Cale America Makes Strategic Move to Outsource Their Consumer Call Center Business

Answering parking patrons calls around the clock is a difficult task. Ask any parking garage manager who must answer intercom help calls at 3 a.m. and they’ll tell you the challenges that come with dealing with customers.

Now, imagine the challenge of answering calls for a municipal parking operation resolving questions for customers regarding parking meter functionality, credit card issues, hours, disability parking rules, citations, and more. It’s a big task, and many parking departments have decided to outsource that support to a vendor.

Beth Slovic/The Oregonian.
A parking meter from Cale in downtown Portland.

Parking agencies at Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Detroit, and Portland are just a few of a long list of municipal departments that have contracted Cale America to deliver a combination of parking terminals, mobile payment solutions, centralized software systems, and consumer call center support services in their community.

After years of trying to operate a fully trained 24/7 call center, Cale America made a strategic decision in the fourth quarter of 2017 to outsource their call center business unit to a specialized partner, the Parker 24/7 Call Center. The deal allows Cale America to focus resources on their core technology and service offerings while gaining a competitive advantage to win more municipal parking agency contracts.

Parker 24/7 Call Center is the parking industry’s only independent specialized call center.

The change delivers a turn-key solution for Cale America that solves years of frustrating challenges the company faced to operate a customer support call center with a high level of quality and consistency.

Pam Panchak/Post-Gazette

Always seeking to do better

Cale America has built a reputation delivering superior results to municipal and private parking agencies by combining technology, data and comprehensive support services. The company is in a constant state of continuous improvement and has set a high bar for customer service, product offerings, and quality.

Tom Szubka

The company is riding a wave of wins, according to Tom Szubka, Director of Operations whose responsibility includes the call center business unit. “We’re an energized, forward-looking company,” he said. “For us, we are on the lookout for any way we can deliver best-in-class performance for our clients.”

It’s Cale America’s continuous improvement culture that attracted Szubka to the company in the first place. The seasoned operations executive and parking professional was brought aboard to help the company optimize internal systems and services as the company scales for growth.

One area of the business that had missed expectations was their Live Call Answering service, a call center solution that assists parking patrons with questions via direct phone support, 24/7. It didn’t take long for Szubka to recognize a need to make a change. “All options were on the table,” Szubka said. The list of issues to address was long.

Outsourcing to a ‘general’ call center won’t cut it

For nearly three years, Cale America had struggled to operate their call center service. The company could barely maintain adequate staffing levels to answer calls day and night, seven days a week. Turnover was high, and training was time-consuming.

The company even went so far as to hire an external call center to support their internal team. But parking is a unique beast, and the vendor couldn’t get staff up to speed with the nuances of the equipment, processes, and business rules for each municipal client.

The traditional call answering service fees were expensive too. The call center saddled Cale America with an inefficient, expensive per-minute fee structure and was bogged down by inefficiencies.

As a glorified answering and messaging service, the vendor was unaware of, and unprepared to handle, the demands of parking services.

Indira St. Laurent

“To handle a parking patron’s call properly, we are supposed to go through a whole process—what kind of meter, what kind of payment, and so forth,” said Indera St. Laurent, Cale America’s Support Services Manager who oversees both a B2B customer help desk call center as well as the consumer parking patron call center. “These answering-service call centers lack the skills for troubleshooting and fact-finding, a key component to an effective parking call-center experience.” While the CSRs could record basic info, they couldn’t really understand and resolve the parking patron’s issues.

General call centers fail to understand the parking patron’s situation

Soon, support tickets and unresolved matters began adding up. This led to frustrated municipal customers, fueled by consumer complaints of long call wait times and ever-increasing missed calls.

Plus, calls that should have been resolved in a few seconds by a knowledgeable, pro-active CSR were taking more minutes to resolve. The call center agents, unaware of the urgency of their job, would frequently engage harried, rushed, and frustrated customers in leisurely discussions that stretched out for several minutes.

“In the parking world it’s different than other industries,” Szubka said. “Your customers are in a line, in a queue, and they need their matter resolved quickly, efficiently, in a positive manner, so you have to be very smart and efficient.”

Internally, limited reporting from the vendor were inadequate for Cale America management’s needs, particularly as they sought to win new deals. “We needed more data to show our results for [municipal] customers to maintain those contracts, and to help sales win new deals too,” said St. Laurent.

Boulder, CO / Cale America

Training is expensive and time-consuming

Training the vendor’s staff was difficult, if not impossible, for St. Laurent to maintain.

