Taken from a GovernmentBusiness interview with our Commercial Director Max Crane-Robinson
Companies have long understood the importance of providing their customers with a good service, but success is now increasingly being defined by the quality of customer, or user, experience and how innovative or enjoyable that is. Leaders including Apple, Airbnb, Amazon and Uber set the standard by which everyone is now judged, because consumers compare experience cross-industry which means that for the modern consumers, the bar is set high.
Given that 30.9 million cars are licensed for use on the roads in Great Britain, it stands to reason that parking companies have to adapt to these rising expectations. NCP’s Commercial Director Max Crane-Robinson explains: “Customer experience is becoming an increasingly important focus for our organisation.”
Simplifying the user experience
“It isn’t just about being available when there is an issue, it is about taking into considering the bigger picture and the whole customer journey to prevent any issues arising and ensuring the user experience is as simple, intuitive and easy as possible. There is no doubt that disruptive brands are raising customer expectations, but we don’t view that as a challenge. In fact, we look to the disrupters outside of parking and use them to drive our own thinking to deliver technologies that meet and exceed those new expectations”.
Knowing the customer
This, of course, is no mean feat, but Crane-Robinson believes it starts with knowing as much about your customer as possible. “Fundamentally, offering a good customer experience requires that you know everything you can about the people you are looking to serve”, he says.
“And for many organisations, commercial or otherwise, parking is a fantastic place to start – the data we are able to collect provides an incredible insight into the patterns and behaviours of people, from when they visit locations, to how long they stay, and how they prefer to pay. From that organisation’s point of view, this parking data allows them to make more informed decisions, whether it’s on how to reduce congestion or for a commercial return. From NCPs point of view, we are able to offer customers a tailored service, be this through allowing them to pre-book a space at their preferred time so it is guaranteed, or by giving them the opportunity to avoid tickets machines altogether with the use of an account based payment solution.”
What’s more, Crane-Robinson believes using customer data has a commercial benefit – when a customer is satisfied, there is a lower cost to serve and customer loyalty is improved.
Balancing innovation with the human element
This comes at a time of other technological advances that have driven changing customer demands: the mobile phone and cashless society and e-payments.
It only takes a quick glance around a busy coffee shop to realise that society is becoming ever dependent on smartphones. In fact, figures show that UK smartphone penetration has reached 85% and is still rising. Consequently, consumers expect all brands and services to be available on this platform, and failing to do so simply results in excluding yourself from a large portion of the market.
Alongside this, society is also embracing cashless payments. In fact, the UK has recently been hailed the third most cashless society in the world as we increasingly move away from using traditional methods of payment, and the expectation is that this will only continue. For some traditional players in the parking industry, there has been hesitation around adapting to this change – after all, developing a digital proposition is likely to entail significant costs and time. The alternative, however, is that failing to adapt will push them far behind customer expectations.
The convergence of these three key factors has resulted in an expectation from consumers that all services adapt to this digital age. We are of course beginning to see this is the parking industry with the likes of PayByPhone becoming increasingly popular, but there is a need for other players to adapt too. From large private organisations through to local authorities, embracing modern technological advancements won’t always look the same or even be simple, but it is essential in order to stay relevant.
That being said, NCP’s Commercial Director notes that this is just the beginning in working towards offering a true customer experience. “Keeping pace with modern life is essential, and at NCP we continually invest in research and development to create innovative products and services, but this doesn’t remove the need for a personal element to the offering. Technology can only go so far here, and that is why we continue to invest in our people.”
Creating an experience
In parking, as with any other industry, providing a positive customer experience is by no means simple, and determining how to do it is even less so.
This is why working with a partner who has experience and knowledge can be invaluable. NCP has been redefining parking since 1931 and has over 20 years’ experience in working alongside local authorities to provide tailored parking solutions to ultimately provide customers with a seamless experience.
It is through these partnerships that we can continue to meet and exceed customer demand across the board, and ultimately provide a positive customer experience.