although these services can be difficult, adding vehicle- and travel-related amenities can be much easier and will put a smile on any guest’s face. Items, such as mints, can be added to key chains or placed on dashboards. Individually printed directions to local attractions and highways can give added comfort to a guest trying to navigate through an unfamiliar city. Bottled water or a listing of local radio stations can be placed in a guest’s vehicle to make their journey to their next destination more comfortable.

Service Recovery: Turn a Negative Into a Positive
What separates a good valet operation from a great one is how it responds to a negative situation. All bad experiences are just opportunities, and this is true in the valet parking business.
At Ultimate Parking, we have created a unique way to make sure that any guest who has had a problem in the hotel gets the resolution that they desire. Our Ultimate Service Recovery Program focuses on problems that occur not only within our department, but also with any issue that happens to a guest during their stay. Each morning, we review hotel reports to find out if any guests had an issue from the previous day. If there is a problem with something in the hotel, no matter what the issue may have been, the guest vehicle gets flagged.
When the guest contacts the valet office, we move their vehicle to the front of the line, and one of our managers personally hands the keys to the guest. Our manager asks the guest if everything was resolved to their satisfaction about the specific issue that they had. If the guest is still unsatisfied, our manager will notify a member of the hotel staff about their dissatisfaction, so the guest can be contacted directly. This creates an additional opportunity for the hotel to satisfy its guests.

The Basics: Vital to Guest Service
No matter how many additional services or amenities are offered, guest satisfaction always comes back to delivering on the basics. Staff knowledge, check-in speed, vehicle wait time, vehicle condition and price are vital to making sure a guest is satisfied with their valet parking experience and ultimately their hotel stay.
All hotel departments have the same goals for ensuring guest satisfaction: to meet their needs by delivering the basics and then taking it a step further by becoming creative. If the valet parking department focuses on guest satisfaction and not on just parking cars, that hotel can be ensured of getting repeat guests and not losing them to other hotels.
The most important component of our definition of valet parking is that the service itself is the first and last impression guests have. The valet parking service can create a positive experience for them. This knowledge is paramount to the overall success of any venue offering valet parking.
Clearly, this demonstrates the importance of having the proper tools in place and the proper company providing the service. The National Valet Parking Association was created with this in mind. For more information about the NVPA, contact us at (678) 303-5945 or visit us online at www.NVPAonline.com.

Article Abstract from November, 2006




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