By Cindy Campbell                                                                                     

YOU MEET THE MOST FASCINATING PEOPLE ON AIRPLANES. On a recent cross-­county flight, I was seated next to an interesting gentleman. David was about my age and appeared to be a fellow business traveler. The conversation between us started out much the same as they always do—we each shared where home was and what our final destination of the day would be, followed by the expected question about what each of us does for a living. As we chatted, David told me that he was originally from the U.K. but now lives and works in North America. “What is it that you do for a living, Cindy?” he asked.

Now, the fact that I’m very proud of our industry doesn’t completely dismiss that awkward moment when I attempt to tell someone that I’m a parking pro­fessional. It probably won’t surprise you to learn that it’s not necessarily the term I lead with when speaking to someone uninitiated to the concept of our profes­sional role; I usually offer, “I’m a public speaker.” This typically leads to more questions and allows me to talk posi­tively and in more detail about parking, transportation, and mobility.

David told me he’s a business con­sultant. “When I lived and worked in the U.K., I was a business improvement con­sultant in the banking industry,” he said. “When I moved to the States about 10 years ago, I started doing the same type of consulting for the health care indus­try.” I was curious about this move as it didn’t seem like a natural professional progression. He explained that as a banking industry consultant, his primary role was to help financial institutions improve their bottom lines through en­hanced customer relations and improve the continuity of services delivered. To date, his work in health care consulting has focused on two specialties: hema­tology and physical therapy.

It’s All the Same

David asked me who I work for and what topics I speak about. Now, I will admit that it delights me to watch the quizzical expression on the faces of the uninitiated when I utter the words “In­ternational Parking Institute” or “parking professional.” David listened intently as I explained the industry and our goal to advance our profession. He seemed gen­uinely interested to hear about how we view the concepts of customer service and conflict resolution. “You know,” he said, “our industries really are not that different.” He now had my attention.

“What I hear you telling me is that in your work, it is your task to get parking professionals to understand the correla­tion between the quality of the interactions they have with their customers and the level of success they enjoy. Is that cor­rect?” “Yes,” I said, “it can certainly make or break the reputation of an agency.”

“I had a successful consulting busi­ness in banking,” said David. “When I relocated to the States and moved into health care, I assumed it would be a very different end goal for my clients. It didn’t take me long to figure out that there are more similarities than differences between customer perception within banking and health care services. It’s not something I’d considered before today, but after this discussion, I am seeing much the same thing in comparison to the parking industry.”

David had made an interesting obser­vation that had me considering the par­allels between health care and parking. They really are quite similar—everyone needs them and nobody thinks much about them until we need them. In both health care and parking, the basic ser­vices remain roughly the same wherever you go, so the difference between a good and a bad experience is likely deter­mined by the level of service we receive.

At the end of the day, most industries have some connection to service. The common denominator will always be the customer’s experience.

CINDY CAMPBELL is IPI’s senior training and development specialist. She is available for onsite training and professional development and can be reached at