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Case Study: Improving the Fan Experience

18-09 Improving the Fan Experience18-09 Improving Fan experience pg 2

By David Hoyt

The new Mercedes-Benz Stadium (home to the Atlanta Falcons football team and Atlanta United FC soccer) opened for business in 2017. The state-of-the-art facility replaced the Georgia Dome, which was in operation since 1992. From day one, the new stadium’s owners challenged both internal and external team members to create a fan experience like no other, and from the unique architectural design elements to cutting-edge technologies inside and out, Mercedes-Benz Stadium did just that. And, by the way, the new stadium, which rivals some of the most iconic event venues in the world, includes one of the most innovative parking experiences anywhere.

If you have never been, Mercedes-Benz Stadium in­cludes some of the most captivating features ever seen in a sports arena environment. The design includes an eight-panel retractable roof that resembles and opens like a pinwheel, allowing the stadium to open and close depending on weather and other elements.
Inside the stadium, a 360-degree “halo” cylindrical video board curves around the top, from end zone to end zone, showcasing game highlights, advertisements, and other graphics and features. Further, the stadium also features a 100-yard bar stretching the length of the football field on the upper concourse, as well as a fanta­sy football lounge and premium field-level club seating behind the team benches.

How parking made a difference at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Ownership continues to invest in this world-class venue by adding more entry and exit points into the stadium, creating a Home Depot Backyard fan zone, a future pedestrian bridge providing access from certain parking areas, and a nearby MARTA transit station. Ownership is relentless in providing a fan experience like no other.

One of the most critical elements to improving the fan experience was to accommodate the parking needs of the thousands of spectators arriving to events at the stadium. In a place like Atlanta, Ga., the majority of event attendees drive, so the project required the inte­gration of numerous parking facilities and lots.
As is the case with most event operations, but par­ticularly a 70,000-seat urban stadium, the effective and efficient movement of vehicles in and out of the parking areas can have a profound effect on the overall fan experience. Therefore, parking was one of the highest priorities to this project. In particular, a main question was how to administer a parking program that can en­hance—not detract from—the arrival experience.

Designing a Program for Fans
The first step to ensuring a positive parking experience was to develop a parking program specifically designed for the fans. The project team, which consisted of team and ParkMobile staff, was tasked with creating a program that would work for all stakeholders, includ­ing suite holders, season ticket holders, single-game ticket holders, one-off event holders, VIPs, staff, third-party employees, volunteers, and the media. The project team had to account for each of these stake­holders and, in many cases, develop a specific parking strategy for each.

The parking program at the stadium had to effec­tively engage with the fans before their automobiles came to rest at their parking spaces. Out of those initial discussions, an interactive web interface was designed that could provide all necessary stakeholders with the ability to take their appropriate parking action remote­ly via multiple mediums.
This Mercedes-Benz parking reservation interface creates an efficient process for administering the ap­propriate parking rights to the various stakeholders. The interactive reservation system allows future park­ers to select the event they are planning to attend and the parking facility or lot in which they wish to park. The platform provides the location and details of each parking area, including a map, distance from the sta­dium, pricing, and ease of exit. Patrons can then either print their parking pass or retrieve their pass in their stadium or parking reservation app at any time. Future enhancements will include the purchase of the parking pass via certain connected cars, allowing the fan to re­serve and drive straight to a stadium parking lot via the in-vehicle navigation screen. Further, the site provides digital parking passes that are accountable and audit­able, with each game or event permit being unique to that particular date and time.

As ownership only had control of a limited number of parking spaces, the project team had to engage with the area operators to secure enough parking for the fans, staff, third-party vendors, and all other stakehold­ers. Because the program had to provide access to all stakeholders, parking inventory had to include both prime and secondary spaces. The current program includes more than 20,000 parking spaces from seven different parking operators up to two miles away from the stadium.

The Importance of Reservations
Because the stadium was going to have a high drive ratio, getting the fans to their parking areas was critical to the success of the program. The project team knew early on that we must focus primarily on providing the ability to pre-purchase and reserve parking. While parking reservations took the guesswork out of making the parking purchase decision, providing fans with real-time routing could reduce the number of people driving around looking for their parking locations.

Thanks to a partnership with Waze, every parking permit allows for real-time routing to the parking facility entrance. Not only does this help create a more efficient and pleasant experience for parkers (and parking staff), but it also helps reduce congestion and improve safety by expediting fans directly to a parking garage or lot.

Monitoring Is Key
While the program encompasses multiple parking op­erators, some have embraced the concept of improving the fan experience through parking. SP+ constantly monitors event parking in real time via its command center at the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC). Through a robust campus-wide camera system, as well as significant personnel on the ground, watching the situation in the parking areas and on the streets, in­gress times are closely monitored.

This system also includes real-time tracking of how many parking passes have been purchased, as well as an inventory of vehicles and used parking spaces as facilities fill up. This information is critically import­ant to the ability to park as many cars as quickly as pos­sible, taking advantage of unclaimed reservations and under-used parking areas.
GWCC recently invested in additional technology that tracks all transactions down to the smallest de­tail and is fully integrated to accept stadium parking reservations in real time. All the data—electronic and visual—is used to make real-time decisions at the most critical time of the parking experience. The parking team evaluates its performance after every event, taking into account all the factors that influence the ingress and egress of the events—weather, score, date of the event, time of the event, etc. If there are potential improvements to be made, the team takes immediate action before the next event.

Promoting Alternative Transportation
The project team knew that promoting alternative modes of transportation would reduce congestion and improve the overall fan experience at the stadium. In addition to providing significant accommodations to attendees driving vehicles, the project team focused on creating more mobility options for those who may seek an alternative to driving.
As mentioned, there is a MARTA public transpor­tation station next to the stadium, so people have the option to take the train if they choose. Ride-sharing is also growing in popularity, with many attendees being dropped off near the stadium by services such as Uber and Lyft. Mercedes-Benz Stadium partnered with Lyft to provide two pick-up/drop-off locations in close proximity to the stadium.

Another very unique element to this project was the promotion of bicycle transportation. Biking to the sta­dium is easy. The stadium partnered with the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition to provide an enjoyable riding experi­ence, including a bike valet at most events and 250 bike racks around the stadium.

The final step to the development and implementation of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium parking program is com­munication. It is extremely important to keep the fans connected and make them feel they are being served in the best manner possible, from arriving at the stadium in their vehicle, via public transportation, or even on a bike or on foot, throughout the course of the game or event, and when they leave at the end. In addition to the various applications and websites mentioned, the media has also been critical to helping get the word out to patrons.

Local Atlanta media regularly provide important information related to parking, technology, alter­native-transportation options, and event tailgating. Mercedes-Benz Stadium also uses social media to a great extent to communicate directly with future cus­tomers regarding events weeks in advance and their parking and transportation options the day of their planned event.

