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Taking Flight: How Customer Service Technology Improves Airport Parking

October 8, 2021

Brian Wolff

If there’s any type of facility where ‘frictionless’ automated parking has the potential to cause friction, it’s airport parking. When travelers are getting off a flight and preparing to drive home, the last thing they need is to be stranded in a parking garage behind a gate that won’t go up. They are likely to be tired, anxious to get home, and maybe a little bit cranky. No tired traveler wants to be stuck behind a gate that won’t open trying to figure out why the equipment won’t accept a credit card or paid ticket.


It’s a very real concern for airport parking administrators and the travelers they serve. Over the past decade, airport parking facilities have become nearly universally automated. Equipment that automates parking access and egress provides many benefits to airports, reducing operational costs significantly, providing a much more user-friendly parking experience, and reducing the amount of time it takes to get out of a busy airport parking garage—most of the time. Like any technology, parking equipment sometimes doesn’t work as intended, and a human interaction is needed. 


However, issues aren’t always the fault of the equipment, in fact, usually they aren’t. The usefulness of parking technology—as with any equipment—is limited, not just by its functionality, but also by the ability of people to use it. There are many types of parking technologies in use, and drivers aren’t always adept at using each one. Screens, button placement, and user instructions vary from brand to brand, and that can cause confusion among parkers who are exposed to different types of equipment at different locales. Add in driver fatigue (or impatience) and you have a recipe for disaster. 


Often, it’s not the technology that’s failing, it’s the person who is failing to use it properly.


As reliable as PARCS equipment is—and it is very reliable—issues happen every day. In the United States alone, it’s estimated that parking guests require assistance in parking facilities a minimum of 85 million times per year. That’s over a quarter of a million calls a day! 


That’s why a customer service solution is such an important complement to automated parking systems. Whether problems arise because of user error or an issue with the equipment, a customer service representative can solve the problem and quickly get the driver on his or her way.


If not addressed, when issues arise in an airport parking facility, the cost can be high. With other types of transportation modes, if the lot or garage gains a reputation for being difficult, drivers might merely look for another method of getting to and from the airport, such as TNCs, taxis, buses, trams, etc. That can be costly, for sure. 


However, with airports, the stakes can be much higher. Travelers consider the entire travel experience when choosing an airport. In some markets, there may be two or three airports within easy reach. If travelers decide to fly from another airport because the parking experience is unpleasant or inconvenient, it’s not just parking revenues that are affected. Airlines flying from that airport may lose business, as will the restaurants and stores that operate in the terminals. That can mean a huge hit to the airport’s bottom line.


That’s why a virtual customer service solution is so important to airport parking operations. It can help airport parking and transportation departments avoid these issues and protect profit.


 


Benefits to Travelers and Airport Operations


What happens when an airport parking garage’s equipment doesn’t work as planned? You don’t want drivers waiting behind a closed gate until a parking employee or enforcement officer can be summoned to handle the situation. 


That’s where a parking customer service solution comes in. With the aid of virtual ambassadors, they can be engaged with the push of a button. Airport parking administrators can turn to a company that specializes in customer service for parking and has the software platform to manage it. Or they can manage their own call center operations and utilize an outsourced customer service platform. The typical system provides a live audio connection to a trained customer service professional who can help solve the parker’s problem. However, one system even offers two-way video calling (a proprietary, patented technology) so that the customer service representative can see for him or herself what the issue is, to diagnose and solve the problem, and provide a higher level of customer service. 


For the traveler, the end of the transaction is the end of the story. But, not for the airport parking operator. With a customer service solution, every call is recorded, and that data is available to airport administrators and their operators. When utilized properly, it can help them improve their systems to minimize problems in the future, thus providing a better parking experience in parking facilities and making airport parking operations more effective and efficient. 


Airport parking administrators and operators also have instant access to data about how many calls were made on a given day, week, or month, and the nature of each call. For instance, they can monitor how many entry/exit issues, ghost calls, invalid validations or permits, credit card payment issues, invalid tickets, or any other issues there are. This information can be analyzed for any particular period or length of time.


This is information then can be used to improve operations and customer service. For instance, if there is an excessive number of invalid tickets, that could be an indication that the PARCS equipment located at the entrance is malfunctioning and needs to be repaired or replaced. 


The same conclusion might be drawn if there is an unusually high number of credit card payment issues. Or, if there are too many invalid validations or permits, it could indicate that the permit readers are malfunctioning or that the equipment that creates the permits themselves is faulty. 


No matter what types of problems arise, the data created by the system can help diagnose the issues and help airport parking administrators and operators address them more efficiently and cost-effectively. 


In this frictionless parking age, airport parking administrators and operators still face one source of potential friction that can be particularly unpleasant for tired travelers. 


A parking customer service solution can help eliminate that friction, improve the airport parking experience, and help airports protect their bottom lines. 


Brian Wolff is President & CEO of Parker Technology. He can be reached at brian.wolff@helpmeparker.com


 



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