The parking industry is making rapid advancements through the addition and integrations of technologies, but it hasn’t always been this way.
Big cars, shoe-horned into even bigger facilities that are often hard to design optimally, customers waiting in lines to drop off their cars and then again to pick them up, differing practices for what to do with the ignition key, a fee structure that can be hard for the consumer to understand, and finally – that true vestige of the past – cash for tips, and often cash for the payment as well.
But through deep industry knowledge, better understanding of consumer parking behavior, and sheer hard work, parking operators remain profitable and provide a completely indispensable service in modern cities. And certainly, many aspects of this necessarily analog business cannot be modernized, but some elements can be digitized, opening up doors for increased revenue and margin.
One element that can change the game for both operators and customers is the QR code.
Any consumer with a smartphone can interact and transact with this technology securely and in a few simple steps. The pandemic rendered the QR ubiquitous in the service industry and, increasingly, consumers are seeing the benefits of utilizing QR codes for impulsive or on-demand commerce.
So, let’s take a look at how they can boost the parking business.
First, consider customer retention. In-facility pain-points for customers abound: fumbling for cash and credit card, asking for and then quickly losing the receipt for reimbursement, and never quite knowing what time they parked and, therefore, how much they can expect to owe.
QR codes – properly installed and integrated – can help. The QR code can “talk” directly to the parking operator’s systems, which a) tracks ingress and egress, and how long the vehicle was parked; b) engineers contactless payment via a stored credit card; c) enables one-touch gratuities; and d) stores the transaction record. It enables variable demand-based pricing, as well, as a QR code serves up rates to customers when they scan it, so parking operators can maximize yield during periods or high or low activity rather than utilize static rate bands.
The first time the typical impulsive parker enjoys this seamless process that saves them time and provides transparency around rates, they’re sure to make a mental note and seek out that particular facility next time – and be less likely to evaluate nearby competitive facilities in your microclimate. QR code payments create differentiation in terms of customer experience, which means a parking facility becomes “stickier” in terms of repeat business.
Stronger repeat business clearly helps a parking operator’s bottom line, but QR codes can help with margins as well. Suddenly – with proper installation – parking operators and their attendants have access to better real-time data on how many cars are parked, where they’re parked, and for how long.
Demystifying these operational hurdles means less time spent parking and retrieving cars. Saving time means increasing the volume of parkers and again improves the customer experience, often resulting in better tips for attendants. Ice-cream shops present valuable lessons on digital tipping, by the way: a sweet frozen treat costing $3.61 used to result in a $0.39 tip, rounding out to four one-dollar bills. With QR codes and contactless payments, the shop can “suggest” 15%, 20%, or 30% tips, each resulting in a comparatively better haul for the scooper. QR codes mean attendants who now deal with happier customers and receive better tips will be cheering the new technology on.
Of course, QR codes themselves won’t win an operator the full slate of revenue and profit improvements – marketing, system integrations, and employee training are all important investments – but those little funny one-inch-by-one-inch squares sure do represent an opportunity to enhance the parker’s experience in a meaningful way, while providing real-time transaction and occupancy data to operators.
So, bottom line: quick, easy, contactless payment options via QR codes measurably improve the customer experience in a parking facility and help foster customer loyalty. It eliminates the need for them to download software or spend time fumbling with tickets, cash, or receipts.
And parking operators who provide consumer-friendly tech stand out from the crowd. Universally speaking, it’s a good experience to park somewhere that lets you pay how you want so you can get to where you’re going. Therefore, you are more likely to park there again and less likely to shop around, because the best experience defines the “best deal”.
All in all, QR codes can make your facility a customer’s first choice while collecting actionable transaction and occupancy data. For those reasons, and many more, QR code payments are sure to pay off.