How to Derive Value & Satisfaction from your Parking Management Provider
I was one of the lucky representatives from our organization selected to embark on a flight down to New Orleans (aka “NOLA” for those that don’t already know) back in May for the International Parking Institute (@IPI) Conference and Expo. I do enjoy getting out of the office to be in front of our customers, both current and prospective, and was excited to share all our latest innovative enforcement technologies we had been working on around the clock.
I learned two key items from my trip to IPI in NOLA.
- First, and arguably most importantly, the food in New Orleans is fantastic. If you haven’t been, I highly recommend it if you are a foodie like myself.
- Many parking companies are changing business strategies. I noticed numerous businesses showing at IPI now offering a “one-stop shop” convenience store approach to Parking Management. Interesting.
By definition from Investopedia.com,
A one-stop shop is a company or a location that offers a multitude of services to a client or a customer. The idea is to provide convenient and efficient service and also to create the opportunity for the company to sell more products to clients and customers.
Shopping for the Right Solution
Most of us immediately hear the term one-stop shop and think of grocery stores or at least I do. Imagine shopping at a large grocery store that sells everything you need. It’s convenient, fast and generally pain free. Good thing? Yes, absolutely, for retail shopping.
Think for a moment. Does that one-stop shop grocery store manufacture all the products it sells?
A grocer utilizes a multitude of manufacturers for each of their products to bring you the best from each respective product category, allowing you to select the one that best fits your specific needs and tastes. A one-stop shop makes sense for these low-cost, low-value, undifferentiated goods (undifferentiated goods being identical products like milk, gasoline, and ice, which are easily substitutable by any supplier). Commodity products might come to mind. Most importantly, grocer one-stop shops still allow customers to choose which product they ultimately purchase based on their needs. Organic, Gluten Free, Low Fat, No Sugar. You get my point.
One-stop shop parking management companies are offering pay-to-park by phone software, parking kiosks, parking meters, parking gates, access control, and parking enforcement software all from the same shop or in this case, provider. With Parking Management one-stop shops, your options as a customer are limited. You don’t get to choose the product that is best-in-class like you could at the grocery store. Parking Management products are NOT low-cost, low-value, undifferentiated goods. They are quite the opposite.
One-stop shop Parking Management companies offer a single solution with all the necessary components, just maybe not the best components available market wide.
Customers of a one-stop shop approach, become dependent on a single company. This creates huge problems if any one (or all) of your Parking Management products go offline, since they are all likely hosted in the same place by the same company. What if the provider (that one throat to choke) is hacked or has a computer virus? What happens when there is an issue and you call your provider support line? Do they have the throughput to assist you ASAP, or will you be waiting for days in a queue because they have spread themselves too thin? Jack of all Trades Master of None?
Customers of a best-in-class company are less dependent since they don’t have one source to rely on for all parking processes. When a single Parking Management product has issues, you know specifically who to contact within the company for support. Most importantly, you’ll receive firsthand knowledge from representatives who specialize in support of the product and better understand the intricacies to more accurately and efficiently serve you. They have dedicated individuals who will assist you immediately.
Each Parking Management product is unique in many ways; everything from the technical requirements and customizations needed to drive the hardware and software, to the marketing and advertising needed to drive public adoption/utilization.
One stop shop providers have the most limited experience within those newly created products they offer. They lack historical product knowledge when it comes to both supporting those products, as well as incorporating new advanced and emerging technologies. If these new products were developed as an afterthought to attempt to acquire more sales (see definition of a one-stop shop above), it causes a lack of focus on a well-thought-out and properly implemented solution by a best-in-class company. What’s more, as an adopter, it will be necessary to change your existing processes to conform to the product as opposed to customizing the product to conform to your organization. This is counterintuitive to utilizing any Parking Management product; it causes new inefficiencies when a new product should be creating new efficiencies, therefore saving time and money.
Best-in-class Parking Management companies exist and focus solely on developing, manufacturing, selling, and supporting a single specific product. This earns those businesses expertise and a reputation for knowledge within their respective product category. As well as, the capability to offer new, advanced and emerging technologies that the one-stop shops may not offer or plan to offer due to their lack of focus or experience on a specific product. Best-in-class companies can additionally provide invaluable consulting expertise to configure and customize your solution to your needs. This eliminates risks of errors, omissions, or other issues when it comes to your setup, installation, training, and continued support.
Integrations are an integral part to any parking management ecosystem. This is what makes each of your Parking Management products more intelligent.
One-stop shop products will hopefully come integrated with the other products the company offers. Ask what other external products they integrate with, if any, and, at what cost? Best-in-class companies offer a wide assortment of integration options to external products. They understand how important integrations are since they are driven by ensuring products are as technologically advanced as possible to remain competitive in the marketplace (and to stay best-in-class).
Are you going to be paying more to do business with a one-stop shop? Almost undoubtedly, yes. Why? Simply put, you are stuck with inflexible pricing sent to you from a one-stop shop. Pricing that includes all the components and likely bells and whistles you may not need. With best-in-class companies, you have an option to shop around and find the most cost-effective, customizable solution that creates efficiency for you and your department.
If it sours, Parking Management software isn’t a product you throw into Thursday’s trash and easily replace with a quick run back to the shop. You’re stuck with it. It’s essential to begin your search for parking products by choosing the right type of business partner to ensure continued success.
Don’t settle for less than personalized attention. Work with experts with true knowledge of the product, and the overall flexibility to build a customized solution. Single component providers such as a kiosk company that only provides kiosks, or a software company that only provides software, want their clients to find the best integration partners so the solution will perform flawlessly. It makes everyone look good when an organization and all its processes flow.
I happen to represent a best-in-class shop, as you might have guessed. But I hope you also recognize that in addition to my passion for finding the best filet in town, I personally care about the value and satisfaction all consumers receive from parking management software. I get frustrated and concerned when I hear “one-stop shop” being spun as a positive thing, and encourage those in the market for any parking management puzzle piece to weigh ALL the pros and cons when selecting your provider(s). Remember that references are always the best place to start.