The undertaking of such a significant new stadium, in an urban downtown setting like Atlanta, comes with a number of complications. However, after less than a year in operation, they have already seen many suc­cessful events and results, including:

  • Rated No. 2 in 2017 NFL fan arrival.
  • Voted No. 1 in the NFL and MLS “Voice of the Fan” surveys.
  • Won the SportTechie award for most innovative venue.
  • Sports Business Journal Sports Breakthrough of the Year for food and beverage experience.
  • Sports Team of the Year—Atlanta United.
  • Sports Executive of the Year—Arthur Blank (owner of the Atlanta Falcons).
  • Hosted the 2018 college football playoff champion­ship game.
  • Future host of the 2019 Super Bowl and MLS All-Star Game, as well as the 2020 NCAA Men’s Final Four.

While the average, everyday event attendee may not necessarily make the connection, we in the parking in­dustry understand that without an effective and quali­ty parking and transportation program, not only would the day-to-day events be far more complicated and difficult, but it would be nearly impossible to provide the highest-level fan experience possible. The owners, managers, and decision-makers of Mercedes-Benz Stadium understood the importance of not only creat­ing a great experience inside the stadium, but outside the stadium as well. They took into account the events of the entire event day, from arrival to departure, and went to great lengths to consider the many details of a very complicated process.

Parking and transportation issues often get lost in the details of such a significant project, yet the de­velopment of a comprehensive, intuitive, and quality parking and transportation program has helped to dra­matically improve the Mercedes-Benz Stadium experi­ence for fans from beginning to end.

Read the article here.

DAVID HOYT is senior vice president, sales and account management, with ParkMobile. He can be reached at david.hoyt@parkmobile.io.


ON THE FRONTLINE: Be Who You Represent

By Cindy Campbell

I RECENTLY SAT DOWN FOR DINNER in a well-known chain restaurant during my travels. Arriving in town the night before a long week of training, I decided a decent meal would be a good idea. Now, I’ve dined at this national chain a number of times and I always leave with a very positive feeling about food quality and customer service, so it surprised me when the proverbial wheels came off the wagon on this particular visit.
It started out as it always has: I’m seated, menu provided, drink delivered, order placed. It did seem to take an exceptionally long time for my simple order to arrive, and when it did, I im­mediately noticed that it wasn’t right. Knowing that things like this happen, I politely pointed it out to the server. Without comment, he picked up the plate and took it back to the kitchen.

After 20 minutes, I asked if he thought it would be much longer. His response started with a heavy sigh and finished with, “I’ll check with the kitch­en.” An additional 25 minutes passed and at that point, I was done. The server stopped again at the table and told me he would recheck with the kitchen, to which I responded, “No. I’m done. I believe I’ve waited long enough. If you would give me my bill for the drink, I’d appreciate it.” Again, without comment, he briefly stepped away and came back with my bill.

As he set it down, another server ar­rived at the table with my order, which, frustratingly, was still not correct. The server silently stood looking at me, presumably waiting to see if I wanted to keep it this time around. “Sorry, still not what I ordered,” I said. He shrugged his shoulders and curtly responded, “Well, I don’t know what to tell you. It’s not my fault. I gave the right order to the kitch­en.” In fairness to this young man, his observation could have been ­accurate—it’s entirely possible that he had entered the order correctly and kitchen staff had misread it twice. Here’s my point: The issue wasn’t in the mistake happening; it was in the server’s failure to under­stand his role as a representative of the brand.

Representing the Brand
We all work for someone. Whether you work for a private company, a public organization, or even if you’re self-­employed, in some way we all represent a larger entity. Let’s say for example that you work for a municipality as a parking ambassador. You may be the only city representative with whom members of the public have ever per­sonally interacted. At that very moment, you are the face of the city. Your atti­tude, demeanor, word choice, and body language help shape their opinion of you, your agency, and of the city—the entire city.

What about service limitations, agency policies, or even errors that are out of our control? What happens when the customer is unhappy and you’re left holding the proverbial bag on behalf of the city? Is it OK to sim­ply shrug your shoulders and declare that it’s not your fault? The public will not always be satisfied with the answers and options you are able to give. In that moment, you have the responsibility to recognize that you are the city, and even when you don’t agree with the options, you must always be who you represent. With your words and actions, you have the potential to shape perceptions and future decisions about you and of your greater agency, even if the circumstances are completely out of your control. Setting our personal viewpoints aside can be difficult. Because we represent a larger brand, we must consistently fight the urge to disassociate ourselves from regu­lations or circumstances with which we disagree. This type of professional disassociation serves no one well.

The Takeaway
That night at the restaurant, I left feel­ing frustrated. I know that I will never go back to that specific restaurant, and it will probably be a very long time before I set foot inside another of the franchise locations. I committed to telling others about my bad experience, knowing that many of them may adopt my viewpoint and avoid experiencing it personally.
One more notable thing to share about this experience. As I walked away that night, I was also thinking about situations early in my career where I’m certain I reflected poorly on my person­al brand and that of my employer. On many occasions throughout my career, I know I’ve made similar customer service blunders where I lost sight of my brand and who I represented. The lessons are there if we’re willing to rec­ognize and learn from them.

Read the article here.

CINDY CAMPBELL is IPMI’s senior training and development specialist. She is available for onsite training and professional development and can be reached at campbell@parking-mobility.org

Wait, My Customers Said What?

By Alex Smith, AAE

Customers are the lifeblood of the parking industry, but how do you as an operator know they are satisfied, find value in your product, or have specific issues with your facility? Metrics are an integral part of a successful parking operation, but how your customers perceive your operation is paramount. There are a multitude of tools to measure customer perception:

  • Secret shopper programs. A secret shopper program will send unidentifiable individuals to a contracted business site to measure and quantify the levels of service, various attributes related to staff, and other benchmarks a business wishes to measure. They are a valuable tool as the shoppers blend in with other customers, allowing the company to get a realistic sense of what the customer experiences.
  • Customer surveys. Customer surveys are a flexible way for a business to not only measure customer perception and experiences, but  also draw responses from a broad population to get statistically significant measurements. This allows the company to better gauge of what is actually occurring rather than relying on the subjective nature of one secret shopper. Furthermore, customer surveys can be a great opportunity for a parking operator to reward its customers for their loyalty by offering coupons for completing a survey.

These examples are only a sliver of a very complicated science. At the end of the day, an effective measurement program will help champion a customer-centric parking operation!

Alex Smith, AAE, is operations manager with the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport.


You Talkin’ to Me?

By Cindy Campbell

Here’s an interesting statistic regarding the primary cause of conflict: 10 percent of conflicts are due to differences of opinion. 90 percent are due to using the wrong tone of voice.

Now, I can’t verify this statistic but I can tell you that it feels true. Like the adage, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it,” the tone of our voice can sometimes deliver a completely different message than what we intend. We inadvertently communicate an attitude of disinterest or even aggression through facial expression, body language, and tone of voice. Let’s be honest with ourselves: It isn’t always unintended when we choose to communicate this way.

You know the parental tone I’m talking about. If you’re like me, at some point in the past, you’ve made a point to school someone who challenged your authority, viewpoint, or policy. Let me ask you—how’s that workin’ for ya?

