This article is written by Bill Smith, a technical writer specializing in the parking industry, and was originally published in the July 2023 edition of Parking Today. You can read the original article on Parking Today’s website or by navigating to p. 24–26 here.
Parker Technology & Ocra Partnership to Offer Integrated Technology, Higher Revenue
In March 2023, Parker Technology and Ocra revealed the creation of an important strategic alliance that offers significant benefits to parking operators, asset owners, and drivers who reserve parking with third-party reservation platforms.
Because of the prominence of the two companies, the implications for the industry are significant.
“This strategic alliance is a perfect example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts,” said Brian Wolff, President & CEO of Parker Technology. “Our customers will instantly appreciate the value our two companies create together.”
The alliance came out of a shared vision of parking as an industry where data should be standardized, shared, and surfaced through integrated technologies.
A key element of the partnership was the creation of an innovative Partner API designed to solve on-site friction for parkers using third-party reservation platforms.
The API runs on Ocra’s rails and enables users of the Parker Technology software platform to access the exact information needed in that moment to help a parking guest enter or exit a facility most efficiently.
“There’s a great deal of synergy between our companies. We share similar company values, such as our commitment to creating new mutually beneficial partnerships” said Ethan Glass, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Ocra, a centralized management platform for parking operators and asset owners.
“Our Partner API can help surface essential reservation information for users of the Parker platform because of our in-depth custom integrations with the third-party demand channels. Together, Parker and Ocra are addressing the industry-wide problem of fragmentation between multiple technologies for win-win-win outcomes for operators, asset owners, and technology companies.”
A customer service (call resolution) platform is essential in this age of automated parking.
Typically, the software platform is connected via the cloud to a facility’s PARCS equipment, generally at entries, exits, and pay-on-foot devices.
This type of software platform can be engaged with the push of a button, phone call, or scan of a QR code, allowing a parking guest to speak directly with a trained customer service representative who can solve their parking issue.
This is no minor issue. It is estimated that in the United States alone, parking guests push the call button upwards of 85 million times a year to help solve issues related to automated parking technology.
But as essential as this technology is, it hasn’t been able to seamlessly provide customer assistance to problems related to third-party booking.
And just as drivers often run into problems using PARCS equipment, the same is true when it comes to third-party booking reservations.
For instance, historically, when a third-party code fails to work properly, owners and operators have been forced to just lift the gate, allowing the driver to leave even though the problem wasn’t resolved.
This has been a significant source of lost revenue for parking owners and operators as well as for third-party demand channels, which lose credit card fees on refunded transactions.
The Parker Technology + Ocra strategic alliance will solve that problem.
If a driver has trouble exiting a facility with a third-party reservation code, they can push the help button to connect to a customer service representative.
The representative can access essential reservation-related data via Ocra’s platform, determine what the problem is, and solve it in accordance with the operator’s business practices. The driver is quickly on their way and the entry or exit queue begins moving again.
The Partner API was built by Ocra with inspiration from and in collaboration with Parker.
The Ocra platform – which allows operators and asset owners to centrally manage rates, inventory, reporting, and blackouts for all their consumer demand channels, within a single platform – is powered by complex custom integrations built by Ocra’s team of engineers and parking technology experts.
By standardizing and centralizing data points pulled from multiple demand channels into a single source of truth, operators and asset owners have more insight into and control over their online business.
With the ability to optimize pricing structures and dynamically distribute inventory across infinite channels, operators can make real-time adjustments to rates and inventory based on demand and maximize yield.
Benefits for Parking Owners + Operators
The alliance is obviously good news for parkers who reserve with third-party platforms, but it’s also good news for owners and operators.
In addition to helping them provide a better parking experience, the integration between Ocra’s centralized demand channel management platform and Parker’s customer service platform can help maximize revenue.