The process was expensive and, being a call center, already had a high turnover rate. St. Laurent found herself spending more time trying to support the vendor than focusing on internal Cale America customer support staff she also oversaw.  “If I’m spending my time trying to train, and re-train, the vendor’s CSRs, I’m not adding value to my primary responsibility building our internal technical help desk and support teams for our [B2B] customers,” she said.

Parking Specialization is Critical to Doing A Good Job

Eventually, Cale realized their current system wasn’t enough. They needed a new strategy. “The call center is an important part of our overall package to municipal and private operator clients,” said Szubka. “Packaged correctly, with the right quality and consistency, would give us a competitive advantage to win more deals.”

“We began looking for a provider who was familiar with the parking world,” St. Laurent said.

Cale America’s search quickly found Parker Video Intercoms call center solution. As an established parking services solutions provider, the Parker 24/7 Call Center had the know-how and savvy to help Cale America quickly.

Pricing was more manageable too. Parker Video Intercoms flat-fee structure for call center services gave Cale America a predictable, consistent expense item, and did not incentivize agents to remain on the line longer than necessary.

Boulder Colorado / Cale America

Partners, not “outsourced” vendors

As the transition rolled out, Cale America introduced the service as being delivered by Parker 24/7 Call Center to their clients. “We didn’t just hire another firm to deal with the calls, we positioned the move as bringing a strategic partner to our clients, to provide the best service possible,” said Szubka. “Clients saw the move as an upgrade, and the service has been solid since we made the change, strengthening our relationship and building on our brand for best-in-class service.”

The switch was pain-free, both for Cale America and for the client. “When I initially started this transition project, one of my biggest fears was the complexity of onboarding another call center and the complexity of learning our business,” St. Laurent said. “I’d given the Parker team a lot of business rules that customized their call center services to our needs, and I expected implementation to be much more complicated. But frankly, from our end (and our clients), it has felt nearly seamless.”

The ability to handle the unique demands of Cale America’s different municipal clients comes from the custom software platform that Parker Video Intercoms has developed. It enables the company to tailor business rules for each city and garage separately.

The Parker Call Center Software dashboard provides real-time data visibility for Cale America to monitor stats so their team is always in the loop.

The Data Looks Good

Through the first several months of being online, Cale America is now missing less than 3% of all calls, which St. Laurent said represents a huge improvement over the previous system, which didn’t even track those metrics.

That means far fewer missed calls, and the difference is noticeable. “Numbers-wise, I was amazed. We can already see a difference compared to our previous call center,” she said. “The data Parker 24/7 Call Center gathers, the way the tickets are set up, and the way Parker’s remote attendants respond to calls is exceeding expectations. They follow the script, and are doing an amazing job of listening to, and responding appropriately to our customers.”

Cale America management is impressed with the reports they receive regularly, allowing them to track metrics they previously had no access to. “I can see call times, how many calls have come through, what time they come through, and track our busiest times of day through a single report,” St. Laurent said.

Since Parker’s staff is experienced in working in the parking sector, training is relatively minimal, with only a small amount of Cale-specific training needed to acquaint them with the specifics of the hardware and software.

What’s next for Cale?

Madeira Beach, FL / Cale America

With the burden of call center off their plate, Szubka and St. Laurent see an opportunity to launch Cale to the next level. Partnering with Parker 24/7 Call Center gives them the opportunity to focus on new product and service initiatives, knowing that the parking patron call center is in capable hands.

“Our partnership with Parker frees me to devote more time to the Cale support side of my job, where it should be,” said St. Laurent.

Szubka added the partnership greatly expands their capabilities going forward as Cale America continues to grow. “We have a great technology, an awesome product, and my role is making it so we’re scalable,” he said. “Preparing for growth, you have to make sure your foundation at the operational level is sound, and that included the call center. This collaboration with Parker Video Intercoms allows us the ability to focus on the areas that need our attention and that’s going to mean more growth to our top and bottom line in the coming years.”

Have questions?

Scott Gould, SVP

Give us a call and we’ll answer any questions you may have about how the Parker Video Intercom platform is helping municipalities like those serviced by Cale America provide a better parking experience. Call us now at (800) 923-2704 and ask for Scott.

Better yet, Schedule a Demo and see the full benefits of the Parker Video Intercom Platform which can include a free quote to see how incredibly affordable our solution is to upgrade your parking customer service.