Parking equipment vendors are beginning to bring modern computer technology to bear on the industry. The goal, it seems, is to be able to provide a high level of computer hardware and software power without the average garage having to have an MIT graduate on site to keep the equipment running. The concept is to have mainframe computers located off site (maybe rented from Verizon or whomever) and have each piece of equipment hold an IP address. They would all be connected by a high speed internet line and decisions as to whether or not a person should be let in, or how much to charge a certain ticket, would be made off site.
This would also enable extremely complex software to be brought to bear on the business of parking, and managers would have fast and complete information about their individual businesses, no matter where they are on the planet. Obviously different companies approach the problem differently, and each has an argument why their product is a better way, but that is for each to decide.
There is another reason for having this type of technology in your garage. It enables you to begin to administer your facility from an off-site central location. No more manager in the garage, no cashier, no bookkeeper. Maybe you have a ‘rover’ in a community to be available to help with equipment malfunctions, but that’s it.
One major parking company is even considering doing away with city and regional offices. When this goes on line, the city manager will be like the “Lincoln Lawyer.” He or she will be working out of their car. Talk about cutting expenses. From half a dozen employees in each garage (many more for larger facilities) and offices with rent, receptionists, and the like to a manager, a rover, and a couple of cell phones.
Some parts of this makes good business sense. But there is one area I’m not quite so sure.
Parking is a personal business. People like to see someone when they park their car. Owners like to have someone on site to give that ‘personal’ touch. Drivers like to wave to a familiar face, and often appreciate the ability to ask directions or for help when needed.
One attempts to change the business from a personal, one on one problem solving relationship to a “McParking” one size fits all approach, at his or her peril. The successful companies will blend the “clouds” and technology with personal contact and service. Where you remove 100% of the staff, maybe 80% would be better. Well trained concierges who solve problems, meet and greet, and frankly just make life a little better for the drivers will work for the successful companies. Those that try to replace all people with technology will not succeed.
I go to Disneyland as much to talk to Mickey, have my picture taken with Snow White, or be welcomed by a clean cut young person who simply is there with a smile, as I do to ride Star Tours and the Matterhorn. Those Disney folks know about customer service. Successful parking companies do too.