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Tuesday , 26 September 2023

Enhancing Customer Experience in Mall Parking

Brett Matthews

One of the aspects which we could look into the future is differentiating the process in the car park in terms of providing more convenience for a higher price in car parks. Providing the valet aspect of parking in malls is very significant here in India and it is a product that is well received. About 4% or 5% of parkers in some of the malls use valet parking, so we do see that there are people who are prepared to pay premium cost for a premium service in car parks. Eventually my vision is that the user goes online, books his parking bay which may be in the valet area. At the same time he can also book the car wash and it is all prepaid and time bound. If it is not prepaid then the user just drives in and does the transaction and at the end of it, the credit card / debit card is automatically debited when the user leaves. This technology is already being used in different parts of the world and is being rolled out in other parts, and we could soon see this in India too. This is the case in Westfield, in London where we have a product called Customer Express. The user goes online, pre=books the slot and car wash, drives in with his car which has an RFID tag and the charges are automatically debited from his account. There is no going to a pay station or paying on exit – all cash transactions are avoided. There is no reason why this cannot be rolled out in India. The seamless convenience that the customer gets is well worth the effort. I have been in the parking industry for over 30 years and have seen all over the world that parking fees are seen as a grudge purchase – no one wants to pay for parking. The first instinct the user has is to always try for a free parking slot. Thus it becomes all the more necessary to enhance the customers’ experience in the parking lot. The technology to assist in delivering this experience is there, all that is needed is the will to implement it and the ability to adapt to the local conditions.

Nimish Sonawala

One of the reasons why we get pushed back many times in India is that even though we have significant volumes in parking, the transaction size and values are relatively small. Therefore they had to use a contractor at Mumbai Airport which might not be very professional and suited to the needs. They found this caused a lot of challenges and unhappiness to the end customers. They use Skidata parking equipment at the airport and they have approached us now to do a lot of things which Brett was talking about, like using pre-paid card, putting RFID tags, prepaid RFID tags so that the customers can drive in and drive out with minimum interaction with the operator there. That will probably happen over a period of time. Thus the technology is available and it is easy to do. It can be implemented if the ticket size is large enough but if tickets are not that high in value, then the volumes have to be significantly higher. I think it is just a matter of time as the parking rates are going up. Once that happens and profitability increases, there will be more investment in the sector. in airports in Europe, for example, they make more money on parking revenue on the land side than they do on the air side so.

Brett Matthews

Parking is a hidden treasure in many real estate portfolios. It is the last thing in the drawings & plans and the last thing that gets addressed in negotiations with tenants. As was discussed in the session on Smart Parking, one maxim in parking is that parking should never be reserved, since on any given day, 30–40% of the place is empty and if you can sell 130 spaces when you have hundred, that is 30 spaces sold upfront straight away. Particularly with economics of real estate and economics of building costs, the cost of parking in India is extremely cheap in India. Eventually the economics will dictate a different structure in processing and when that does start to emerge we will be in a whole different set of metrics in the way which we manage and look at running these car parks. This is happening gradually. What has happened at the airport is turning to be quite reflective of what the actual costs are and as mentioned earlier, at many of the large airports around the world, parking revenue is the largest single amount in their balance sheet; Sydney airport’s revenue from the parking is about 110 million dollars in a year. So these are the significant numbers.

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