Making Mall Valet an Essential Service
By Mine Gulec
Valet service at mall locations is a growing trend. While some consumers are happy with self-park, many have begun to see this amenity as an important part of their shopping experience.
They want to be pampered when they shop, and searching for a parking space is not part of their plans. Besides that, heavy weekend traffic and the jam-packed lots that come with major holidays require malls and shopping centers to offer the valet option. Without it, some become inaccessible.
The layout of a mall can make valet parking a difficult arrangement. Multiple exits and entrances and extensive property give customers many choices and valet operations many bases to cover.
Aventura Mall in South Florida, for example, has 280 stores, nearly 30 restaurants, and five receiving and delivery areas. With valet staff and customers spread out across several acres, the center of operation has become more virtual than physical.
“Our goal at Aventura Mall was to implement technology that would guarantee we could meet the expectations of the mall’s owners and the valet customers themselves,” says Bijan Eghtedari, President of Park One, which operates its valet services. “Progress in the industry and trends in the marketplace require us to devise and implement plans to keep up.”
Park One, with the AVPM system from Automated Valet, has a setup that gathers data from each receiving and delivery area and channels it to one server to monitor and control service and revenue.
Valet service is conducted on the curb, but the vital reporting and accounting tasks that come with the job are carried out at Park One’s South Florida office, where the point of service server is located.
“We believe that providing good service at this location means distinguishing the physical work from the academic work,” Eghtedari says. “These two aspects are equally important but can be handled differently, in different places. By focusing energy on the valet work on-site and doing the accounting work at our offices, we can offer our best in both areas.”
Management cannot be everywhere at once, so running the operating system out of Park One’s corporate offices is an innovative approach. Most operations run off the suppliers’ servers, but this setup gives Park One additional speed and integration. All reporting capabilities, ticket and validation inventory, payroll and scheduling, and any other revenue control matters are run at the main office.
An AVPM feature called Enterprise gives Park One the ability to create reports or conduct scheduling or payroll from any location. If they choose to visit the site, they can use their laptop computer to conduct business the same way they would in the corporate office.
At the mall itself, each receiving area is equipped with wireless hardware used to conduct all transactions. For checking-in customers, the operation uses handheld computers and Bluetooth scanners. These devices do not require electrical connections and relay information directly to the server. That includes entry and exit times; a vehicle’s make, model and VIN; and damage control for any previous damages.
Another custom approach was to set up prepaid payment. All fees are collected in advance which takes a little extra time on entry but speeds customers through on exit. This tactic also eliminates any confusion for customers as they complete their shopping.
“People are tired after a day or even a few hours of shopping,” says Automated Valet CEO Ken Gulec. “They are relieved to know payment has been made and now they can just get their car and go home.”
In their mall-site dispatch office, Park One uses several strategies to gather information that supports the virtual operations headquarters. They include fingerprint time and attendance.
The size of the Aventura Mall requires a controlled process for recording staff hours. Employees clock in and out with their fingerprints. No other method is accepted. This creates consistency and total reliability for scheduling and payroll purposes. The margin for error or fraud is eliminated, and cutting paychecks is a simple, automated procedure.
Eghtedari and Gulec say they have created an ideal system for valet operations at complicated mall locations.
“When you have such a large geographic area, the controls must be adjusted,” Gulec says. “Putting the right tools in the right places makes all the difference for efficiency, good service and revenue control.”
Park One operates valet services for luxury hotels, offices and retail complexes, including nearby Acqualina Resort & Spa and Trump International Sonesta Beach Resort. The company also operates parking for more than 100 locations in South Florida. Automated Valet designs automation and revenue control systems for every type of valet location.
Mine Gulec can be reached at email@example.com
Article Abstract from October, 2010