Tag Archives: customer service

Giving Extra Grace While Keeping Your Staff Safe

By Vanessa Solesbee, CAPP

In a normal year, many mild-mannered, rational people go a bit crazy during the holidays. As evidenced by the countless news stories about pre-COVID stampedes and fist fights over that prime parking space, this time of year tends to bring out some of our less desirable characteristics.

For many, the added stress of the pandemic has begun to normalize, and not in a good way. We are all getting used to being in a constant state of anxiety and high alert—about our health, job security, our families, friends, and our communities. Many who work in customer service roles have participated in training after training about how to effectively negotiate difficult people, both before and during the pandemic. We’ve also recognized that people are just not themselves right now and that most people who act out just need a bit of extra grace or some time to cool down.

While this pandemic has provided all of us with an opportunity to develop or build upon our emotional intelligence skills, giving our patrons a little extra grace does not mean we should lose sight of our commitment to keeping those we employ and/or manage safe and supported.

Recently, one of my staff had an unfortunate experience with a community member well-known for expressing displeasure (not just about parking). This individual chased our town enforcement vehicle, making several unsafe maneuvers in traffic, yelling out the window until the employee pulled over. The individual then jumped out of his car and rushed the driver’s side door, yelling and waving his citation. The staff member handled the verbal altercation well and it resolved without escalation to the police department, however the community member then wrote a scathing email blaming the employee, me, and the town for a poor customer service interaction to our mayor, town trustees, local paper, and others.

Thankfully, the entire interaction (including the almost movie-like chase) was caught on our in-car camera. The staff member was equipped with a police department radio, and my employee and I did a full debrief immediately afterwards and he provided me with a written report. Our investment in the proper pre-incident security measures and post-incident protocols allowed me to provide a full and accurate account of the situation. It also allowed me to confidently and firmly stand up for my employee and state in a (very) public manner that this type of behavior would not be tolerated under any circumstances.

While this type of interaction is not new to anyone who has been working in parking (and transit) for any length of time, the situation was a good reminder that no matter what external factors the world throws our way (pandemic, wildfires, economic instability), making sure our frontline employees feel safe, protected, and supported should be priority one. Many of us have been trained that excellent customer service includes giving our patrons the benefit of the doubt every time (“the customer is always right!”), but this philosophy can also encourage an immediate imbalance in the power/relational dynamics of service provider and customer.

I have worked in a customer service type of position for the majority of my 18-year career and have learned I am better able to serve angry or disgruntled patrons if there is an understanding that a basic level of civility is required from both parties. While I may feel empowered by my role, experience, or privilege to lay down firm boundaries with those I serve, it is important that as a manager, I also work continuously to ensure my staff feels that same empowerment—not for the purpose of swinging toward the opposite end of the spectrum (“the customer is always out to get me”) but to confirm their value as employees in our organization and their value as human beings, worthy of feeling supported and protected each time they put on the uniform and head out the door.

Vanessa Solesbee, CAPP, is parking and transit manager and Estes Valley Resiliency Collaborative (EVRC) Administrator for the Town of Estes, Colo.

Frontline Fundamentals: Flipping the Script on Customer Service. Presented by Vanessa Cummings, CAPP

Free to IPMI members, pre-registration required.


Non-members may attend for a $35 registration fee.  Click the register link above to attend as a non-member.  Need help logging in?

Contact us at professionaldevelopment@parking-mobility.org.


Flipping the Script on Customer Service

Vanessa Cummings, CAPP

Understanding perceptions and reality when the shoe is on the other foot can be essential to improving customer service at every level.  This upbeat session will include role playing and a healthy dose of fun as we review and assess the actions and reactions between customers and our frontline customer service and enforcement personnel. Takeaways will include an effective tool to help you keep your cool in stressful situations.

Vanessa Cummings, CAPP, has 25 years of experience in parking, transportation management, and supervision. She’s passionate about inspiring and empowering people through real-life experiences and humor to teach and mentor. As a pastor, parking professional, and consultant, she serves as a trainer, meeting planner and facilitator, and inspirational speaker. She has provided training and consulting for IPMI, colleges, universities, regional conferences, and churches for 19 years.

Flipping the Switch with the BEAST

By Vanessa R. Cummings, CAPP

When you work with customers, which most of us do, you need to know the best way to interact with them. Some are less than friendly; we may also have colleagues, friends, or family who push our buttons. If you can relate to this, then you need to meet the BEAST.