If our intent is to set someone straight when they disagree with us by adding a lecturing tone to what should be a professional message, it’s likely that the only point you’re getting across is that you’re not a very good representative of your agency or yourself for that matter.

We are more easily understood when we leave the condescending attitude and tone behind and simply choose to communicate with respect—even when the person we’re speaking with doesn’t show us that same level of respect. This approach is especially important when the person we’re talking with doesn’t appreciate the message itself.

Do yourself a favor by going out of your way to make sure your tone of voice doesn’t sabotage your good message.

Cindy Campbell is IPI’s senior training and development specialist.

Recognizing Excellence

Recognizing Excellence

IPI’s 2016 Professional Recognition Program awardees serve as leaders, mentors, and inspirations for the industry.

LOTS OF PEOPLE EMBODY THE “PROFESSIONAL” in “parking professional,” but there are those who do it in a way that not only leads their individual organizations to success, but inspires everyone around them to work a little harder, smile a little more, and strive to reach just a little higher every day. Those are the people IPI recognizes with its Professional Recognition Program awards, and this year’s recipients are no exception.
Honored at the 2016 IPI Conference & Expo in Nashville, this year’s awardees have mentored younger staff members, launched new programs, built bridges between parking departments and their larger communities, and served as leaders both at work and during their off hours. We hope you enjoy their stories and use them to inspire your staff and yourself!

Staff Member of the Year
Jeremy Hernandez | Bicycle Coordinator
The University of Texas at Austin Parking & Transportation Services

In just two years with Parking & Transportation Services at the University of Texas at
Austin, Jeremy Hernandez has become known as a leader and mentor for both his department and the university as a whole. In fact, he’s credited with both promoting excellence at his desk and developing strategic working relationships with local and state government entities, which is a huge plus for the university.

Hernandez oversees the daily operation of the bicycle program, which includes education, maintenance, enforcement, project coordination, wayfinding and communication, community events, auctions, and the daily operations of the campus bicycle shop. He also oversees the Orange Bike Project (a student-led initiative) and the BikeUT Twitter account, where he’s generated more than 600 messages about the university bike program and biking in general. This outreach has spilled over to Bike Texas, where he cultivates an active working relationship to spread the word about safe cycling throughout Austin and the state. Additionally, he works with the City of Austin to coordinate the city’s and university’s bike programs.

Hernandez was instrumental in procuring 100 new bike racks and 1,000 new bicycle parking spaces on campus, some in locations previously inaccessible. He suggested permeable surfaces to create bike parking in areas that weren’t suitable for it before, which combined a new parking addition with a sustainability element.

The UT-Austin Bike Auction, which attracted more than 500 people this year, also owes much of its success to Hernandez; it raised more than $20,000 to support campus bike infrastructure. And he’s done all of this with a great, positive attitude, terrific work ethic, and willingness to both get his hands dirty and lead by example.

Supervisor of the Year
Cathy Harrison | Office Supervisor
Arizona State University Parking & Transit Services, Tempe Campus

Cathy Harrison is one of those people everyone wants to work with. Kind, compassionate, helpful, and motivated, she’s worked with Arizona State University Parking & Transportation Services for more than 20 years.

A supervisor for the past 10 years, Harrison and her staff of seven serve more than 100,000 students and employees. She greets every co-worker and customer every day and helps boost morale, leading by example to encourage her employees to make smart decisions and taking a sincere interest in her crew and customers.

Harrison started her career with Arizona State University as a part-time employee and worked her way up to supervisor, giving her keen insight into each employee’s duties and challenges. Customers know they can rely on her to find the best possible accommodation for each unique situation, and she’s the recipient of several Sun Awards, which are given by university staff to their peers for individual excellence.

She was the first female president of a local chapter of the Tempe and Arizona Jaycees and guided her chapter to a “Chapter of the Year” designation. She is a Life Member of the Tempe Jaycees and received an Arizona Jaycee Senatorship in 1991; she was also named Outstanding Program Manager by the U.S. Jaycees for her work with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Lifetime Achievement Award
H. Carl Walker, PE | Chief Executive Officer
Carl Walker, Inc.

H. Carl Walker is wellknown throughout the parking industry as a pioneer in the design of new parking structures and has contributed much to the industry throughout his career. It all started at Precast Industries, Kalamazoo, Mich.; he eventually went to work with T.Y. Lin, an engineering consultant and professor at Cal Berkeley, and designed his first garage: a 600-space structure for General Motors in Detroit, Mich.

Walker founded the company that became Walker Parking Consultants in 1965 and launched what is now Carl Walker, Inc., in 1982. Walker has been personally involved in more than 2,500 parking projects during his career, including parking studies, structural engineering for parking structures, functional design of parking structures, prime design of more than 500 completed structures, restoration projects, and serving as expert witness on many projects.

Early in the 1970s, he led the development of standards for criteria to design parking decks; the manual included vertical loads and other information vital to long-lasting structures. Walker says memories of good projects are usually based on respecting the people who ran them and the good relationships formed during the process. But he’s also known for more technical successes, including:

  • Introducing design concepts that include the use of mercury vapor, sodium vapor, and metal-halide high-intensity lighting; glass-backed elevators; PVC drainage systems; the archistructure concept of structural concrete design; and durability design of extended service life.
  • Developing the first standards for criteria to design parking decks.
  • Speaking around the world.
  • Writing articles about parking structure design and restoration.
  • Being named an adjunct professor at the University of Michigan.
  • Receiving multiple awards from IPI, the University of Michigan, and other organizations.
  • Founding four companies specializing in parking consulting, design, and restoration.

Emerging Leader of the Year
Blanca Gamez | Assistant Director, Parking & Transportation Services
The University of Texas at Austin

Blanca Gamez was hired as a student assistant for special events for the University of Texas at Austin’s Parking & Transportation Services department back in 2000. She worked there until her graduation in 2004, returned to the department as an administrative associate in 2006, earned her master’s degree in public administration and urban and environmental planning, and along the way established herself as a transportation expert and leader both with the university and in the parking industry.

Gamez has held positions on multiple transportation organization boards and worked through numerous organizations to mentor young women preparing for careers in science, technology, engineering, math, and transportation. She’s also an academic coach for the College of Natural Sciences Texas Interdisciplinary Program and a senior advisor with the Con Mi Madre program, where she works with Latina women preparing to go to college.

Gamez is known for working with many groups to build support for car sharing, including establishing an innovative partnership with Zipcar; after seeing the success of the program at the university level, the City of Austin expanded its share program in a similar way. She made changes to the university carpool program that grew it from 50 users to nearly 1,500. And among her greatest successes is the BikeUT program, where she’s developed mixed-use pathways, increased the number of bike lockers and racks, established a bicycle hub and fix-it stations, led bicycle appreciation events, and mentored the student-led Orange Bike Project, which provides short-term rentals for students.

In 2014, Gamez began working on her PhD in adult, professional, and community education and expects to graduate in a few semesters.

