Linkedin has a number of parking discussion groups and the PT group is particularly well attended. A week or so ago a member asked this question:
More and more Councils are now outsourcing their parking services. Should this be the way forward as councils tried to reduce their overhead costs?
Most responses followed this:
Total outsourcing I do not believe is the answer, especially as the media is always criticizing issues that unfortunately normally are created by a contractor (admittedly not all are the same) but paints the whole of our industry in a bad light. But with improved technology there are many different options and or combinations of the operation that can seriously reduce overheads, also keep good control and improve the public image – we need to think a bit more about control and customer service on how to improve our image making the whole experience more welcoming. For local authorities, yes it is a business and hard decisions need to be made, but essentially it is a service and if well run produces good results all around.
I commented as follows:
The public sector by its nature has different goals than the private sector. By definition the private sector is there to make a profit. Left to its own devices in a normal marketplace this will lead to excellent service and efficient operations. The best and most profitable companies simply create the best. However in the public sector the market place is skewed. The contracts usually eliminate competition, and the natural market forces are removed. Cities try to artificially handle those issues (audits, supervision, etc) but mostly fail since they don’t really understanding the working of the parking industry.
The solution is not easy. The public sector is by nature political and parking is an emotive topic. The concept of “Customer” and “service” is foreign to most public agencies, as they rely on “enforcement” and “regulation” to have their way.
And right on schedule:
…you are right in stating that parking in the Public sector is ‘a business’ and has to be run as such, but there has to be a balance when discussing ‘service’. Service does not mean slap them a ticket regardless and do not listen to excuses, it is about fair but firm efficient enforcement and listening to customer needs and to make their (the vast majority of customers) parking experience a good one. We need to keep working on getting them on our side. There will always be the inconsiderate and difficult drivers but that is all part of the course.
The paragraph above restates the problem…How do we help the public sector to really understand what the term “customers” and “service” really means? Most private sector businesses would never even use the words “firm, efficient enforcement” as ways to change a customer’s behavior. If the goal is to get a customer to, for instance, use an ATM rather than stand in line inside the bank, first they would make the ATM as easy to use as possible. They then they would make it faster than standing inside the bank. They would ensure the ATMS were in out of the cold where appropriate, and reward people for using them. Over a period of time the quaint concept of coming in to the bank and standing in line to talk to a teller would go the way of the dodo and the customer would love the concept.
The goal of the private sector is to acquire loyal customers and keep them loyal. It has something to sell and something the customer wants or needs. It then attempts to do a better job of pricing and delivery than its competition.
Those in the public sector of the parking industry need to begin by looking at our product, our goals, and our true reason for existence. Once we come to terms with that, then perhaps we can begin to determine ways to treat our customers as needed to reach those goals. Our approach today seems to me to be far too close to a police state than to an organization providing a product to a willing public.