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Case Study

Penn State University

Using Technology & Focused Collaboration to Better the Customer Experience

Managing campus parking operations at a major university can be quite a daunting challenge. There are often political considerations and competing interests to navigate, and the complexity of today’s automated parking world can exacerbate them. However, with the right combination of inter-departmental collaboration, technology, and focusing on customer relationships to create a win/win scenario, it’s possible for university parking managers to improve the parking experience for students, faculty, staff, and visitors, while also improving the bottom line.

A Strategic Plan for Enhanced Customer Experience

Several years ago, Penn State University created a strategic plan for enhancing the parking experience, driving innovation, and improving parking management. Back then, the university’s parking operations were antiquated. Parking facilities couldn’t even take credit card payments for non-permit parkers. University parking officials knew they needed to turn to modern parking technology.

Due to the University’s long and storied history of intercollegiate athletics, improving their parking systems was particularly important. Penn State is a Big Ten school, with 31 sports and 800+ student athletes in multiple facilities spread across campus. Sporting events attract thousands of spectators and parking patrons.

The university upgraded its parking management software, began selling permits online, and replaced their PARCS system. The addition of the new PARCS system allowed the university to take better control of its parking assets across the campus, while allowing 24/7 revenue from transient parkers.

We Are Penn State

Doing More Without Added Staff, or Losing the Human Element

The university needed to get more done without adding staff. Parking planners knew sourcing staff for overnight and weekend hours would be difficult. Upgrading existing technology and introducing new solutions for parking customers was the obvious way to deliver a better parking experience.

University parking planners also knew that automation had the potential to confuse campus parkers. Technology doesn’t always work as it should, and the university needed a way to help customers any time there was a problem, whether the parker encountered payment issues, equipment malfunctions, or were confused about how to use the equipment.

The Flexible Parker Technology Solution

Penn State needed to ensure that every intercom call would be personally answered, 24/7/365. The university implemented Parker’s powerful software platform, which puts a dashboard with facility information at customer service representatives’ fingertips, for efficient call resolution. During the week, Penn State’s parking administration office uses the platform to handle help calls, and on weekends, nights, and holidays, calls are seamlessly redirected to the Parker call center, using the same platform.

Even on holidays when Penn State staff are home celebrating with their families, live help is available to parking patrons. On particularly busy days, like Football Saturdays, Parker Technology’s call center stands ready to help the university handle increased call volume. This is particularly important during peak evening hours when there is a general exodus of staff and students from the university’s parking facilities.

Not much changed for our customers for quite some time, meanwhile the industry evolved. We’ve experienced a significant rate of change over the last 5 years, and our customers come to expect a Penn State feel regardless of the convenience and options that we provide. That meant finding the right partners to provide 24/7 customer service that not only maintained the human element during this time, but actually enhanced it.”

avatar

Rob DeMayo

Director of Transportation Services

Power of the Platform

Penn State administrators can collect powerful metrics using the Parker platform. Because every intercom call is logged with an issue and a resolution, the system provides insight into the myriad of ways parkers experience problems, and can address those problems with long-term solutions, such as better signage and improved way-finding.

For example, after deploying the platform, the university learned that between .9%-1.1% of the total number of gate lifts resulted in an intercom call, and 80% of those calls came as a result of the customer experiencing an issue that was not related to equipment failure. While 1.1% may not sound like a large number, it amounted to more than 27,415 calls for help in 2019.

By focusing on parking customers and making sure their experience was easy and convenient at the first and last touchpoints, the system helps make a visit to Penn State positive, reflecting well on the reputations of the university and its parking department.

Efficient Call Resolution & Staffing

Penn State parking staff can now help customers more quickly, because it is no longer necessary to physically send someone to the lane, nor have ambassadors posted at the gates, waiting for problems to arise. These staff are now available to roam the decks and perform important maintenance, cleaning, and safety checks on the property, without being anchored for their entire shift.

Penn State’s solution includes Parker’s patented two-way video technology, which improves the customer experience by providing  a friendly face on the other end of the line, rather than just a voice. To parkers, the process is seamless and feels like a Penn State staff member is answering the call. So, in addition to improving the parking experience, Parker’s customer service platform also helped improve the efficiency and performance of parking staff.

Inter-Departmental Collaboration

It can be challenging to meet the parking needs of such a large and vibrant athletic program, but the university has succeeded by modernizing its equipment and management strategies. The effort was helped by the ability of Penn State’s athletic and parking departments to collaborate to find parking solutions.

Through all these efforts, Penn State’s parking administrators have vastly improved the parking experience on campus. Parker Technology is proud to play a vital role in the university’s parking renaissance.