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Here We Go!

Kim_Fernandez_March2015

10369132_851318514943011_6870682700335420110_nWelcome to Las Vegas! It’s the first day of the 2015 IPI Conference & Expo and things are heating up at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. If you’re here, you’re in the great company of more than 3,000 parking professionals who will participate in education, networking, the world’s largest parking Expo, and general sessions and keynote events that will fuel their organizations and professional lives for the next year.

If you haven’t already, stop by the IPI Registration Desk in the North Convention Center for your badge, bag, and program guide. That and this year’s Conference app (search IPIConf on Apple’s App Store or the Google Play store) are your complete guide to everything IPI for the next few days. The app will also let you reference the week’s schedule right from your phone and is the only way to vote for your favorite Poster Session entries and rate education sessions, so you won’t want to be without it. The Program Guide is also available in electronic form for easier referencing.

Things kick off with the 5K Fun Run along the Las Vegas Strip at 6 a.m. Today’s highlights include Shoptalks at 1 p.m.; Education and Ignite Sessions that start at 2:15; IPI’s Park Tank at 3:30 (you won’t want to miss this one!); and the Opening Meet & Mingle at the Mob Museum.

Stop by the registration desk with any questions. Viva Las Vegas! Viva Parking!

Should There Be an App for That?

Casey Jones 4x5 (2)

I’ve spent a good bit of time being unhappy about media reports of a new parking application that helps people fight parking tickets. I write and present on parking technology a fair amount and the idea of an app that helps you beat the system rubs me the wrong way. I want technology to solve parking and transportation problems, not let people dodge their responsibility to use parking systems as they are intended. I don’t want it easier for people to fight legitimate and important parking enforcement efforts, especially because we all know that parking chaos often ensues without the right amount of enforcement. This seems akin to Radar detectors thwarting the efforts of law enforcement to maintain safety on our roadways (minus the possibility of horrific car crashes).

The app, called Fixed, recently received a good bit of attention leading up to its launch in the spring. According to a CNN report, here’s how Fixed works: “When someone gets a ticket, they snap a photo of it on their iPhone and enter the violation code. The Fixed app will tell them what percentage of those types of tickets are usually overturned and then show a list of possible reasons it could be found invalid.” The Fixed team does the legal research and advises the parker on their chances for winning an appeal. If the parker wants to file an appeal, they sign an electronic letter (through Fixed) that is sent to the parking provider. Fixed gets a cut of what the citation would have cost if the parker prevails and nothing if the appeal fails.

Okay, so maybe I’m being a little harsh on the Fixed founders. Maybe they aren’t really promoting lawlessness and maybe just maybe there’s some good that can come from an app that helps people fight parking tickets.

I do a considerable amount of consulting and one area I focus a good bit of time on is a client’s parking enforcement program where I look at citations by type, frequency and location. This often reveals some problem that the client is unaware of like inadequate, confusing and contradictory signage. Sometimes the analysis points to a need to adjust pricing, change how parking permits and credentials are allotted, and make adjustments in parking rules, policies, and approaches to parking fines. Perhaps Fixed and other similar apps can be viewed similarly as a means to helping parking programs become less confusing, more informative, and better positioned to help their patrons and guests locate and pay for parking facilities. Rather than look at this type of technology as a threat, perhaps we need to look at it as a way to improve.

Network Like You Mean It, and A Few Other Ideas for the 2015 IPI Conference & Expo

Rachel_Yoka 2013

It’s crunch time, and I have only a few days before taking off for the 2015 IPI Conference & Expo in Las Vegas.

This week will be incredibly full—just as yours will be if you are attending the biggest parking event of the year. In the mad rush, you may want to take a breather and consider how to make the most of the show, as well as your time:  ipi_2015 conference logo_final small_200x145

  • Network like you mean it. Yes, of course, come loaded with lots of business cards, but take the time to have meaningful conversations.  When you wind up a conversation, connect on LinkedIn before you walk away from your new colleague. Quality is always better than quantity, and you never know who you may meet (or where). Stay on your toes!
  • Keep an open mind. That zipline on Fremont Street in Old Vegas may not be your thing, but make sure you don’t stay entirely in your comfort zone. Expand your horizons a little, and take a different path. If you haven’t been on a tour or listened to the Ignite sessions or PowerPitches, give it a try. The program is chock-full of new opportunities and programs. Make sure you don’t miss out on a great experience by doing what you always do.
  • I know I don’t need to tell you to make sure you have at least a little fun in Vegas (this is the parking profession, and we excel at the fun part). But how about a little spin on this to balance it out – wear your Fitbit, Jawbone, whatever fitness contraption you like. Take the stairs (not the escalators) a few extra times, and see if you can out-step and out-climb our staff. I think a little friendly (and healthy competition) may be in order, and we may even be in a betting mood!