Parking Organization of the Year 
Texas Tech University Transportation & Parking Services

During one weekend in November 2015, the Texas Tech University campus hosted the first men’s basketball game of the season; a conference volleyball game; the first round of the NCAA soccer tournament; a Lady Raiders Basketball Education Day game with 105 buses carrying 6,000 children; the final home football game with more than 55,000 fans; a press conference with more than 200 attendees; and 15 additional special events, along with the normal departmental operations on a campus with 35,000 students and 6,000 employees. Five years ago, this feat would have been next to impossible. Today, Texas Tech University Transportation and Parking Services (TPS) handles days like these with relative ease.

After years of complaints, heckling, parking shortages, insults unsuitable to print, and weekly editorial cartoons in the student newspaper blasting the department, TPS placed an intense focus on customer service and technology improvements.

First to come online was a license-plate-recognition (LPR) system coded for university parking use in August 2010. The switch went over extremely well with customers. The department continued its forward progress in fall 2013 with eCitations (the first paperless parking ticket program), becoming the first university parking system to commercialize its software.

Texas Tech also saw a large increase in students using alternative transportation. By fall 2015, 54 percent of students biked, walked, bused, or carpooled to campus. To handle the growth, TPS built bike parking areas, began reselling abandoned bicycles, and assisted the student government association with the management of bus routes and apartment route contract payments. The department changed its name from University Parking Services to Transportation and Parking Services to reflect the wider focus.

Customer service programs expanded:

  • Communications increased permit-holder notifications by email and text.
  • Marketing created the Bike Clinic, a free event for campus cyclists, winning an inaugural IPI Parking Matters® Marketing & Communications Award and earning plenty of campus news coverage.
  • Toys for Tickets encourages customers to exchange a new, unwrapped toy for dismissal of a parking citation.
  • Expectant Mother Parking (EMP) and Temporary Assistance Parking (TAP) programs provide closer parking to permit holders at no charge.
  • The free Motorist Assistance Program (MAP) saved 944 stranded motorists on campus in fiscal year 2015.
  • TPS developed a first-citation dismissal program to give students one citation at no charge to chalk it up to a learning experience.
  • The new abandoned bike sales program returned 130 bicycles to students and employees in 2014—its pilot year—and 342 in 2015.
  • Increased staffing and training helps create a great first impression with families at Raider Welcome move-in events and an increased presence at dozens of campus resource fairs.
  • Proactive Twitter and Facebook accounts provide additional customer service and communications outlets.

Increased efficiency led to increased sales, greater lot utilization, less abuse, and higher and multiple revenue streams. The customer-service focus stopped the editorial cartoons and instead led to informative pieces about parking updates and programs. TPS is now known for its flexibility, openness, service, and efficiency.

Parking Organization of the Year
The University of Texas at Austin, Parking & Transportation Services

As the fastest-growing large city in the U.S., Austin, Texas, is in a race for space, and on the University of Texas at Austin campus, the landscape is no different. New buildings are being erected each year where once there were surface parking lots. As these lots make way for academic progress, the university’s Parking and Transportation Services (PTS) department has adapted by moving parking to the periphery of campus and establishing a robust transportation system. With a campus of more than 75,000 people; events bringing in 100,000+ on a given day; a new medical school on the way; and only 90 full-time PTS employees, PTS runs efficient, innovative, and dedicated operations to provide access and mobility.

PTS added two garages in the past five years, and another three are currently underway. Along with adding electric vehicle (EV) charging stations in an older garage, the newest garage is LEED certified, and PTS is seeking Green Garage Certification (now Parksmart) for those under construction. Once complete, PTS will manage 12 garages and 50 surface lots, totaling nearly 17,000 spaces. Along with lot- and garage-specific permits, low-cost general surface permits are available to access periphery surface lots, and frequent buses transport parkers to and from central campus. PTS also offers a low-cost permit that provides access to periphery surface lots during the day and all-garage access at night and on weekends.

Event and departmental guest parking options include custom event garage access cards, single-use access cards, scratch-off permits, and online event parking through Click and Park, which has collected $350,000 in online event sales since 2012; 12 percent of event parking permits were purchased online last semester.

Within the past two years, PTS has focused on expansion of online services, adding the ability to recharge garage debit cards, as well as manage permit waitlist selections. The university shuttle system has 10 dedicated routes to shuttle individuals around campus, as well as to student housing areas in Austin. PTS partners with the local public transportation provider to offer university affiliates fare-free rides on both the shuttle system and 70 mainline system routes. PTS also collaborated with the university athletics department to provide the Longhorns Express bus service between remote lots and the stadium on football game days.

The uRide 24-5 program operates five days per week providing fare-free car service home from the library after midnight, while uRide Safe Ride was designed to give students safe, no-charge car rides home from the downtown entertainment district. It joins PTS’s other collaboration, the E-Bus, which provides fare-free bus service to and from downtown.

One of PTS’s biggest pushes in recent years has been to improve cycling on campus. PTS’s BikeUT program has semester auctions and runs The Kickstand, a bike hub selling supplies and loaning tools and offering registration. Recently, PTS also began managing a shop where cyclists can rent bikes or use tools.

James M. Hunnicutt, CAPP, Parking Professional of the Year
Anne Guest | (Retired) Director
Missoula Parking Commission

During Anne Guest’s 20-year tenure, the Missoula Parking Commission (MPC) evolved into a full-service agency that builds and manages parking in the Missoula, Mont., community and serves as a major player in local economic development initiatives.

One of the characteristics that sets the MPC apart from most parking programs in the country is its level of community engagement. The MPC and Guest were involved in a wide range of community initiatives, including active involvement with almost every community development agency and significant institutional organization in Missoula. The positive and intimate relationship of the MPC to the Missoula Downtown Association, the Missoula Redevelopment Agency, and the Downtown Business Improvement District formed the basis of a cohesive and well-integrated downtown partnership.

Guest and the MPC worked closely with several other organizations to create a comprehensive and integrated access management network in downtown Missoula. The MPC became an effective contributor in the community and economic development arenas along with parking and transportation.

Under Guest’s leadership, the MPC became a major funding partner and active participant in the Greater Missoula Downtown Master Plan. Perhaps the most significant parking program action item to emerge from this was the decision to build a significant new parking garage to support a focus on retail growth. The Park Place garage was an important catalyst project for the community and won an IPI Award of Excellence.

Guest also oversaw the development of a parking strategic plan, which was an integrated element of the Greater Missoula Downtown Master Plan. The MPC adopted a strategic framework of 10 guiding principles that aligned parking philosophies and programs with the larger downtown strategic goals and objectives. To keep the community informed of the parking program’s progress, the MPC created an annual report that further explained the importance and contributions of the MPC. The report included a section titled “Why Parking Matters.”

Finally, Guest oversaw an upgrade to the latest modern multi-space meter technology that added a wide range of positive downtown customer service enhancements.

