TRENDS AND RESEARCH
Helping businesses align with reality.
Alarming Trends in Parking Integrity, Service and Safety
In addition to the human toll exacted by the pandemic, integrity, service, and safety in the parking industry have suffered a significant blow. Servimer recently completed national research for U.S. parking operations to compare 2019 performance to that of pandemic-affected 2020. The study included 40 national and regional parking companies throughout the United States and spanned all sectors of parking in facilities such as Class A properties, hotels, hospitals, etc. The study included an array of operations from valet service to self-park and tested both manual and automated systems.
Findings indicated drastic deficiencies across three focus categories: Integrity, Service and Safety.
Incident rate of integrity infractions: Rose by 69%. These included collecting cash but not issuing a ticket or re-issuing an old ticket, theft of vehicle contents, incorrect charges, etc. Note that Integrity included only deficiencies visible to mystery parkers evaluating the public level of access. Historically, more violations are uncovered internally during the research phase of reported transactions.
Incident rate of service infractions: Rose by 24%. These included violations of standards of conduct relative to customer experience as required by a parking operator.
Incident rate of safety infractions: Rose by 75%. These included personnel practices and maintenance concerns with potential for bodily harm, vehicle theft, vehicle damage, etc.
Factors Driving the Downward Performance Trends
Three significant factors contributed to these downward performance trends in safety, service, and integrity:
Employees in need of income during the economic downturn were tempted by unsupervised cash revenue and unmonitored vehicles.
A shortage of auditing and office reconciliation personnel due to staffing cutbacks or furloughs provided opportunity for malfeasance.
Cutbacks in training and supervisory hours led to a predictable decrease in performance by frontline personnel.
The current incident rates of misconduct, declines in service, and elevated numbers of integrity concerns are consistent with increases recognized during previous periods of economic distress. Consequently, this worrying pattern of underperformance can be expected to continue for the foreseeable future unless remedial interventions are taken.
The downturn in integrity, safety and service during this time frame debunks a false assumption that the level of performance should have risen, since staffing levels were pared down to the perceived “best of the best.” In reality neither position, seniority, nor experience have equated with honesty and quality of service, since the study revealed that failures and violations have increased after the elimination of less credentialed workers. A silver lining to the pandemic-induced staffing cuts is that it has exposed the industry’s vulnerability to these deficiencies. Parking companies need to rethink their qualifications for “the best of the best,” and managers and executives would do well to review staffing strategies and operational procedures to proactively implement preventative measures.
Reversing the Trends
However, knowing that there are integrity issues does not solve the problem. While the sudden and widespread onslaught of the pandemic chaos in 2020 necessitated dramatic actions in order for parking companies to survive, the strategy for their success needs to shift once more to adapt to changing conditions as society reopens. Those very belt-tightening cuts that kept companies alive during the shutdown are now threatening to choke them with counterproductive frugality. The minimal savings realized by cutting mystery shops, training, and auditing cannot offset the potential harm to the reputation of a parking company and the lost revenue a company will suffer due to undetected misconduct, declines in service or integrity failures.
Forward thinking companies will recognize what is at stake and take action to ensure:
The safety of their customers and employees,
That every dollar collected is actually retained, and
To strategize new parking income channels such as converting transit riders and carpoolers into loyal permit holders.
Covert business intelligence was gathered through the use of undercover persons sent in as regular guests to analyze locations. These “mystery parkers” were qualified to evaluate business practices according to predetermined criteria. These criteria were arranged in surveys comprised of more than 100 questions in four major categories: Appearance, Risk Management/Safety, Personnel Assessment, and Integrity.
For the purpose of this research, the gathered data points (KPIs) were grouped in three categories: Integrity, Safety and Service.
 N/A answers were omitted from scoring.
 For purposes of this research only theft of vehicle contents as proven by covert video was included
Self-park, valet and valet-assist operations were evaluated for the following:
Locations with gated control equipment
Locations with valet control equipment
Locations with no equipment
Fully automated and unmanned locations
Evaluated locations included the following facility types:
Class A buildings
Special events venues (large and small facilities)
Data was gathered through a total of 8,705 evaluations conducted at parking operations regionally distributed as follows:
Regions were defined as follows:
Canada and Puerto Rico (ON,AB,PR)