A Customer-Centric Approach to Parking Management: Best Practices in Public Relations
20 Aug 2016
There are many goals when it comes to finding the right parking management solution.
Last, but certainly not least, among them should be improving the quality of life for citizens and visitors by making parking compliance simple and effective. When people don’t have to guess about local restrictions and permits, and when paying the proper fees is convenient and hassle-free, drivers can focus on their own business without worry or concern. The less someone needs to bother with anything other than the task at-hand, the more relaxed and attentive they become, and the more they enjoy their time in a municipality.
Public relations might sound like a minor concern of parking enforcement, but it can mean everything to a local municipality, and make a real difference in the way people think about it. You’d never want to make it more difficult for someone to work in or visit your town, right? Take a customer-centric approach to parking management, and you’ll find you can improve the situation for everybody involved.
MAKE CUSTOMERS FEEL GOOD ABOUT PARKING MANAGEMENT
Parking management isn’t something that your average citizen spends a great deal of time thinking about. Unfortunately, when they are thinking about it, odds are they’re usually not happy. Whether because of a ticket they don’t think they deserved, an unexpected need to circle the block in search of a space, or because they’re having trouble reading signage, drivers seem to only notice parking management when it makes their lives more difficult.
This is backwards, though, as proper parking enforcement and management actually makes people’s lives easier, and improves the general experience of being in a town or city immensely. With more spaces opened up more regularly, more people can visit or work in an area. With routine and effective enforcement procedures, people know the rules and enforcement officials can focus more on helping folks stay in compliance, rather than writing tickets all day.
All of which is to say that effective parking enforcement is a win-win for everybody, not the least of which the municipalities that can use the revenues raised from more targeted enforcement on civic investment and infrastructure improvement.
PAY BY PLATE AND CUSTOMER EDUCATION
More than anything else, public relations here boils down to public education. Take the situation with pay by plate parking management.
Pay by plate streamlines the process of paying for parking, simultaneously keeping more spots open while lessening the incidence of incorrect tickets. The elimination of coin meters for example, makes compliance easier to accommodate and enforcement more efficient, and in some circumstances customers are able to utilize one payment for multiple spots in different locations over a set period of time. Numerous cities have used pay by plate and similar modern parking enforcement solutions to improve the parking management situation in ways that benefit citizens and authorities equally.
In other words, there’s no downside to switching to pay by plate parking, but the public may not know this!
This type of customer outreach doesn’t have to be anything super-intense, either. In Galveston, TX, along with their transition to a new parking management solution, authorities changed the name of enforcement officials to “ambassadors” and offered violators a 30-minute grace period. By making officers feel less like cops and giving customers a hand in staying in compliance, Galveston made the enforcement process more customer-friendly, with stress on the convenience and fairness of the new system and technology. And that convenience leads to compliance, not to mention greater revenues.
This will make sense to most people. Therefore, messaging should focus on educating the masses on how much better things can be, and implementing new procedures with a healthy dose of humanity. A little forethought and an outreach strategy that lets people know what the improvements will mean to them can go a long, long way to making the switch not just something people are prepared for, but something they might be excited about, too.
FOCUS ON THE GOOD ASPECTS OF PARKING MANAGEMENT
When people can pay for parking on their smartphones, using plate enabled pay stations or purchase permits online using their license plate number, much of the hassle that comes with parking in a city goes out the window. There may be no getting around the fact that parking enforcement ultimately deals with people paying money to park their car, but the revenue aspect cannot, and should not, be a parker authority’s sole focus. Instead, all the ways that changing local parking enforcement will improve the lives of citizens and visitors should take center stage in discussions about making the switch to something like pay by plate.
Focusing on the following aspects that make customers’ lives easier can be immensely helpful:
- Convenience and Speed of Payment
- Effectiveness of New Enforcement Procedures and Effects on Traffic Flow
- Portability of Time Purchased Among Different Spots
- On-Demand Electronic Receipts
- Preferred Rate Parking Distinctions
- Mobile Payment Options
- Elimination of Human Error
It’s not complicated, but it is important: keep the focus on the good that modern parking enforcement solutions do for citizens and visitors, and those customers will be more amenable to, and accepting of, integrating the new solutions into their daily lives.
Consult our white paper on “Pay By Plate vs Pay By Space and Pay & Display” for further ideas on how messaging matters when talking about different parking enforcement solutions.