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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

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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!

Poli Sci Do or Die

Casey Jones 4x5 (2)

In college. I earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and spent a good bit of my early career in the public sector working for politicians. This inevitably involved campaigning and elections and since then, I’ve watched with great interest most local, state, and federal elections. My wife teases me on Election Night as I sit riveted to the TV, watching the results roll in.

I’m as eager now to learn who has been elected to the IPI Board of Directors. While the responsibility of voting falls to someone else in my organization, I did take keen interest in the slate of candidates, reading their statements and considering how they’d impact IPI. So much talent steps forward each IPI election cycle and the voters do a great job of advancing people well-suited to serve as board members. It takes courage, thought, and commitment to run, you must allow your experience to be scrutinized, and you have to accept the chance that you will not earn enough votes. I applaud everyone willing to throw their hat in the ring and encourage more to do so. Without a diverse group of quality candidates, the board of IPI cannot effectively fulfill its mission and foster the organization’s growth.

Another important election will occur once the new board is in place and that will be for two key IPI officer positions: the board chair-elect and the treasurer. With the chairman of the board and immediate past chair, these positions comprise the organization’s executive committee and are selected by the IPI board. As I see it, the executive committee’s role is to provide the central board leadership and interface with the IPI executive director to ensure that the organization stays on track, exploits new opportunities, and maximizes the impact of the entire board and volunteer committees. These duties are shared among the executive committee, so the composition of the committee and its chemistry matter greatly. The executive committee is often called upon to handle sensitive issues and consider matters prior to the full board’s deliberation. There must be a willingness among the committee to disagree, challenge one another and to offer new, creative thinking to the conversation. This group must be bold, visionary, thoughtful, selfless, and singularly focused on what is in IPI’s best interest.

Selecting the next chairman of the board and treasurer is of critical importance to IPI and I wish the candidates who will step forward all the best. Unfortunately for me, I’ll have to wait for the results to be revealed as CNN won’t be covering the deliberations on Election Day.

In Search of Utopia

Brett Wood

I just wrapped up major evaluation and documentation efforts on one of the coolest (and most challenging) projects I’ve done in a while. The City of Aurora, Colo., which has a population of more than 325,000 east of Denver, is largely a suburban-based community with no real parking vision—just a collection of strip malls, big box stores, and other suburban development. There is a large medical campus, but outside of that area, the urban context just doesn’t exist in Aurora. However, RTD (the regional transit provider) is on the cusp of opening a light rail line that will include nine stations in Aurora and connect the community with Denver and the airport. To say that things are about to change in Aurora would be an understatement.

That’s where our client comes in. The City of Aurora had the foresight to say, “we could have a parking problem.” But instead of waiting to see how that played out, they decided to get in front of the train (so to speak) and make sure they were ready. So for the past six months, we have been developing a business plan and a parking program from the ground up.

At our kickoff meeting, we joked the city had the opportunity to create Parking Utopia, where they learned from all the lessons of the many communities that have braved this transition before. Before long, what was a funny line became a mantra for the project.

We set out to create parking utopia, which, in our minds, was based on these tenets:

  • The community, including the customer and the economic vitality of the community, is the most important aspect of the program
  • It’s about so much more than parking; the system should be a conduit for improving mobility, access, and growth within the community
  • Enforcement should be based on compliance and education rather than heavy-handed regulations
  • Technologies should be designed to be easy to use for both the customer and the manager
  • The staff should be ambassadors for the program, helping the community learn about how and why we manage parking
  • The community should be engaged throughout the life of the program, helping define the future by providing existing feedback
  • Decisions should be made based on real data from the community, ensuring that new program elements meet the needs of those they serve
  • Parking should be priced to manage demand and promote community needs, not generate revenue
  • If they make positive revenue, it should be reinvested into the community.

I don’t know if you noticed a theme there, but it was all about the community. Utopia didn’t mean gadgets and gizmos or progressive policies. Rather, it meant creating a parking program that worked for Aurora and positioned them for success. So, with all of that said, what’s your ideal parking utopia?

To Go or Not To Go

MichelleJonesHS

I recently participated in a small long-weekend summit hosted by the Professional Convention Management Association. It was by invitation only and in a lovely destination. I took vacation days for Thursday and Friday, and the event concluded on Sunday. Only after I had made all of the arrangements for participation did I realize it fell on the same weekend as my only child’s senior prom. I know, I know. But I went anyway. I may not win Mother of the Year, but the event was worth it. Valuable education, priceless networking, and even a little R&R. The hubster did fine on his own picking up the flowers and taking photos. And the boy is not emotionally scarred.

Increasingly, we are all being asked to do more. It’s a challenge to be in several places at once. When I’m at work I worry about my family obligations. When I’m at home I worry about work. But sometimes we need to take a minute to recharge and do what’s best for us, in our personal and/or professional lives.

In just a few weeks, we will be in Las Vegas with industry colleagues, fabulous presenters, fun networking events, meaningful education, an impressive tradeshow, and maybe even a couple of hours poolside. You really don’t want to miss it.

If you have ever wanted to attend the IPI Conference & Expo but were too timid to ask your supervisor, fear not. Our website has a Justification Toolkit expressly for this purpose. We provide you with resources to explain the value of participation.

You may never need to take vacation days or miss your child’s milestones to participate in IPI, but it’s my hope that we provide you with fun, quality programming that would allow you to feel OK doing so.