James M. Hunnicutt, CAPP, Parking Professional of the Year 
Melinda Alonzo, CAPP | Director, Parking & Transit
Arizona State University Parking & Transit Services

To many, parking is thought of as merely two stall lines, nine feet apart, that designate where a car can be left unattended. To Melinda Alonzo, it’s about leading-edge technology, abundant alternate transportation options, and innovative programs with an unwavering focus on customer service.

In 2011, Alonzo introduced Service Blueprinting to Arizona State University Parking & Transit Services (ASU PTS). More than 60 PTS employees have participated in Service Blueprinting training, mastering a versatile and practical technique that visualizes service processes and delivery from a customer’s point of view.

Under Alonzo’s stewardship, bicycling at ASU has blossomed into a program that boasts three card-access bicycle parking facilities; four bike valet stations; nearly 4,000 registered bicyclists; and 25 percent more bike racks on campus than there were just three years ago.

In 2006, she created an in-house communications team to facilitate more effective and timely information to PTS customers. This venture proved so successful that the associate vice president for university business services employed the team to assist other departments with their communications efforts. Alonzo developed the Gimme-A-Break program in 2007—vehicles not in the parking database system receive a $0 citation upon their first parking citation on campus. She also established the Eco-Pass, which allows for 30 all-day in/out parking privileges at a designated parking structure or lot. This program makes taking alternate forms of transportation more attractive because it provides commuters with a safety net during rainy-day situations.

In what is perhaps the most tangible proof of giving back to the campus community, Alonzo created the Benefactor Program to donate parking revenue to a university program or student-run organization. More than $18,000 has been donated to Arizona State University’s American Dream Academy, Student Health Outreach for Wellness, and the ASU School of Art combined.

TPP-2016-07-Recognizing Excellence


Passing the Baton

by Monica Tanksley tpp-2016-06-passing-the-baton_page_1

Raising the Next Generation of Parking and Transportation Leaders

HAVE YOU EVER WATCHED A TRACK AND FIELD RELAY RACE? As the lead runner on each team runs the first part of the race, the next runner gets prepared. The runner anxiously times his or her teammate’s arrival and begins running before the lead runner has overtaken him or her.

A relay race is won in the exchange of the baton. The runners must transfer the baton in an exchange zone; if they fail to make the exchange in this zone, the team is disqualified. The crucial moment arrives, and the lead runner surrenders the baton to the next runner. Even the smallest hesitation or miscalculation can cost the team the race.

The new generation of parking and transportation leaders is ready and waiting in the wings, and the parking and transportation baton has to be passed on to this generation. It’s inevitable. If we fail to pass on our resources and industry knowledge to the next generation’s up-and-coming men and women so they can run their leg of the race, they will be stranded at the starting block without a baton.

Passing It Along
We must develop, train, and mentor young parking professionals so they can develop, teach, and train other young men and women to succeed them from generation to generation. It is critical that we develop the next generation of parking and transportation leadership. If we lack the sensitivity, readiness, and willingness to train them and pass the baton, we fail to groom our future parking and transportation leaders. Gloating over our own accomplishments and not wanting to grandfather the next generation into the field because we fear this group might be more talented than us is failing to ensure successorship.

Mentoring is nothing more than a relationship through which one person empowers and equips another. Some important factors that may hinder the transfer of the parking and transportation baton are:

  • Poor mentoring procedures.
  • The lack of intentional mentoring.
  • Incorrect/wrong mentoring.

We may tend to lack proper mentoring methodologies and procedures, and that leads to a poor quality mentoring. Proper mentoring should be a prerequisite in development of our leaders-to-be. The parking and transportation industry has a great need for well-prepared, properly trained men and women to follow in our footsteps.

Intentional Mentoring
We may also tend to skip intentional mentoring—we lack a deliberate strategy to prepare our successors. We mentor informally without a purposeful and focused strategy plan to train our trainees. We train passively or occasionally from a distance, being casual, informal, and with a lack of supervision. We allow younger staffers to tag along with us and observe and learn on their own in the hopes they will pick up on accountability and reliability. As we all know, that doesn’t happen accidentally, so we need to change the way we teach on the job. We must mentor intensively with discipline, guidance, and coaching. We must manage our relationship while being focused and organized.

Good mentors produce good successors. When mentoring is unstructured and ineffective, our successors will not be well-prepared or secured. It’s imperative we invest in them. A good mentorship is intentional and intensive and provides the right environment for potential leaders to rise up to their own place of influence. Weak, casual, non-focused, or disorganized mentoring is damaging.

When passing the parking and transportation baton, we must be focused and goal-oriented. We must give our trainees a sense of direction and bearing as well as a directed vision and mission. There must be a plan, a strategy, and supervision. We must invest as well as instruct.

We also should be careful that as mentors we don’t have a short vision, an over-domineering spirit, or become too busy to find the proper time to train. As senior staff, we must pass the benefits of our experience on to our successors.

Determining our Legacy
Before we pass the baton, however we first must make sure there is a baton to pass on and that the baton is not dropped. How can one pass on a baton if it’s not there to pass, if there is no legacy or vision to pass on or leave behind? We must ask ourselves several vital questions to be sure the baton is passed:

  • Do I have a next man or woman in line?
  • Am I serious enough to prepare him or her?
  • Do I have a plan to develop him or her?
  • Am I willing to invest time in him or her?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, the baton will not be passed. We must know how to secure young men and women into the industry and propel them into their rightful places as leaders. There are several ways we can properly pass the parking and transportation baton successfully on to the next generation. We can give people proper apprenticeship training, provide the right climate for their development, empower them, and—most importantly— believe in them!

Parking and transportation’s future will be digital. Working digitally will require managing digitally. Parking and transportation apps will be routinely used in everyday business operations and in every aspect of running a parking and transportation organization, from leadership development and recruitment decisions, to wage and benefit incentives. It is for this reason we need to look for what I call altrocentric leaders to lead.

What is an altrocentric leader? In past generations, leaders were categorized as egocentric—they used power and formal authority to get the job done and commanded results. Altrocentric leaders, on the other hand, keep their egos in check and view themselves as part of a greater whole of the organization. They take satisfaction in their team members’ accomplishments and in being productive team players themselves. They understand the nature of their leadership role and have an empathetic ability to attract, retain, and motivate the diversified and highly independent workforce of the future. They are not the “do as I say and say as I do” leaders of the past. Altrocentric leaders possess emotional intelligence, self awareness, and self control. They have the influencing skills future leaders will need to thrive in the ever-changing and challenging parking and transportation organizations of the future.

Going digital will demand leaders who aren’t afraid to learn from their younger colleagues. Although technical skills will be a prerequisite in this digital era, how the potential leaders apply their skills and experience to influence and lead groups when it’s time to hand off the baton will be key to their success.

We must be able to see the potential in our up-andcoming leaders, tolerate their mistakes, be flexible in handling their failures, have patience when time and experience are needed, and encourage and build our co-workers up when they fall along the way.

As coaches, we should focus on our employees’ hidden potential and strengths, persistently urge them to anchor themselves, help set their direction, and provide motivation, skills, and applications that meet the upcoming challenges and tasks that lie ahead.