So, who is this BEAST? It’s an approach that can help you to stay professionally focused when dealing with difficult people and situations. Changing your mindset when challenged is the key.

Want to know more? Consider attending the “Flipping the Script on Customer Service” Frontline Fundamentals session on Tuesday, Oct. 20. Trust me, this will be fun and interactive. Yes, it is safe for your customers, family, church, friends, and colleagues. The BEAST is something we all need to use and keep in our toolkit. If you deal with difficult people, you need to meet the BEAST.

Vanessa R. Cummings, CAPP, is CEO of Ms. V Consulting, LLC. She will present on this topic during a free-for-IPMI-members online session tailored for frontline parking professionals on Tuesday, Oct. 20. Click here for details and to register.

Member News: Flowbird Uses Advanced Technology To Limit Contact During Transactions

May 6th, 2020

Company focuses on reducing germ spread while supporting city financial health

Moorestown, NJ – Flowbird Group has announced recent developments that limit the amount of physical interaction with its parking kiosks and an alternative to avoid the kiosks altogether. The leader in curbside management, having been involved in downtown commerce for over 50 years, plays a critical role in urban mobility. The company’s solutions have helped cities worldwide collect vital revenue that is reinvested to provide invaluable services to the community. During this global pandemic, the physical and financial health of cities are being threatened, leading Flowbird to respond to the call.

One such feature is Flowbird’s latest release of pay station software called, “recall”, which is now available on the CWT smart parking kiosk.  How does it work? The recall feature makes a ‘token’ from the credit card used the first time a driver makes a transaction at a kiosk. The next time they return and swipe their card, the kiosk will suggest the same license plate number and phone number for text receipts. This limits the amount of physical interaction when entering their license plate number for pay-by-plate transactions, or entering their phone number for time expiration reminders and receipts. The recall function is an optional feature that the City operator can choose to enable on their kiosks.

While credit card use at Flowbird kiosks remain high and contactless payments rise in popularity, Flowbird reminds and encourages drivers to use ‘tap-to-pay’ methods whenever possible. Several Flowbird clients are in the final phases of launching contactless/NFC payments, including the ability to accept Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, and credit cards with the NFC symbol.  This method of payment eliminates another touchpoint at the kiosk.

For users who are not quite ready to interact with pay stations or meters, Flowbird continues to provide and make advances to its Flowbird mobile payment application. The latest release of the app was recently launched at the end of April, giving drivers the option to search, filter, book and pay for a parking reservation before they even leave their home.  This gives motorists a completely contactless parking experience.

“Our number one concern will always be our customers and their safety,” said Benoit Reliquet, President of Flowbird, North America, “Over the last several months, we have also seen city revenues dropping tremendously, so it is important that we offer as many ways as possible for cities to continue to collect parking fees while ensuring the health and wellbeing of its citizens.”

Currently, Flowbird supports over 40,000 parking pay stations for over 600 customers throughout the U.S.  Their mobile apps have been deployed in over 600 municipalities and universities around the world including 100 locations in the United States, with over 1.5 million mobile users globally.



Flowbird US Media Contact
Sean Renn – Vice President of Marketing & Communications

IPMI Webinar: The CCPA and State Efforts to Protect Consumer Privacy: What the Parking Industry Should Know

Live Online Webcast: Free for CPPA and IPMI Members $25.00 for Non-members

The California Public Parking Association (CPPA) in partnership with IPMI is hosting this presentation that will review the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 and various state efforts to protect the privacy of its citizens, including:

  • An overview of common privacy threats and legal landscape:  Shooting at a moving target
  • The intersection of expanding customer expectations and legal obligations
  • Discussion of what makes an information security/privacy program “defensible”?
  • The ROI for investing time and resources in an information security/privacy program
  • Effective strategizing for moving to the next level of cybersecurity and privacy protection


  • Understand the changing legal landscape related to consumer privacy and the likely legal changes on the horizon;
  • What efforts that they can engage in now to both prepare to meet their specific legal obligations and to implement information security/privacy program “best practices” in their organizations; and
  • Which internal and external resources (e.g., data privacy officers, outside counsel, information security experts) can help them right-size their efforts regarding a fast changing area of the law.


