It’s All About Highest and Best Use of Time and Talent…

Why Garage Managers Should Consider Outsourcing Intercom “Help” Calls

I can empathize with garage managers, having been one myself. I began in parking, 20 years ago, as an Operations Manager and steadily worked my way up the ranks to VP of Operations, overseeing more than 50 facilities and several hundred employees. I’ve experienced virtually every type of parking there is. Thus, I understand how a manager gets stretched and pulled in all directions. It’s a demanding job.

But really, how demanding can it be? All you have to do is make sure the garage is full every day, find new customers, when it isn’t, make sure your money gets to the bank, report on the numbers to customers and your own management, file insurance claims, ensure the elevators are operational and up to spec, maintain lights and exhaust fans, ensure proper and sufficient signage, address PARCS equipment issues, ensure special events are staffed properly and run smoothly. Oh, and then there’s the challenge of making sure your customers are being helped, 24/7/365, when they press the “help” button. I left the “help” button for last because it deserves special attention. Why? Because customers today have different expectations than they did 20 years ago when I started. You see, customers now have a choice and they have ways of communicating about the service they receive through social media. That puts a different kind of pressure on the garage manager, because now there’s a quality measure on their interactions with customers that didn’t exist before.

To my mind, it’s borderline unreasonable to expect garage managers to clear their minds when the phone rings, answer in seconds, deliver an excellent customer experience, then fully re-engage and focus on what they were doing before the call. Humans just aren’t built to do that well. In fact, my gut is backed up by research. Gloria Mark, Professor at University of California Irvine, has studied the cost of interruptions and here is what she and her colleagues concluded: “82 percent of all interrupted work is resumed on the same day. But here’s the bad news — it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to fully get back to the task.” Furthermore, she writes, “Our data suggests that people compensate for interruptions by working faster, but this comes at a price: experiencing more stress, higher frustration, time pressure and effort.” All of this leads to the perfect storm of overly stressed managers, more demanding customers and an expectation of a higher quality interaction. My management mantra has always been to focus my time and my people on highest and best use of their time and talents.

A good manager will properly allocate his time to make sure important things are handled on-site, and trust others to handle things outside their purview. Parking garage “help” call service is one of those tasks that generally makes financial and operational sense to outsource. When I was a garage manager, I was Parker’s customer. I grew to appreciate that when the “help” button was pressed, Parker’s staff was going to pick the call up quickly and resolve it exactly the way I prescribed it to be handled. Six years ago, I left the garage business and went to work full-time for Parker. Now I see firsthand the effort that it takes to hire, train and nurture a staff to handle calls in an excellent way. There’s no way I had the time to take that care with my own people answering intercom calls in the garage. In fact, if they were that good at customer service, I was likely to put them to work on higher value tasks, like engaging our customers and trying to find new business. I suspect garage managers are making those trade-off decisions every day and leaving the “help” calls to someone who can’t meet the customer experience demands that the parking customers today are making.

I’ll conclude by encouraging you to consider highest and best use as your guiding principle and if “help” calls fall to the bottom of that list by default, hand it off to someone who’s sole focus is on delivering a great customer experience on your behalf. Your people will have more time to do more important things and your customers will be happier with their experience in your garage so that they will come back again. Ping me or contact us for more information.