Bringing some good comments out into the Sunlight

From time to time I strike a nerve. I seem to have done so with my post on hotel parking in Houston — I dammed parking professionals for not doing a better job. Some agreed, but others didn’t to wit:

From Rufus:

Wait! Don’t blame the parking professional!

I have a few hotel managers who understand and appreciate parking revenue and revenue control, and I have many more hotel managers who care more about the guest experience than parking revenue. Most of those hotel managers have standing orders that the exit gate be opened and guests be let out for free if more than X number of cars are in the exit line. (arghh!)

When I was early in my parking career and sales/catering managers would either heavily discount or just plain give away parking in order to sign a big deal, I would get so frustrated! Now a days I have my hotel parking managers document the value of comp’d parking revenue and submit a monthly report to their hotel GM and me. It’s a great audit trail and satisfies my bosses when the monthly lost ticket report comes out.

Face it, hotel managers are complaint averse and their bias is towards revenue from heads in beds, not revenue from the parking lot/garage. It’s a rare hotel manager who understands parking and the fact that their parking garage is a valuable profit center.

In my 25 years of experience, I have found that most hotel managers want three things from their parking crew: (1) to accommodate every guest car, (2) to minimize the valet wait, and (3) NO COMPLAINTS!!!

Period, end of story.

And Brandy:

Maybe the operator could be doing a better job, but Rufus is spot on. I’ve managed hotel valet and self park in many locations across the country and even with the best intentions (and parking equipment), I’ve NEVER been able to get ticket loss below 10%. Even when I managed a municipal facility that had an agreement with an adjacent hotel with the owner’s consultant on my rear end constantly about it.

In addition to hotels being extremely complaint averse, there are some things about hotel parking that just organically generate ticket loss. Say the front desk issues a credential that allows in-out access for the length of the stay. The customer parks first and forgets to bring the spitter ticket to the front desk. Lost ticket. The customer leaves and comes back – they pull a ticket, forgetting they have a pass. Next time they leave, they try to use their pass (and yes, you’ve put antipassback on it) and it doesn’t work but they don’t know where the ticket is. Lost ticket. The front desk is supposed to collect spitter tickets when they issue a pass but the person doesn’t care and throws it away. Lost ticket.

You can try, but you can’t win this war. If you stick to your guns, you’ll have unacceptable customer service levels and you’ll still probably have lost tickets anyway. Oh, and the hotel will fire you and run it themselves. One of the best ways to control this is to audit the hotel’s billing records against the last name and compare it upon the vehicle’s exit. That way you have lots of lost tickets, but you’re cutting your revenue loss. Of course, forget about an automated garage…

I sympathize, but this is below the line thinking — Brandy and Rufus are blaming everyone else for the results — the hotel guest, the front desk clerk, the hotel owner, the concierge, the maid who puts the candy on your pillow –. Sure they make our lives difficult, but as professionals we should be able to work around these issues…and still have a controlled, well run, easy to use environment.

1. Use the hotel key for entrance and exit. The guest may forget their parking pass in the room, but usually not their key.

2. Train train train — be sure all people in the chain are trained in how the system works and what to do to help guests who are confused.  This includes the concierge, the front desk, the bell staff, the valets, and the cashiers. Show up at their meetings and talk to them about the system and how it works.

3. Make it worth the guest’s while to turn in tickets that are inadvertently pulled for one of the reasons Brandy mentions. “Drop this off at the front desk and get a new car”…well maybe not a new car but maybe a free cup of coffee or a drink in the bar.

4. Put the cashiers on the trail of lost tickets — give awards for not having lost tickets.

5. Take the button out of the booth and make the cashier justify every time they open a gate (best justification a tickets with a room number, second best a room number and a name, third best, well you get the idea)

6 etc etc etc –

I’m sitting in an office in LA and I have come up with five ways to make the hotel parking operation better and I know nothing about parking.

Its just too easy to put the onus on everyone else except the garage manager or his boss.

Our goal is to run a business while giving good service. I doubt if the hotel owner would agree that the hotel just just give away the room if the person’s cc was rejected. But he is willing to give away the parking because he see that it has no value — Parking Pros, we got a lot of splaining to do.

JVH

PS Above the line or below the line thinking — the Oz Principle — Below the line thinkers put the ‘blame’ on others and shove responsibility away. Above the line thinkers grab responsibility and look to ways to solve intractable problems.

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5 Responses to Bringing some good comments out into the Sunlight

  1. Rufus says:

    John,

    I’ll give you credit for being an eternal optimist!

  2. Brandy Stanley says:

    We should add a new session at PIE – “JVH vs” and we all get the chance to have a debate with you……

  3. JVH says:

    Brandy — You are ON! PIE 2013 — The smackdown, JVH VS Brandy and her team — loser buys…
    JVH

  4. CJD says:

    I got bottle of Johnny Walker Blue on Brandy! BUT, I agree with JVH here. This operation sounds horrifc. Its probably a management deal, with no revenue bonus, and the hotel doesnt care about the revenue. Which means the operator doesnt care about the revenue. They have thier weakest manager and employees there.

    JVH- They are training, the problem is when the employess are trained and know what they are doing they quickly get moved to a leased location where revenue matters to the operator. Same thing for managers. You stick you new managers in your lowest risk operation, management fee with no bonus.

    If the hotel doesnt care, the operator wont care. So in the end, I guess I agree with both parties on some points.

    Smart money is still on Brandy and Co!

  5. These issues should be raised with the asset owner. Consistent NOI and Revpar growth matter at that level, and goals associated with growing these numbers balance customer service and revenue generation. The “issues” raised here are non-issues with the right technology, processes, and continual education.

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