Safe travels, and hope to see you in Vegas (Fitbit and all)!

Death Number Five: What Can We Do?

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This is the season when children die in hot parked cars. Five children have died so far, in Phoenix, in Baton Rouge, in Sandpoint, Idaho, and in two cities in Florida (Hiland Park and Lake City).

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Part of IPI’s public safety campaign includes this news item distributed to thousands of community newspapers. Please share with your hometown press.

Children’s bodies get hotter three to five times faster than an adult’s. Even in cars with windows left partially open, temperatures get fatal fast. Sometimes kids are intentionally left (“I just have to run into the store for a few minutes”), but half the time they are forgotten by well-intentioned parents or caregivers who just thought the child was with someone else. One of the recent tragedies involved a child left in a daycare van by mistake.

Please print out these flyers, part of IPI’s Parking Safety Matters initiative, and share with patrons, staff,  local businesses, parent groups, fellow parking professionals, and local media:

Printable Public service ad/flyer with fact sheet on back.

Printable ad/flyer with space for you to add your organization’s logo.

Last year the Calgary Parking Authority, inspired by IPI’s heatstroke prevention campaign, launched its own safety initiative on this issue, focusing on the message: “Never leave a child in a car. Not even for a minute.” To obtain additional support for the campaign, the parking authority approached the Calgary Police Service, Calgary Fire Department, and Emergency Medical Services, all of which agreed to be involved. What a worthwhile community effort!

Jan Null, CCM, Department of Meteorology and Climate Science, San Jose State University is the expert on this topic who spoke at a past IPI Conference & Expo and with whom I work closely on this issue. Jan distributes an email every time there is another death.  When I got his notice about  the fourth death, I stopped what I was doing to write this post, but in the day or so it took to schedule and publish, another death had occurred. By the time you read this, I probably will have received another notification about another toddler death, another heartbroken family.

IPI’s news release on this subject, has more information and links to resources, including a video showing how fast a car reaches lethal temperatures in 80-degree weather, let alone 100 degrees!

Please let me know if you have ideas for how we can all work together to help educate parents and caregivers about this important topic.

Thinking it Through

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During a recent frontline training session, the group discussion focused on a common frustration we experience in our challenging world of customer service. You know the scenario: An infuriated customer yells out something like, “How was I supposed to know I couldn’t park there?!? I didn’t see any signs!! What a racket! You need to make it clear if you expect people to follow the rules!”

Sound familiar? You may have experienced a saltier version, but you get the point. When you hear a complaint like this, do you think, “Are they blind or just slow?? Who issued this person a driver’s license? The sign is obvious!!” Your assumptions about this individual’s failure to grasp the obvious could be justified … but what if it’s not?  Are we forgetting how it feels to be unfamiliar with a setting, trying to take everything in while safely maneuvering the car? Even with a passenger to help with navigation, we sometimes miss the obvious.

I shared a personal story with the group about being out of town at a parking conference. I was driving three of my parking colleagues out to dinner one evening. While Google had directed us to the restaurant, finding an open parking place remained a challenge.  I circled the area, finally finding open spaces down a small hill near the ocean. We laughed about how long it took four parking professionals to figure out the pay station equipment used in the lot. With that transaction successfully completed, we trotted off to dinner.

After a leisurely meal, we returned down the hill to the car, to now find it behind a locked gate. I felt an immediate wave of panic, as we were many miles from our hotel. How was I supposed to know the area closed at a certain hour?? Where were the signs?? Looking up … right there, on a tall post (you know, adjacent to the gate) was the sign. In my haste to make it to the restaurant on time, I missed it all. The sign, the gate, everything. Luckily, a very nice parking officer came to our rescue, opening the gate and saving the evening from ruin. (Note: He did not find the humor in my witty story about four parking professionals missing the obvious signs, but that’s another story.)

Here’s my point: Situations like this can happen to any of us. Keep your assumptions in check. Try to be empathetic. While something may seem obvious to us, we can’t assume everyone else shares our perception. The motivations and personal experience of our customers isn’t always clear. The enforcement of rules is necessary, but it doesn’t have to include passing personal judgment. Take opportunities to look at situations from the customer’s viewpoint. Could markings be clearer or does the area need maintenance? Don’t miss an opportunity to decide if a customer complaint may actually indicate a bigger issue that you may be able to improve.