Sue Friedburg is the co-chair of Buchanan’s Cybersecurity and Data Privacy Group.  Sue advises clients about the rapidly evolving standards of care for safeguarding confidential information and responding effectively to security incidents that threaten to compromise our client’s valuable or protected information.  Sue has extensive experience advising clients on the fast-changing world of consumer privacy laws at the federal and state level.






Robert Holland regularly advises clients from all business sectors on the impact of consumer privacy laws and legislation that continue to be a hot topic across the United States.  Bringing his experience to businesses offering a variety of products and services, Rob helps them address the sometimes thorny implementation issues related to the laws.  No two businesses are the same, and Rob brings that recognition to help each business craft a unique approach to protect their customers and their reputations.






Jason Wrona is a legal veteran to the parking industry, having served as counsel to a number of public and private parking operators and related businesses.  Notably, Jason has served as the outside counsel to the Pittsburgh Parking Authority for more than 10 years.  He has a deep understanding of all facets of the parking industry and is proud to be counted as a “parking nerd.”

Hit By the Bus—and Smiling

IPMI Blog bus imageBy David M. Feehan

I read with a smile Kim Fernandez’s story about her stupid furnace and brand loyalty. It made me recall an incident that occurred just before Christmas.

I was on my way to visit my son and his family in Brooklyn. It was a lousy night for driving from D.C.—rainy, foggy, and bone-chilling. I had just pulled off the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge and onto the BQE (the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway), exited at the Fort Hamilton off ramp, and was preparing to turn right on 65th Street. While waiting at stop light, I suddenly felt a bump. I looked to my left and there was an MTA city bus, trying to squeeze between my Jeep and another car.

I started honking and flashing my brights and the bus driver pulled over to the curb. The young driver got out, came around to my driver’s side window, and asked if anyone was injured. I told him I thought it was a minor collision and he looked at the side of my Jeep and then told me he would call his supervisor but it might be awhile before anyone would come. Wanting to make sure I had a record of the accident, I called New York City Police, who promised to send a squad.

Within about 20 minutes, two MTA supervisors arrived. They were very friendly and courteous. One, noticing my Maryland plates, remarked about the Nationals winning the World Series. Before long, we were discussing the 1969 Amazin’ Mets and the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates. After the supervisor took a number of photos with his cell phone, he explained how I could file a claim and gave me a form with instructions and a number to call. By the time police arrived, we had pretty well settled the issue.

When I returned to Maryland, I found I already had two mailings from MTA with the forms I needed and the instructions for filing a claim. I then received a call from Dominick, a representative of MTA’s legal department, who wanted to check and see if I received the forms and again walked me through the process of filing a claim.

All’s well that ends well. I took the Jeep to my neighborhood body shop, where the owner rubbed out the scratches with some rubbing compound. No harm, no foul.

Who said transit agencies are by nature rude and impossible to deal with? New York’s MTA set an example for other transit and parking systems. There is a lesson here for any public agency, whether transit or parking. Encounters like these can build loyalty or animosity. Your choice.

David M. Feehan is president of Civitas Consultants, LLC.

Member News: Parker Technology Partners with Greenleaf Hospitality Group in Kalamazoo, MI

Indianapolis, IN—Parker Technology, the leading provider of parking customer service, has successfully been providing 24/7 customer support for the Radisson Plaza Hotel in Kalamazoo, MI since September. With Parker’s customer service platform, guests and visitors to the Radisson Plaza Hotel can immediately reach a Parker Technology customer service representative if they experience problems when entering or exiting the hotel garage. Parker’s call buttons are integrated into all of the hotel’s parking payment kiosks to provide instant access to their cloud-based platform, and thus a connection to their customer service reps. The Radisson Plaza Hotel is owned and operated by Greenleaf Hospitality Group.

“Greenleaf Hospitality Group (GHG) was excited to identify Parker Technology as a solution provider within the Parking Access and Revenue Control (PARC) world that focused on the Customer Care challenges that a parking operation can present to both our parking guests and our PARC operator team. Due to the breadth of clients Parker Technology partners with, we are leaning on them as experts in this space to collaborate with us to provide the best solutions for our parking guests. It is not a one and done conversation either, we are routinely monitoring Parker’s customer service reps’ recorded interactions with our parking guests to identify ways to continuously improve the experience for everyone involved. We are learning and discussing what works and what does not, as well as how to prevent certain types of issues from arising in the future. Parker Technology listens to us as a partner as we tackle the opportunities together; they are truly an extension of our own customer service team. We are excited to see their business model grow and be part of the story to develop a new standard of PARC related Customer Care through ongoing continuous improvement, engagement and passion for the customer!” – GHG’s PARC Experience Task Force

In today’s increasingly automated parking industry, customer support platforms often provide the sole connection between parkers and trained professionals who can help solve common problems related to paying for parking or entering and exiting garages. Each year, parkers across the US reach out to customer service professionals via call buttons at least 85 million times. This statistic is extrapolated from the Parker Technology platform, which also records and analyzes data about each call to determine which issues are most common and help hotel administrators better manage their parking resources.

