Magazine

Cyberspace Changing the Business of Valet Parking

By Melissa Bean Sterzick

The internet and digital technology have made huge changes in the way the world operates. Itís an understatement to say instant communication and the speedy transfer of any and all information has altered the landscape of commerce and hospitality. For the valet industry, these innovations increase the speed and accuracy of every function from reservations to payment to delivery.
But itís not a given that these technologies will revolutionize valet parking as fast as they have changed the rest of the world. The challenge of making web-based and digital software compatible with valet service is to bridge the gap between information and endeavor.
The unseen technology of the web has to interface directly with the very physical hardware of valet service Ė including the valets themselves, the vehicles, garages and keys. It can be a rough transition from cyberspace to parking space, but new applications in the field of valet operation are smoothing the way.
Automated Valet has created an application that links an online reservation site directly to its operating system installed at a valet service. This application is currently in use exclusively at airport valet operations. The reservation site can be set up by Automated Valet or the operator himself. Online reservation options bring valet service up to a level most people have come to expect. You can order a pizza from your desk, read the news, research dinosaurs, and even buy a car. Airlines have offered online reservations for nearly a decade. Customers who use this feature have the advantage of a valet staff that is expecting them.
To make a reservation users log on and schedule their arrival at and departure from the airport coinciding with air travel. They select dates and times and can enter their credit card number to be saved for future transactions. Users can also request special services for their car such as car wash or oil change if they are offered by the facility.
The convenience of this technology benefits customers and valet staff. For management, the reservation application helps predict how busy certain days or hours might be and facilitates scheduling. Frequent customers can be recognized and rewarded for their patronage. The valet staff has the advantage of knowing ahead of time how many customers will be arriving, and at airports, they have information about arrivals well before the customer lands and can prepare vehicles in a timely manner.
The Valet Boarding Pass, another Automated Valet invention, works hand in hand with the online reservations application. Once the reservations are made customers receive an email including a printable ticket with a barcode that contains all relevant information about services requested, arrival and departure times, payment and tip. Customersí information is also transferred from the reservation page to the operating system. When the customer arrives other information about the carís make, model and VIN, as well as any digitally scanned images of previous damage to the vehicle, is encoded on the ticket. That information becomes part of the customerís service profile for that transaction and is managed by the system until the transaction is complete.
For customers, the Valet Boarding Pass is information and expedience. They leave their car with the valet and continue to their destination armed with a single piece of paper that, when scanned by valet staff, contains all the information needed for their transaction.
Itís nice to imagine a world where travel takes place as instantaneously as communication, but until the teleporter becomes a reality, human beings will require bikes, cars, planes, trains and buses. For the valet operator there will be bags to carry, doors to slam, keys to secure, payment to collect, and to people to please.
Valet operations today run almost the same way they have since the idea presented itself. Customers arrive with cars and a valet takes their keys and parks the vehicle for them. On the flip side, the customers return and then so does their car. It is all of the details in between that require the speed of fiber optics and the instant transmission of discrete values. Credit cards must be accepted carefully, vehicles must be checked for damages to safeguard the operatorís revenue, and service must be streamlined for the sake of satisfaction of the customer and the solvency of the operator. The internet and digital technology are two innovations that make these particulars happen successfully.

Article Abstract from December, 2009




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