Building Confidence
Our basic functions as coaches should be to impart confidence, skills, and knowledge to the next generation. We should motivate them to bring out the best in themselves and model our principles and values. We should observe our leaders-to-be in action while evaluating them and giving them feedback. We must teach them to have patience and time, be accountable, and accept responsibility.

There are certain qualities, however, that we must expect from those in whom we are investing time and effort. We should demand a standard from our potential leaders. They must be focused and determined to push on and come up. They must be disciplined to rise to a position of influence; not being disciplined can result in a downfall.

Unfortunately, we can’t turn back the clock. We can’t start over. We can’t insulate the new generation from the effects of the supply and demand of parking and transportation needs not being met. We can, however, transfer our parking and transportation industry morals, wisdom, values, and etiquette to the next generation.

A good leader doesn’t pass the baton too soon. A great leader does not hold on to the baton too long. Learning how to pass the baton neither too soon nor too late is an art. It is an art that must be rehearsed because both the giver and the receiver need lots of practice!

MONICA TANKSLEY is special events manager at the University of Rochester. She can be reached at mgayton-tanksley@parking.rochester.edu.

TPP-2016-06-Passing the Baton

Leaving the Desk

by Gloria Gallo, CAPP

Looking for insight into your parking operation? Spend a day with a frontline professional.tpp-2016-06-leaving-the-desk_page_1

AS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE FORT LEE, N.J., PARKING AUTHORITY (LPA), I find it critical to spend time out on the street with my employees from time to time to get an idea of the issues they encounter on a regular basis. I have come to realize this practice not only benefits me as the director, offering insight into the positions and enhancing my own awareness of what goes on between my employees and the general public, but more importantly, it gives my officers a sense of worth that the agency they work for is interested in knowing firsthand about that part of the operation—the issues they encounter, how they handle disputes, and other complications. This also gives the employees the opportunity to demonstrate how well they do their jobs—or not.

In most cases, I have found officers are eager to share all they know and are more than open to suggestions to resolve their dilemmas. They are happy to show me how much I am missing sitting in my office on the phone or at meetings. I have found going out on the road with my officers here and there to check on equipment performance, defuse a specific situation, or to determine why summonses are down/up, etc., is not really enough. It has become apparent that there is still much more going on and much to be learned by being out there in that day-to-day environment in the capacity of the officer. This experience has given me an incredible amount of valuable knowledge.

Because most people do not recognize all the services some parking authorities provide to their communities, these agencies are only looked upon as the ticket-giving departments of municipalities. As we all know, parking enforcement officers (PEOs) meet all kinds of controversy out on the streets, and how they act and react has a tremendous effect on the public’s perspective of the authority, both structurally and politically.

Parking enforcement officers are the face of your agency; that realization becomes clear when people come into your office and complain about a citation they received and are upset about the officer’s behavior, whether founded or unfounded. The public groups together the director and the entire staff in their unique perspective of an unsettling experience. Directors find themselves needing to be diplomatic and understanding of the public’s side of the story while needing to support the officer’s decision on how the situation was handled, even though the director was not there, has no idea what was said back and forth, and may not even be familiar with such incidents. However, directors can get a better feel for the overall picture and what staff approaches should be during controversy when they have had firsthand experience on the road dealing with the public.

The Battle
Everyone deserves to feel appreciated and respected for the job he or she does. One thing I have learned from witnessing the backlash an enforcement officer gets from some members of the public is we have to be thickskinned. People can be cruel when they feel they have been wronged, and that’s when the battle begins. There are so many excuses used, and some are legitimate, but most are not. The public is also under the impression they can dispute and correct any misunderstanding or errors right there on the street. Some get so angry they spit, tear up their tickets and throw them in our faces, and then scream out a number of commonly used expletives. Parking officers must really step back and remove themselves from these types of situations, both physically and emotionally.

Many people are simply uncomfortable with the presence of a parking officer, even when they are not in any violation. Just seeing an officer walking down the street checking meters annoys some enough to call out or to go running to the officers to make sure their vehicles are safe from ticketing. As a firsthand observer, the director gains a whole new respect for the job these employees do.

Getting Heated
A lesson from my days shadowing staff on the street: Officers generally welcome guidance in dealing with heated disputes. We might take for granted that our people would deal with the public accordingly, but it can be quite difficult to maintain composure in the midst of some intense situations. The ability to defuse a situation that becomes chaotic is an essential tool necessary for the officers’ effectiveness, as well as their safety. As a group, which includes members of the administrative staff, I find it invaluable to discuss these matters and share experiences and methods that work and don’t work. Both types of methods are equally important to examine. It would be advantageous to any agency to enroll its officers in professional training seminars that focus on the dos and don’ts of enforcement confrontations.

On most days, extreme confrontation is not the norm. However, another issue that becomes a challenge is “to summons or not to summons.” Setting written policy is always best, but there are those exceptions that may not be covered in the overall guidelines. The practice I find most effective is to let my employees know that if they are in doubt, don’t sweat it out. It is OK to let a ticket go rather than issue a summons that was written in error. I find it is more beneficial to instruct my employees on methods of improving their good judgment than to suffer the wrath that may follow erroneously written tickets. Everyone makes mistakes, but we can all learn how to implement effective practices when we take the time to stop and think, put ourselves in the place of motorists, and then make educated decisions, for example. This is a very effective method when dealing with the issue of insufficient signage.

In Court
Meeting with the general public in court is where officers say they get the chance to present themselves in a different light, so to speak. This is the place where they are in a structured environment, and they have documentation and photographs to support their summonses. Not only does court allow them to prove their case, but also on a more positive note, they feel it gives them the opportunity to talk to the individual in a more reserved environment. Here, they can actually sit down with the person and discuss the options. The officer also has the court’s legal representation available for additional support and/or guidance. Another important factor is the good working relationship the officers have with the prosecutor. Observing proceedings lets me see there is a mutual respect between both parties that allows the process to work through quickly, efficiently, and favorably for all involved.

Our authority uses PATS, a real-time, automated ticketing system tied directly to the administrative office of the courts in Trenton. Officers’ training in the care and maintenance of their equipment is critical; they cannot work without it. Learning what their needs are for the proper upkeep during a day on the street was highly beneficial, and I learned about challenges such as batteries not recharging, data not downloading properly, printers skipping and not printing the summonses properly, and other miscellaneous malfunctions.

Normally, the officer would report these types of issues to the help desk. Stepping in and reaching out to the state from the director’s desk makes a difference in the response time in comparison to the help desk calls that are made by the PEOs. This is one approach to taking action in keeping our equipment up and running with less downtime.

Fort Lee’s northern location during the winter months only adds to the already challenging job of working out in the elements, not only with equipment freezing up at times, but because parking enforcement officers are also burdened with having to walk in the ice and snow and determining whether a person can get to the meter to pay or not because of the weather. I was pleased to find out my officers were not taking advantage of the situation by lessening their efforts but, on the contrary, were frustrated they could not do their jobs effectively.

