Brand, Choice, Service – Park ‘n Fly’s Focus
May, 2009Three words kept coming back into Tony Paalz’s conversation when he talked about his new position as President and CEO at Park ‘n Fly: brand, choice, service.
“Customers remember the brand. Of course that’s important. However, we cannot ever forget that they have a choice. And sometimes the perception is that another choice is better than us.”
Paalz had been onboard for about a month when he spoke to PT in his suburban Atlanta office. It didn’t take long for him to focus on exactly what he wanted to do with the 40-year-old Park ‘n Fly brand.
“I’ve been traveling to all our locations. I ride the shuttle and talk to the customers. They tell me the same thing. They are delighted with the service they get with us. They choose to return because we provide a comfort level they like.”
He sees that his company is competing with the airport and they are perceived to have more convenient parking. After all, the huge parking structure is across the street from the terminal, and his parking lot may be three miles down the road.
“It’s a perception problem, and we can alter that,” Paalz said. “First of all, it is often not true that parking on the airport is quicker. In most locations, we can pick up a customer, drive them to their terminal and help them off the shuttle in less time than they can drive into the airport, negotiate the congestion-filled roads, get their entry ticket, drive up three or four levels, find a space, and then walk, sometimes a very long way, before they get to the terminal.
“Our customer not only rides to the terminal in an air-conditioned van, but they are assisted every step of the way. Our goal has to be to communicate that to potential customers. Existing customers know it, and that’s why they come back.”
The economy has hit Park ‘n Fly more in some markets than in others. They are jammed in colder climes where people are heading south for spring break (only those with reservations need try to park during those full-up periods). However, in some locations, traffic may be down.
“Let’s face it,” Paalz said. “If fewer people are flying, there are going to be fewer people to park their cars. However, I would say that the market, although not as good as it was, say, three years ago, is still prosperous. If there are fewer parkers, we need to get a bigger percentage of them.
“We offer a level of service, I think, just not found in on-airport locations. If you self-park in the airport structures, you walk to the terminal. You carry or pull your luggage. If you are new to the airport, there is no one in the garage to assist or give directions. Travel can be very off-putting. We offer a friendly face from the moment you arrive.”
Airports are by nature congested. There are shuttles, buses, vans, pick-ups, drop-offs, signs, signals and confusing parking. Paalz said that off-airport parking offers an alternative to all that. You can pull in and park before all the congestion and confusion starts.
“Business travelers want convenience, and they want it quick. Nothing is worse than standing on the curb and seeing the shuttles from five off-airport lots go by before the one you parked in shows up. We strive to ensure that that doesn’t happen,” Paalz said.
The existence of off-airport parking is in the best interest of the consumer, he said. It helps control prices, and competition means better service all around
“Parking is part of the entire trip. If a person can reserve their parking space as they plan for their trip, it’s one less thing they have to worry about. It also affects the overall cost of their trip and can greatly increase the stress level, particularly if they can’t find parking and are running against the clock.”
Park ‘n Fly hopes to make travel easier, Paalz said. They are a part of one of the largest corporate travel companies in the country, BCD Holdings, which shares its building in Atlanta.
“We focus on the overall travel experience. If any part goes bad, it can affect the entire trip. We are a travel partner.”
Paalz wants his customers to feel as if the most stressful part of their trip is over when they get into the shuttle. “We want them to feel that they are now in a comfort zone.”
Safety, and the perception of safety, is a big factor. Large, sometimes dark and dirty structures can be off-putting. Open space with shuttles driving around increase the security factor, and people feel more comfortable, he said.
Park ‘n Fly owns or runs 18 facilities in 12 markets. When PT remarked that it seemed much larger, Paalz smiled and said that they also provide their reservation service to parkers at 66 airports around the country. You make your reservation with Park ‘n Fly but you park in an affiliated location.
“We would love to run more off-airport locations for owners. We just took over Park One at LAX and have found it a very successful experience.”
Paalz came to Park ‘n Fly from PODS (Portable On Demand Storage). “(At PODS) we knew that we had to get our concept out there. When times were slow, we would take a ‘pod’ and sit it on the street near busy intersections. The advertising was great.
“Keeping shuttles running through the airport is the same concept,” Paalz said. “We may not pick someone up on that trip, but we will tell people standing on the curb that next time they should park with us.”
“It’s about service, brand and customer loyalty. We are focusing on technology to help us in all those areas. Come back in a year and see what technology can do for the airport parking business.”