Get Ahead Of Local Parking Coverage

Bill_Smith_Jan.2015

During the past five years, thanks in part to IPI’s Parking Matters® national public relations and marketing efforts, positive stories about parking abound. According to IPI’s soon-to-be published Emerging Trends in Parking Survey, nearly 50 percent of parking professionals surveyed think perceptions of parking are improving. But, we all know when local papers run editorials about parking,  the coverage isn’t always fair and parking is often misunderstood. When parking is in the news often there’s a problem—or a perceived problem—with local parking. Unfortunately, it’s a lesson that has been learned by dozens of cities in recent months, from Tampa to Los Angeles.

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire right? Actually, no. Sometimes smoke is just smoke.

Unfortunately, when it comes to municipal parking plans and regulations, misunderstandings abound, but a proactive communications program can go a long way in helping educate stakeholders, including the media, so media coverage is balanced. Residents, business owners, and other stakeholders have opinions about how parking should be managed but they typically don’t understand what goes into parking planning and why planning decisions are made. Do parking tickets seem too expensive? There’s probably a planning rationale behind the rates. Do the hours of meter operations seem inconvenient or do parking time limits seem too short? There are planning reasons for these regulations too. The problem is, stakeholders often aren’t aware of why these decisions are made.

Cities and towns typically don’t systematically market their parking operations. Sure, they may do outreach when there’s an issue, but by then it’s too late. They’ve lost control of the context of the discussion when people are complaining and the newspapers are editorializing.

Every city and town should have a strategic communications program designed to keep the public informed about its parking rules and regulations and what the municipal parking plan is designed to accomplish. Such a plan should include:

  • Media outreach: This includes distributing press releases, backgrounders, and other media materials designed to inform the press about key parking policies and the roles they play in public policies. Outreach should also include regular briefings with editors, reporters, and editorial writers to explain parking initiatives and answer questions from the media.
  • Social media: Facebook, Twitter, tumblr, and other social media platforms provide direct access to the public and other stakeholders. Take advantage of these tools to keep the public informed of parking initiatives and what they are accomplishing.
  • Websites: By designing websites to inform the public of parking regulations and initiatives, cities and towns can assure that accurate and timely information is available to the public.
  • Public meetings: Parking administrators should regularly engage business and community leaders to keep them informed of parking plans.

It’s not enough merely to communicate, however. Communications programs must be proactive rather than reactive. In addition to providing valuable information, communications programs should anticipate concerns and grievances and head them off before they become issues.

If you’re looking for examples of positive local parking marketing efforts, read the inspiring case studies of the 16 winners of the Parking Matters Marketing & Communications Awards on the website or in The Parking Professional in July.

Take a proactive approach to informing the public about your parking program. You’ll sleep easier when you don’t have to worry about seeing your name in tomorrow’s editorial.

 

Three Cheers for Empowered Customer Service

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During the past few days, I’ve experienced three examples of stellar customer service that made me remember just how important these interactions are in solidifying relationships and building reputation.

  1. Yesterday I needed a media list for a news release I was distributing and I was in a real time crunch. My login didn’t work, which was odd, but the company I work with—Vocus—was recently acquired by Cision, so I figured there might be a glitch. When I called the helpline, we tried to troubleshoot to no avail, but the customer support rep—I’m sure outside his comfort zone and in a real leap of faith—set me up a new account for the day with login and password (this is a database service that costs several thousand dollars a year) so I could access the information I needed and solve my immediate need. Phew!
  2. I uploaded the 20-page CAPP Graduation ceremony program to a printer’s site. Everything was timed perfectly so the programs will be printed in time to ship to the IPI office before our truck leaves for the IPI Conference & Expo in Las Vegas later this month. Hours later, I got an email that they’d halted production because they flagged a problem during the art check.  Problem is, it wasn’t a problem, the graphic files are fine, but I was out of the office for a meeting and by the time I could call, I’d lost a day, meaning that expedited (more expensive) shipping will be required to meet the delivery date. The customer service rep, seeing the due date, voluntarily told me they just upgraded the turnaround time at no extra charge to be sure the programs arrive at their destination on time. Sweet!
  3. At a restaurant in Washington, D.C., we order a bottle of wine, but the waitress returns to inform us that it is unavailable. None of my group is a wine snob but this is a special dinner and the wine requested is reasonably priced; to order something similar requires a significant leap in cost. Without missing a beat, the waitress immediately suggests a suitable alternative but it’s nearly double the cost! No surprise there. But wait! She offers the higher-priced bottle for the same cost as the bottle we originally requested. Wow! Later, we ask the waitress if she is an owner of the restaurant since that’s not a switch waitstaff can generally make and we are surprised that she is not. Clearly, the culture at this establishment is to please patrons and staff is empowered to do so.