“With online sales, operators reach a point where there’s no room for revenue growth, but now we can change rates on the fly when there’s a high demand for reservations. In the past, it has been difficult to send messages to every aggregator to change rates, but Ocra lets us do that.”
Adams says that the partnership will be particularly beneficial during high-demand special events, such as Austin’s SXSW festival.
Peak has used Parker’s customer service platform for years, and the addition of Ocra allows Adams and his staff to see all the data surrounding parking pre-sales to better understand how much of their parking resources are pre-booked and how much will be available for transient parkers.
Now, he can look up any data about individual parkers that he may need, including their names, reservation identification numbers, and other transaction information when problems arise.
“Parker is our eyes and ears,” said Adams. “As we grow, it’s not a realistic expectation to think that staff can manage every issue that arises. Being able to use Parker to keep operations running smoothly is a huge advantage.”
Adams says that parkers often struggle, not understanding how third-party transactions work or not using the proper code to enter and exit parking facilities.
This is a particularly common issue with drivers who are pre-booking for the first time.
“Maybe one in ten drivers have trouble with the transaction,” said Adams. “In addition to problems with bar codes, drivers also often run into trouble if they come into the parking facility before their session is set to begin or overstay their session. These kinds of things can wreak havoc on a garage or lot’s operations.”
This is where revenues are particularly impacted, according to Adams.
He said that, in the past, when parkers overstayed their pre-booked sessions, it was often impossible to reconcile the transaction to reflect the actual time of the parking session.
As a result, customer service representatives would have to lift the gate and the operator lost the revenue it was entitled to from the overstay.
Adams says that Ocra’s integration with the Parker Platform will allow them to record the length of the overstay and adjust the cost accordingly.
“In the past, our managers had to reach out to the aggregators directly,” said Adams, “but now we have a customer service rep to solve these issues. We want our managers running the facility, not tracking down $10 transactions.”
“An important part of our mission is figuring out how to maximize revenues for our clients,” continued Adams. “The Parker Technology + Ocra partnership will help us do that.”
“We have so many parkers who book an hour and end up staying three and then can’t get out,” said Sachs.
“In the past, we’ve had no way of figuring out what the problem is, and they have invariably ended up getting let out and getting free parking. With the Ocra integration with Parker, we can see that the person overstayed and automatically charge for the extra parking.”
He says that being able to close that loop will save thousands of dollars a year.
In some cases, it could save thousands of dollars a day.
“Parking operators have an obligation to verify every gate open to account for revenue and to know what’s going wrong,” said Sachs. “This integration is a big step towards allowing operators to verify gate opens.”
According to Sachs, it’s also a customer service issue, and one that can have significant ramifications.
“Online ratings matter because they factor into Google’s algorithm that determines who to show in an online search,” said Sachs.
“The reason they’re using an aggregator in the first place is to have a more convenient experience. They want to have everything set—for it to be super easy to drive in and out. Parker’s customer service platform is a big part of the equation of offering a super easy experience, and this integration will allow us to improve the process even more.”
“Parker Technology takes care of my parkers, and makes life easier for me,” concluded Sachs. “And the more facilities you operate, the more important it is.”
Solving a Longtime Problem
The Parker Technology + Ocra alliance addresses an issue that has long vexed parking owners and operators.
When parkers began reserving spaces through aggregators, owners and operators lost a measure of control over parking spaces that were sold via those online services.
It became very difficult to keep track of inventory and implement market-based pricing.
And when drivers had trouble exiting with the codes supplied by an aggregator, owners and operators were often forced to lift the gate and let the driver exit without paying, thus losing revenue.
The Parker Technology + Ocra alliance, and particularly the introduction of the partner API, solves these problems, providing owners with instant access to aggregator data.
And when there are payment problems, the API allows customer service representatives utilizing Parker Technology’s software platform to see the reservation data and rectify the situation, potentially saving owners and operators thousands of dollars that might otherwise have been lost.
Bill Smith is a technical writer who focuses on the parking industry. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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