In the past, they offered to work with our maintenance department to clear the snow from high-occupancy metered areas. Of course, bad-weather winter months result in fewer tickets, loss of revenue, and many unproductive workdays. Believe it or not, the officers are as concerned about the stability of the authority as I am and expressed their desire to do their part in the continuation of keeping our agency a vital part of the community.

Being out in the field learning about my agency’s operation from a parking enforcement officer’s perspective was an invaluable, enjoyable, and eye-opening experience. There is so much more to these employees than the public believes. They are sharp, eager to do a good job, work independently, and so appreciated the time I spent with them as they were happy to “train” me in the practices and manner in which they conduct themselves in their day-to-day work ethics. They educated me in many ways, not just in how they are able to follow policy set before them but also in the personal way they journey through their days and how they make decisions based on their integrity. We are fortunate to have such a dedicated and enthusiastic parking enforcement team. Kudos to the FLPA crew!

GLORIA GALLO, CAPP, is executive director of the Fort Lee, N.J., Parking Authority. She can be reached at gloriag@fortleepa.org.

TPP-2016-06-Leaving the Desk



Two Plain Hamburgers. No Fries.

tpp-2016-05-two-plain-hamburgers-no-friesby Cindy Campbell

Very few of us have ever received specific training on effective listening. My first formal course on the topic came in a workshop about Steven Covey’s book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Covey talks about listening skills, or more appropriately, the lack thereof. One of the points made about his fifth habit—seek first to understand, then to be understood—rang true with me: “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

Why do we do this? Were we taught in our formative years to ignore message content? Perhaps not explicitly, but in some ways I suppose we were. For the sake of efficiency or expedience, we learned to listen for key words and to anticipate phrases so that we could reply quickly.

As adults, we filter everything we hear through our own life experience and previous knowledge. Sometimes in our haste—certainly more often than we realize—we draw the wrong conclusions, completely missing what someone is really trying to tell us. When this occurs in our business dealings, we risk being perceived as uncaring, disinterested, or even mechanical in our responses. In an industry in which the public’s perception can be critical to our success, leaving customers with a bad impression
can prove to be costly on many levels.

No Fries
In line at a fast-food place (don’t judge me), I recently overheard a conversation that illustrates Covey’s assessment of the importance of listening.

“How are you today?” asked the employee. “Would you care to try one of our new menu items?”
“No, thank you,” came the reply. “I’d like two plain hamburgers and nothing else. To go.”
“Would you like anything to drink?”
“No, no drink. Just the burgers.”
“Okay. Would you like anything else?”
“No. Nothing else.”
“OK, so that’s one hamburger …”
“No, I’d like two hamburgers.”
“OK, so two hamburgers. Would you like any fries?”
“No fries. Just two plain hamburgers. That’s it. To go.”
“So two plain hamburgers, no fries. And, I’m sorry, what did you say you wanted to drink?”
“No drink.”
“OK, will that be for here or to go?”

As I stood there, I could feel the tension radiating from the customer trying to order his meal. I wondered how long it would be before he ventured back in for another hamburger.

Now, I recognize that we don’t sell fast food, but the lesson from this observation still applies. In the parking industry, our product is a combination of services and access accompanied by a healthy dose of problem-solving and chaos prevention. Customers
don’t always fully understand or appreciate our services. Often, they can be unpleasant and difficult to assist and yet despite their attitudes and the lack of respect they may exhibit toward us, we must still provide them with an attitude of service. Pretending to listen or only listening selectively is not providing service. It’s withholding service.

As industry leaders, we must recognize that active listening plays a vital role in how we are perceived. To be successful, we must instill the attitudes and aptitudes for active listening within our organization. Active, in-the-moment listening conveys significant proof of genuine care about what the speaker is saying, thinking, or feeling. It isn’t necessary to agree with or even to understand everything that is being said; we simply have to set aside our preconceived ideas about what’s coming next and try to understand someone else’s point of view.

One last thought on the importance of active listening: Good listening skills can improve relationships beyond the office. Listening effectively can bring understanding and cooperation to our interactions with our friends, our family, and especially our significant others and our children. We owe it to ourselves and to those important to us to be fully present and listen carefully.

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

TPP-2016-05-Two Hamburgers. No Fries.

Wow Your Customers

tpp-2016-04-wow-your-customersBy Dennis Snow

Three keys for delivering great service. 

The term “customer service” evokes different images in people’s minds. One image could be that of friendly, smiling, helpful employees who go out of their way to serve you. Or it could be the opposite—indifferent, unfriendly employees who can’t wait for you to leave or hang up the phone.

Most people can recall many examples of poor customer service. Whether it’s the help desk employee who puts you on
hold for 20 minutes or the store cashier who engages in a personal conversation instead of ringing up your purchase, poor
customer service can make people feel frustrated and vow never to do business with that company again.

On the other hand, great service feels like a gift. It makes us want to continue to do business with an organization for the long haul. And that alone is the secret to business success—retaining customers by providing great customer service. With so much competition out there, customer loyalty is the single most important attribute your business can have. You achieve loyalty by doing the little things that make customers want to deal with you again and again and recommend you to their friends. The real difference is how a business makes its customers feel. If customers feel valued, most will remain loyal. If they feel under-valued, sooner or later, they will defect to a competitor.

Why They Leave
Several reasons exist for why customers defect from a company. They may move away, a competitor may lure them away, or they may leave because they are unhappy with the product. However, a recent study found that a whopping 68 percent of customers who defect do so because of poor service. That’s a sobering statistic. The study further noted how customers defined poor service: “an attitude of indifference on the part of employees.” So while bad service certainly causes customers to leave, indifferent service can be just as detrimental.

Nurturing Loyalty
With two out of every three customers citing poor customer service as a reason for leaving, what can your company do to achieve customer loyalty? Assuming your products and prices are competitive, you need to focus on providing superior customer service. To do that, here are three simple steps to help you make sure your customers stay with your company:

1. Look through the lens of the customer.
No matter what industry you’re in, chances are that you interact with customers at some level. Realize that customers can be drivers who want to park their cars, shoppers at a store, patrons at a bank, patients of a doctor, clients of a law firm, etc. Because customers have their choice of where to obtain goods or services, the business has to convince the customer that it truly cares. An engaged, caring employee raises the customer’s confidence that the business is looking out for the customer’s interests. When that employee suggests a new product or service, the customer trusts that his or her best interest is at heart. On the flip side, if the customer senses a lack of caring, he or she will question the motives behind any recommendations.

Every business has its jargon, so be careful to speak in a language customers understand. Successful businesses speak the language of the customer, not the language of their own industry. Take, for example, the banking industry. Would a young couple buying their first house be looking through the same lens as a customer who buys and sells real estate for a living? Of course not. That young couple purchasing their first house is excited and nervous—that is the lens with which they are experiencing this purchase. Therefore, they need loan officers who are excited for them, who explain the terms in everyday language, and
who provide information that will make their buying experience easier. A bank that shows that level of care is likely to earn that young couple’s ongoing business.

