6 Questions to Help Determine if Your Valet Parking Operation is Hospitality-Centric
Be our guest, be our guest! Put our service to the test! Who hasn’t caught themselves humming this catchy little ditty from “The Beauty and the Beast”? Sung by the flashy yet charming candelabra, Lumiere, the song espouses the importance of delivering impeccable hospitality. Even though the tune centers on the fine dining experience, the message should be extended to parking operators, who also run hospitality-focused operations.
So it begs the question: Are you bringing in that same fairytale quality in running a hospitality-centric parking operation? White glove service is less about the service and more about how you make customers feel. For most hotel and resort guests, the valet is the first and last impression they have of your property. So, how are you anticipating your guests’ needs and creating warm and fuzzy feelings about your parking operation?
Taking cues from Lumiere, here are 6 questions to help you create a special experience for your guests, from the first impression to the last:
1. Can your guests request their vehicle from valet with a text message or app?
Tag you’re it! No one, I repeat no one, likes to be that one person at dinner who has been tagged to go to the valet to wait for the car. If your operation still relies on a more traditional vehicle retrieval method, you might want to consider switching over to a parking solution that offers mobile solutions (texting or app). Having a parking platform that supports a mobile-first experience, allows your guest to:
· Request their vehicle via text
· Receive text notifications when car is ready
· Pay and tip via a mobile payment platform
· Accumulate reward points
· Participate in customer surveys (more on this in question
Be sure you’re not missing an opportunity to better serve your guests through technology they already know and love.
2. Do you have a method to connect the valet, guest, and front desk seamlessly?
Checking in to a hotel at times is tedious, moving from the valet to the front desk line. Now imagine offering guests a smoother arrival process, where they feel like a VIP from the minute they roll into the valet circle. If that idea puts a smile on your face, then consider a parking solution that prepares the front desk by sending a ping! to their iOS device every time a new guest checks in with valet, this will ensure a quicker check-in process.
3. Can you inform your guests of the approx. vehicle retrieval time?
It’s Sunday mid-morning at the peak of checkout, and we’ve all cringed at the dreaded question, “Is my car ready?” Well, the adage, “knowing is half the battle,” absolutely holds true for valet guests waiting for their vehicle to be retrieved. The wait becomes more tolerable if they know how long it will take for the valet to bring their car around. Even the New York City subway system has digital signage informing passengers approximately what time the next train will roll into the station.
To help minimize the “is my car ready?” headache, consider installing a monitor that displays approximate retrieval times for valet guests. If you do, the following three things will happen:
· Guests will feel more informed and less antsy. A relaxed guest is a happy guest.
· Guests can grab that one last cup of coffee or make a last-minute purchase without feeling pressure to hover around the valet stand.
· Operators can focus on retrieving cars as opposed to fielding “how much longer?” questions.
4. Do you offer a ticketless valet option?
For some people, tickets hold meaning, like the time you saw Bruce Springsteen or the first time you ever visited Fenway. However, I guarantee you no one has an old valet ticket sitting in a shoe box as a keepsake. In fact, valet tickets are a nuisance; you must remember to carry it with you or where you left it. Wouldn’t it just be easier for all people involved if you forgo paper tickets?
One way to deliver an excellent valet experience is to go ticketless. From the airlines to movie theaters, customers are increasingly comfortable forgoing paper tickets in favor of a mobile check-in. Guest will enjoy the benefit of not having a ticket to lose, crease, or bend as well as the option to use their mobile-number to check-in. Operators will love cutting down on the cost of paper tickets and more accurate reporting.
5. Do you have a system in place that allows for immediate customer feedback?
Stuff happens. Sometimes good. Sometimes bad. Either way, if there isn’t a mechanism to capture feedback from your guests, then a big blind spot can develop for parking operators. One way to measure the pulse of your guests is by sending a mobile survey upon your guest’s departure. “Survey says” is not just a catchphrase but a potential call-to-action for operators who can receive almost immediate feedback from customers after a transaction. This instantaneous communication allows for swift action on both positive and/or negative guest interactions and creates a feedback mechanism that not only involves the guest but lets them know their voice matters. Operators can use survey data to highlight wins and/or address concerns with hoteliers and develop a protocol on how to handle both. In the end, everyone is a winner.
6. Can guests pay for valet services without interacting with valet personnel?
Often when I got to the movies, I bypass the ticket office and go straight to the pay-on-foot ticket machine. Most people use the machine just to pick up tickets, but you can also purchase tickets. My thought is, “why wait in line when I can pick and pay for my tickets at the kiosk?” Same goes for valet parking. Parking guests don’t prefer to stand in a line, but it’s just what they know. But, if you offer them an option to pay for valet services at a pay on foot machine, then you’re empowering your guests to be part of the process. Empowering your guests, then, in turn, empowers valet personnel to run a faster, more efficient valet circle.
Hopefully, Lumiere has lit the way for you to evaluate your parking operation better. Moreover, if you’re truly committed to running a customer-centric hospitality operation, then remember it’s how you make your guest feel that will leave the lasting impression at the valet circle.
Check out www.flashparking.com to see how you can create a more customer-centric parking operation