Tag Archives: Disney

Nordstrom to Disney to Parking

In 1989, the new downtown management organization in Kalamazoo, Mich., began negotiating with the City of Kalamazoo to take over and manage the downtown municipal parking system, writes David Feehan in this month’s Parking & Mobility magazine. A recent survey of residents had revealed that the most hated aspect of downtown was parking. Enforcement officers had been dubbed “meter Nazis” and one customer referred to the parking garages as “dull, dirty, dark, and dangerous.”

The city was losing as much as $100,000 a year on the system, had bond obligations to pay, and heard frequent merchant complaints at city council meetings. Business leaders on the board of directors of Downtown Kalamazoo Incorporated (DKI) thought they could do a better job and so, through a series of leases, subleases, and operating contracts, DKI assumed responsibility for downtown parking—on street, off street, garages, enforcement, and meter repair.

David writes he knew a paradigm shift in thinking was necessary and urgent. So he recruited a hastily organized parking task force, and at the first meeting, posed the question, “How would the parking system operate if it were run by Nordstrom?”

The city found out–and you can too. What happens when parking’s run like Nordstrom?

Disney, Nordstrom, and Parking

By David M. Feehan

I was delighted to read the interview with Lee Cockerell in the November issue of The Parking Professional. I’ve always pointed to Disney as the gold standard when it comes to customer service. And I think every parking manager should take to heart the principles of customer service Cockerell articulates.

But way back in 1989, when I assumed the presidency of Downtown Kalamazoo Incorporated, and found that my organization would soon be operating the municipal parking system under contract, we had a different model in mind.

At the first meeting of our newly formed parking task force, I stood before a flip chart and asked task force members to consider this question: “How would our parking system feel if it were run by Nordstrom?” Everyone in the room knew Nordstrom was the epitome of retail customer service. Its efforts to please customers were legendary, so we began brainstorming all the changes we could make to alter the very negative perception downtown visitors had of visiting or shopping downtown.

Many of the changes we adopted have become industry standard–battery jumps, flat tire and lockout assistance, employee training–but we took matters several steps beyond these practices. For example, when there was a festival in the city park, we issued no parking citations within a six-block radius of the park. We did not want visitors to leave town with a negative impression. We empowered enforcement staff to void tickets if a motorist was returning to his car with a handful of quarters. We put our staff in bright green blazers instead of police-type uniforms. All staff carried fanny packs with maps, event schedules, and other downtown information. We trained every staff person to be an ambassador for downtown.

The results were, to put it mildly, surprising. Within a couple of years, customer complaints dropped by nearly 80 percent. Parking complaints to the mayor’s office were near zero. While ticket writing dropped by two-thirds, overall revenues increased by 50 percent, as customers filled up our spruced-up parking garages. Employees took pride in the fact that we won a couple of national awards.

So ask yourself this question: Is our parking system enforcement-oriented, revenue-oriented, or customer-oriented? You may find that the latter option is the one that really pays off.

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

Customer Service the Disney Way

“Remember that once you train people how to be professional, you’ve improved their lives. When you become great, it affects your children and grandchildren and on down the line. It becomes your legacy.” So says Lee Cockerell, former executive vice president of The Walt Disney Company, also known as the guy behind much of Disney’s legendary customer-service strategy. It’s part of one of his 39 rules of outstanding customer service: Great service follows the law of gravity, which he says breaks down perfectly for parking.

Disney customer service is the gold standard, and Cockerell, who’s authored several books, runs the Creating Disney Magic podcast, and travels the world teaching others about creating a top-notch service culture (including to the Disney Institute), has great, actionable insight on how the Disney philosophy translates to parking and mobility–and it’s all in The Parking Professional  this month. Read it here, share it with you colleagues, and let us know in the comments: What’s your favorite tidbit?

The Best Kind of Disney Magic

By Kim Fernandez

The hotel was church-pew quiet when I wandered down to the lobby at about 1:30 a.m., three hours after we arrived at our Disney World accommodations. My kids were little, it had been a long and loud day, and I was wiped out. But we were all sharing a room and as two of my three beloveds fell into deep slumbers, they started snoring. No sleep for me.

I passed two workers up on ladders scrubbing the lobby walls (scrubbing the walls!) on my way to a very comfortable couch, where I sat and stared at a wall. “Can I help you,” asked a desk agent who walked over. Snoring roommates, I told her. She smiled and disappeared … and then re-appeared, pushing a little bag into my hands and wishing me a good night.

Earplugs. She brought me earplugs. No charge—just here they are. Because they’ve thought of everything. And I slept and enjoyed a wonderful vacation and have kept Disney close to my heart ever since.

My savior behind the desk probably learned her customer service skills from a program developed by Lee Cockerell, who was EVP of Disney before becoming a speaker, podcast host, and bestselling author of books about hiring the right people and teaching them those stellar skills, ingraining service into the company culture no matter what company is in question. He’s the man behind much of the Disney magic you experience. And, believe it or not, he recently shared lots of thoughts with me about the parking industry.

Read all about it in the November issue of The Parking Professional, coming to an inbox near you next week. I can’t wait to share it with you. Not to go too far, but you might say it’s magical.

Kim Fernandez is IPMI’s director of publications and editor of The Parking Professional.