The same applies for customer complaints, which can be frustrating for customers and employees alike. As employees, we often can’t understand why a customer is making such a big deal about a particular issue. Didn’t the customer read the contract? (Probably not.) Doesn’t the customer understand that researching a problem takes time? (No.) Remember, it’s not the customer’s job to see through the business’s lens; it’s the business’s job to see through the customer’s lens and show an understanding
of the customer’s frustration.

Next time you are working with a customer, stop and ask yourself: “Am I seeing this experience through the customer’s lens?”

2. When it comes to a company’s environment, recognize that everything speaks.
Imagine visiting a fine-dining restaurant for a special occasion. You’ve been looking forward to the meal, and you’ve heard good things about the restaurant. Then imagine noticing something crusty dried to your silverware and old lipstick marks on your water glass. Wouldn’t you begin worrying about the cleanliness and quality of everything else in the restaurant? Everything speaks!

Now imagine a customer entering a place of business. She notices trash in the parking lot. When she enters the reception area, she sees delivery boxes stacked by the receptionist’s desk. She sees employees standing around eating and having personal conversations. All of this detracts from your business’s image. Consciously or unconsciously, the customer’s antenna goes up and
makes him or her question, “Do I really want to spend my money here?”

The “everything speaks” philosophy means all employees understand that even the little things count. So pay attention to everything, including whether the physical environment is neat and clean, whether all necessary supplies are available, whether
employees are dressed appropriately, etc. Anything that sticks out as wrong becomes an intrusion on the customer experience. These intrusions add up and result in customer concern. On the other hand, when customers sense an atmosphere of professionalism, care, and order, they feel a sense of confidence.

How many times have you seen employees in a business walk right past trash on the floor or a display that has been bumped
out of alignment? Employees who understand that everything speaks will take a moment to pick up some wadded paper
and straighten the display because they know such behaviors have a direct impact on the customer experience.

Take a moment to think about your company’s environment. Because everything speaks, what are the details saying about
your organization?

3. Create customer “wow”s.
Small gestures can create customer wows. Consider the housekeepers working in the hotels at Walt Disney World. Housekeepers have a tough job. Cleaning up after people on vacation is a challenge. Even in such a challenging job, Disney’s housekeepers will do little things that make guests say “wow.” For example, while spending a day in the Magic Kingdom, children will often leave their stuffed Disney characters in their hotel room. Housekeepers have been known to position the characters with playing cards in their hands or tuck the characters into the children’s bed to create a moment of magic.

Employees can do many things to create wows. Remembering a customer’s name is a huge wow, creating a feeling of family. Letting a customer know that another product may better meet their needs is another wow. Sending a goody basket with a handwritten note to that young couple who just took out their first mortgage is a wow. Some wows are small, and some are large, but make no mistake about it—wows add up.

One of the most powerful ways to create wows is to share best practices with fellow employees. Hold a company meeting so employees can share things that they have done that dazzled customers. Just talking about these behaviors increases the likelihood
that others will adopt some of the practices or create new ones of their own. It is also likely that some wows can become standard procedure, whether it’s a grocery store bakery handing out fresh-baked cookies to children or salespeople escorting customers to a product rather than simply pointing.

Next time you’re helping a customer, ask yourself, “Will my behaviors make this customer say or think ‘wow’?”

Take Action Now
Excellent service is not about policy manuals. Excellent service is about excellent behaviors. When employees focus on excellent service, the results can be magical. Customers are happy, employees are happy, and shareholders are happy. Everyone wins. The key is to make service excellence a habit. Encourage every employee to internalize the above steps so they become habits. When employees focus on these principles, your company will achieve the most powerful result of all—intense customer loyalty.


DENNIS SNOW is a speaker, consultant, and author of two books, “Lessons from the Mouse: A Guide for Applying Disney World’s Secrets of Success to Your Organization, Your Career, and Your Life” and “Unleashing Excellence: The Complete Guide to Ultimate Customer Service.” He can be reached at dennis@snowassociates.com or 407.294.1855.

TPP-2016-04 Wow Your Customers


tpp-2016-03-becoming-outstandingBy Cindy Campbell

Customer service is an interesting thing, isn’t it? As with most service industries, it seems as if parking agencies talk about customer service and how to deliver it ad nauseam. We all want to be on the receiving end of superior service delivery, but many still struggle with how to define and deliver it. Oh sure, there are the routine descriptors: Friendly, helpful, kind, congenial, accommodating. All of these are true enough, but what tools are we providing within our organizations to deliver this top-level service?

I recently spent three days  at a hotel property that I will not soon forget, and I mean that in the best possible way. From the moment I arrived, every interaction I had with hotel staff was exceptional. Everyone was accommodating, personable, and kind, but it went deeper than that. Across the board, they all seemed to genuinely like being there.

On the last day of my stay, I had a conversation with a young woman who had been my server each morning at breakfast. I shared my observations about the exceptional service I’d enjoyed throughout the hotel. She was appreciative of my comments, yet she didn’t seem at all surprised. During our brief discussion, she talked about the hotel management’s philosophy of service: Employees need to feel good about what they do and what they’re empowered to do for the customer.

She told me about daily employee briefings. They celebrate each other’s successes on an ongoing basis. “I feel really supported by my supervisors and my team of co-workers,” she said. The smile on her face gave me no reason to doubt her sincerity. I asked her if this was the first hotel property she had worked for. It was not—she had worked for other properties prior to getting this position about three years ago. “I’ll be honest,” she said, “it was a bit of a culture shock to me at the beginning, but they provide a lot of training on how things are to be done here. I’ve never worked anywhere that had such high standards, but I can tell you that I’ve never been happier. I really like what I do. I like our team.”

Does this theory of service translate to parking? I think it can and should, but we sometimes inadvertently overlook the critical step of building a strong team before we ask our team members to go out and individually deliver service.

Translating to Parking
If you’re contemplating how to go about improving customer service delivery within your organization, here are five points worth considering as you set the stage for success:

  1. Effective customer service requires teamwork. While most staff work independently, it’s important to emphasize that they belong to a larger team. Training is required to effectively think and work like a team.
  2. Hold team meetings or pre-shift briefings. Daily is best but not always feasible. In the absence of daily face-to-face briefings, post updates online or on a team briefing board. Make sure to include praise and positive comments received about team members.
  3. Empower your staff. Once they’ve been trained to perform their job tasks, give them enough latitude to independently do good things for customers. I once worked for a police chief who always said, “Empower your team. You’ll find that 98 percent of the time, they’ll do good things on our behalf. We can deal with the other 2 percent.”
  4. Make customer follow-up a high priority. An organization that doesn’t place high value on timely follow-up with customers will have difficulty being perceived as professional and customer service-oriented.
  5. Encourage team members to feel good about themselves and what they do. Acknowledge and celebrate successes. Large or small, all positive feedback received from customers, supervisors, and other team members should be shared. Acknowledge good work and noble efforts. Offer praise for professionally dealing with a challenging customer.

They say that an organization’s reputation is only as good as the service it delivers. What is your organization’s current reputation?

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

TPP-2016-03 Becoming Outstanding