In IPI’s Parking Matters® program, where we are working to advance the parking profession by improving perceptions of parking, we talk about how this industry has evolved in terms of technology, a focus on sustainability, being integral to planning better communities, and also in terms of being a service industry. And in service industries, customer service is paramount.

Framed on the wall in the exam room at my local veterinarian’s offices is an adaptation of a classic customer service creed, often attributed to L.L. Bean, but probably tracing further back in various iterations:

LLBeanCustomers are the most important persons to this company.
Customers are not dependent on us, we are dependent on them.
Customers are not an interruption of our work, they are the purpose of it.
We are not doing a favor by serving customers.
Customers are doing us a favor by giving us the opportunity to do so.

It always makes me feel good to read that. And I encourage companies to make these principles part of their culture. Often new customers are treated royally and existing customers are taken for granted. I was so delighted to receive a simple, one-page letter from a vendor recently that included a 20 percent off code for my next order and thanking me for being such a steady customer.

An internet search for “empowering customer service representatives” is a good starting point for those who want more ideas and guidance on this topic.

Life Between Buildings

L. Dennis Burns

I have been doing my homework in preparation for the upcoming IPI Conference in Las Vegas.  Josh Kavanagh, CAPP, and I are developing a presentation exploring the unique opportunities those of us in the parking and transportation industries have to leverage opportunities inherent in owning our customer’s first and last impression of our communities. Our presentation will explore how we can leverage these opportunities to create competitive advantage for the communities we serve. Mayblog

For my part, I have embarked on a bit of a literary review of several interesting books that are either directly or at least tangentially related to this area.  One of these tangentially related books is a classic planning book originally published in the 1970s, Life Between Buildings, by the venerable planner Jan Gehl.

This fascinating book explores the importance of creating high-quality public spaces as our urban environments continue to densify and evolve.  Gehl focuses on the basics of human interaction and the need for contact between people.  He then shows how planning and design can dramatically affect the nature and character of public spaces and communities as a whole.  He begins to knit together planning concepts such as social structure, physical structure, transition zones, etc., and links them to fascinating discussions about senses and communications related to dimensional space and how we interact with those spaces.

At a PIPTA conference held in Tacoma, Wash., a few years ago, we  had the opportunity to hear a colleague of Mr. Gehl’s, Helle Soholt (who happened to be visiting Seattle at the time), speak on “Mobility-Oriented Design.”  This interesting presentation discussed the need to move beyond merely planning for transport and safety and toward creating spaces that promote quality of life in multiple dimensions by putting people at the center of the planning process.

It never fails to amaze me how parking connects to so many varied and interesting dimensions of related disciplines such as planning, economic development, and even (or perhaps especially) the social sciences.  Keeping our focus on people-centric planning and operations is an important key to success in all our varied endeavors.

Top 10 Things (x 2) You Didn’t Know about the IPI Conference

Bonnie Watts

top10May 20 marked a moment in history. You would have had to be living under a rock to have missed it. It was the final airing of the “Late Show with David Letterman” after more than 20 years. Letterman’s signature bit was his Top 10 List, circulating around a common theme or recent events.

With the 2015 IPI Conference & Expo around the corner, and to pay homage to Letterman and his farewell show, why not have a Top 10 Things (x2) You Didn’t Know about the IPI Conference? So here goes:

20. Insiders know the entire scoop—but you don’t have to be left out. We have tips from seasoned attendees that you can download to get the inside track!
19. Planning an IPI conference starts three years in advance and requires all IPI staff plus more than 150 volunteers to pull the event together each year.
18. We’re giving back and so can you! IPI wants to leave every city better than we came. For the 2015 Conference, we’ve chosen Project 150 to support. And what’s great about that is, Project 150 recipients are actually part of our volunteer group this year.
17. There are more than 100 hours of networking opportunities during the four-day event.
16. On average, an attendee gets no more than five hours of sleep a night at an IPI Conference & Expo (maybe less in Vegas…).
15. This year, IPI will be presenting our very own Shark Tank spin-off, Park Tank™ on Monday, June 29.
14. Educational sessions are broken into six tracks with a brand new track this year. We have added Building & Construction Management to our five other tracks: Customer Service, Finance, Organizational Improvement, Sustainability, and Technology.
13. If you’re looking for rapid-fire sessions that ignite a spark or idea for you, attend the Ignite sessions. They are lively, fun and fast—blink and you could miss something.
12. Many of the education opportunities are now accredited because IPI is an  ANSI/IACET provider. This means select education offerings enable you to earn  LUs, PDHs, CCM recertification points, as well as CAPP points.
11. The Expo Hall features more than 240 companies, 25 percent of which are first-time exhibiting companies.
10. IPI now offers credentialing and accreditation programs that certify organizations, professionals, and facilities. We’re setting standards and raising the level of excellence and we want you to be a part of it.
9. We recognize more than 250 individuals, organizations, and programs during our four-day event in professional recognition programs, the CAPP certification program, and in IPI’s Awards of Excellence and marketing awards programs.
8. Ever wish you could spend some more time with the presenters or participants of a particular session but the schedule moves so fast, it’s off to the next session or activity?  No worries! We’ve got you covered. On Thursday, July 2 at 8 a.m., we’re going to give you the chance to informally talk with presenters from sessions during the week and even collaborate with other attendees. Don’t miss this first-ever mixing-it-up ShopTalk!
7. Learning isn’t just for classrooms or general sessions—we offer hands-on learning with our operational Facility Tours.
6. We love first-timers! So we plan onsite orientation sessions to provide inside tips on how to best navigate — and get the most out of the conference.
5. There’s an app for that! We know technology drives this industry and we’re keeping up. The new IPICONF app for the 2015 event allows for more interaction than ever before.
4. There are more freebies than you can shake a stick at, and all you have to do is show up. Don’t miss a single event, you never know what you might miss if you aren’t there and there early!
3. Vegas is a great city with a lot of distractions and we want your undivided attention during the event, however, we want you to also have some fun and so we’ve arranged Explore the Area tours for Thursday, July 2 for you to get out and see the city. Click here to sign up.
2. Networking and meeting new colleagues doesn’t have to be inside four walls. Sign up for the CAPP Classic Golf Tournament or the 5K Fun Run for some great camaraderie, fun and prizes.
1. And just when you think it’s over, Thursday, July 2, we’re giving you a sneak peek at the 2016 IPI Conference & Expo in Nashville at the closing General Session.

In honor of our Top Ten (x2) List, if you haven’t registered yet to attend the top event of the year for the parking industry, register by Monday, June 1, 5:00 p.m. EST and use promo code TOPTENX2 to take *10% off current registration fees. We look forward to seeing you in Vegas!

*only good on full, daily, Expo hall, 5k fun run, golf, and meet and mingle tickets. Must be for new registrations only. Cannot be applied to existing registrations.

 

 

 

Reshaping Change

Kathleen

By 2030, the U.S. population is projected to increase from 319 million to 358 million people. Vehicle miles traveled in the country have been trending downward since 2004. During the next 20 years, America’s 65 and over population will grow to be 19 percent of the population. America’s 72 million older baby boomers will replace the 38 million seniors we have today. Jon Martin will reveal what the Ten Transcendent Trends Reshaping the Future of Parking are and how they impact the profession. Join us at the IPI Conference on Tuesday, June 30 to check out what his research unveils.

Las Vegas offers a dilemma of its own design; too many people and too many cars—massive hotels with 3,000 to 4,000 hotel rooms each. Let’s not forget the convention centers and the casinos. The Las Vegas strip is rivals Disneyland and Times Square as one of the most intensely used entertainment zones on earth. Millennials’ tastes and desires are reversing a half century of expectations about how they want to get around.  Get ready—this is just the beginning.  Disruptive change will be a factor in any business related to the form and use of the city.  Join Gordon Price on Wednesday, July 1 as he reveals What I Learned from Las Vegas (and other lessons for our disruptive times). Is the parking industry ready for these changes?

Regardless of generation, effective communication is the key to sustaining relationships. Discover the power of a little incentive and the positivity that comes along with that. Learn to turn negatives into bragging points! Does your communication style get results? Some of the most powerful communication strategies are the most neglected ones. Join Barry Maher on Thursday, July 2 as he demonstrates the art of tactful communication and how to make a huge difference with a little motivation. This session will offer humorous insights as well as tactics for communication strategies that can be used with customers, peers and staff on how to start Slicing through the Noise: Powerful Communication for Leadership and Professional Success.

Click here to join us for these presentations and much more. These dynamic keynote speakers are waiting for you!