With Government guidance telling us all to stay at home, it is not surprising that car parks have been largely void of cars since the pandemic began. For the parking industry, this has resulted in a huge revenue drop for car park operators. The question going forward will be how parking providers rethinking their business model might affect the parking landscape and the retail sector.
Ryan Jackson, head of Gemini Parking Solutions, says that operators are probably going to look to diversify their parking portfolio to prevent future losses incurred by being overinvested in one sector – retail.
““We will probably witness many operators making the transition over to a management fee type service, rather than just recuperating costs via PCN revenue,” tells Jackson. “This of course could be extremely beneficial to both retailers and motorists, as it would allow retailers complete autonomy of their car parks allowing them to show greater flexibility and compassion towards motorists.
In relation to the car park services, the pandemic has pushed parking providers to automate their processes further and with consumers also demonizing the use of cash, we are likely to see a huge increase in the numbers of digital payments that are made across the industry.
In response to the shift, Gemini Parking Solutions recently launched its own digital payment system which is undergoing integration into their portfolio. However, Jackson anticipates that many of the bigger operators might make the move into the digital landscape and that there might be a sudden increase in the number of payment apps available.
“This isn’t necessarily bad” he says. “However we must look at how this could potentially impact the consumer. Having multiple apps for payment becomes confusing so we may need to start thinking about how we can remove the confusion for motorists.”
Despite championing automation and digitisation in the car park, Jackson says that it is important not to remove the human element in the process: “For me, I think that’s quite dangerous. As humans, we have an innate need to connect with other individuals – it’s what life is about. So we have to balance that. Even when you automate a process, it does not mean to say that there can’t still be human interaction, rather than bots or AI.”
The big question, therefore, is: how you can integrate technology with live interaction to enhance your customer service?
For Gemini, this has involved several measures: adding an ANPR solution to manage the actual enforcement side of the management while ensuring regular visits or even someone stationed at a location to provide a face-to-face customer service, keeping the human touch by not automating phone lines or using web chats for customer service, instead having a human customer service team to speak to customers as well as responding to emails with a bespoke response, rather than a copy and paste template.
“We can view the Covid experience in one or two ways. It can be perceived as a negative or you can listen to what the experience is teaching you about your business and where you should be moving,” says Jackson.
“It’s important to keep an open mind on how you perceive these realities and instead of just holding onto the problem, ensuring that you’re focusing on your opportunity potential, and being creative in rising to its challenge.”