“We are delighted to be partnering with Greenleaf Hospitality Group to offer customer support to the Radisson Plaza Hotel’s parking patrons and guests,” said Brian Wolff, president and CEO of Parker Technology. “A hotel’s parking garage is often the first experience a guest has at a hotel, and our parking customer service platform can have a vital role in guest satisfaction. We are proud that Greenleaf Hospitality Group has entrusted their guests’ satisfaction to us.”


Greenleaf Hospitality Group (GHG) is comprised of Radisson Plaza Hotel, Wings Event Center, Wings West and several outlets located in each. GHG aims to make a positive impact on the greater Kalamazoo community by providing premier establishments of dining, hospitality, and entertainment. Learn more at greenleafhospitalitygroup.com.

Parker Technology is a fast-growth tech-led software and services company that provides parking facilities with a premium customer experience, by helping resolve issues for parking guests when they fail in the face of automated payment kiosks. Parker’s patient, well-informed customer service specialists answer and resolve intercom “help” calls 24/7, and boasts being the only company in the parking industry that can deliver this service with face-to-face, two-way video communication. Putting this personal, human touch back into an automated situation enhances the customer experience, provides metrics to improve operational efficiencies, increases successful payments and outcomes and ensures customer service calls are answered. Learn more at www.helpmeparker.com.

Loving Your Customers

woman using phone with hearts floating in the airBy Kathleen Federici, MEd

I recently had the opportunity to attend a TEDx in my hometown. TEDx includes TED Talks videos and live speakers to spark discussion and connection among the group in attendance. At this event, there were five live speakers and two speakers on video. It was interesting to see a common theme among most of the speakers: the importance of being customer-centered. One speaker was so passionate about the role of the customer that his talk was all around how to “love” your customer. I don’t believe I will be dwelling on that point, as he did, but I do believe that there is credibility in the make-or-break role of the customer.

Another speaker went on to illustrate statistics linking  longevity of an organization with how they treated their customers, regardless of the size of the company. He illustrated with charts and showed that statistically, if the customer was placed as first in the culture of the company, that organization went on to financial success no matter its size. If profits were placed first in the company culture, that organization faced financial ruin in less than eight years. He highlighted this with numerous citations.

I found this both interesting and reassuring. The University of Virginia multi-day course  IPMI holds at our annual Conference actually backs up the message. Don’t tell anyone, but they have a question on their end-of-course assessment addressing this very topic!

Although I cannot go so far as that one speaker did about “loving” the customer. I do appreciate the message and the importance of making positive connections with customers.

Kathleen Federici, MEd, is IPMI’s director of professional development.

Tissues and the Extra Mile

water bottles in iceBy Kim Fernandez

My husband tapped me on the shoulder, nodded behind me, and said, “Check it out.” We’d spent about an hour in a big showroom making one of those dreaded necessary purchases one delays as long as possible (“adulting”) and our salesperson had asked if we’d like a drink. We both asked for water and started playing on our phones, and then the tap and the nod happened.

I turned around and saw the man we were working with standing at a desk across the huge room. He’d picked two water bottles out of a cooler and was pulling tissues out of a box, which he then used to carefully dry the bottles off before walking back over to hand them to us. I laughed, “We could have done that,” and he shrugged and smiled and went to find out whether our paperwork was ready.

Maybe a manager taught him to dry off water bottles before handing them to customers–maybe it’s part of their company training. My gut says his momma ingrained it in him as a reflex, along with holding doors, saying please and thank you, and picking up things other people drop. Either way, it was a three-second touch that spoke volumes and went a whole long way toward making a potentially unpleasant experience quite bearable. Those little things made me want to work with him again should the opportunity present itself.

Sometimes the extra mile is an inch, but it makes all the difference.

Kim Fernandez is IPMI’s director of publications and editor of Parking & Mobility.