From the rise of apps like Uber and Luxe to the looming horizon of self-driving cars, I’m reminded of the Chinese curse “may you live in interesting times.”
There’s no doubt it’s an exciting time in the parking industry. However, in times of rapid change, it’s helpful to remember the core values of your business.
Core values allow you to maintain focus, execute on the things that matter, and drive your business forward.
So today I want to talk about one of the core values for any business: customer service.
You can learn a great deal about customer service from valet parking cars. Here are the top five lessons I have to share:
1. People Have a Desire to Feel Special
The deepest urge in human nature is the desire to feel important” – John Dewey
The desire to feel important drives us in many ways. It’s one of the reasons valet parking exists in the first place.
Whether you’re parking a car, managing a parking structure, or designing a new parking app, you’ll never lose by keeping the customer experience in mind and finding ways to make them feel unique. We call this the “Wow” moment.
In valet, simple things like remembering a customer’s name or paying them a random compliment go a long way. If you manage a parking structure, for example, creating rewards for long-term, repeat customers shows appreciation.
Regardless of the tactic, the point is to go beyond your business and connect with your customer’s desire to feel special.
2. Above and Beyond Is Table Stakes
Have you noticed how most customers now expect extraordinary customer service?
It’s a good time to be a consumer. The world has evolved a great deal in the name of capitalism, and the customers are the ones benefiting. Goods are delivered for free in just two days with Amazon Prime, for instance, and groceries are delivered to our doorsteps with Instacart. These services would have been unimaginable a decade ago.
Companies and businesses have become great at making products and services. So great, in fact, that customers have gotten used to these high standards. Anything less leaves them disappointed.
And what do disappointed customers do? They leave bad reviews (more on this later) and then go somewhere else because they can.
You can bemoan these customers, but it won’t do you much good. You’re better off embracing this new standard by making sure your products and services are top notch.
While your competition complains, you can get creative and execute new strategies to go beyond customer expectations.
What’s the best way to exceed expectations? Anticipate your customer’s’ needs!
A good example of anticipating needs was when Uber drivers started giving out bottles of water to their riders. It would be so easy for parking attendants and valets to give bottles of water to their customers.
So what will happen if you don’t anticipate customers’ needs? They could potentially go somewhere else.
3. Word of Mouth Spreads Fast and Far
There’s nothing worse for a valet provider than a customer leaving a bad review on Yelp, social media, or some other online outlet.
Information spreads instantly on the internet, and it stays there for people to see. With a quick search, anyone can pull up reviews about your company, product, or service.
It’s more important than ever to protect and build your company’s reputation. And the best way to do that is by delivering a great product or service.
Yes, bad reviews hurt, but good reviews help your business massively. Your customers are likely on some form of social media. Any they’ll likely share on Facebook when they have a good experience. This creates a viral effect.
Word of mouth is the best marketing you could possibly hope for because your happy customers are referring their friends to your business.
Tip: Don’t be afraid of bad reviews. They’re opportunities to turn things around by being honest, understanding, and supportive. Respond to bad reviews directly (and publicly, when it makes sense) and repair the situation. Whether it’s a refund, credit, fixing an error for the future, or a sincere apology, let your customers know you have their best interest at heart.
People like seeing how companies respond to criticism because it says a lot about their character. Use a bad review as a chance to shine.
4. Most People Don’t Voice Their Concerns
Everyone has fears and doubts when buying a new product, trying a new service, or switching to a new vendor.
- “I hope the valet doesn’t damage my car.”
- “I’m concerned my parking garage is going to raise the monthly fee.”
- “Is this worth the price? How difficult is it going to be to get up and running?”
These are just some of the thoughts that cross customers’ minds when paying for things.
Many people never voice their concerns and second guess their purchases. This is buyer’s remorse. And it’s the reason customers cancel your service or don’t come back.
But if you know your customer’s fear or objection, you have an opportunity to address it and relieve tension. Use these as marketing opportunities.
Think about hotels and restaurants asking patrons, “Have you been here before?” If the guest says no, the establishment proceeds to welcome them and give an overview of what to expect.
Managing these expectations is a fantastic way to reduce fears and allows your customer to relax and enjoy their experience.
5. Customers Are Your Greatest Asset
It’s more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep an existing one. So valet and parking operators need to focus on customer retention and loyalty. The best way to do that is to understand how customers’ needs change and set themselves up to best meet those needs.
For example, valet operators are paying very close attention to what Luxe, the on-demand valet parking app, is doing. We learn from their customer service practices and find it interesting to see how an app meets the need for on-demand services in the parking industry by meeting drivers wherever and whenever they want.
For more inspiration, check out these four ways you can increase customer loyalty, and by extension, repeat revenue.
Put Your Customers First to Stay Ahead of the Curve
Established valet parking operators have the advantage over new on-demand valet apps right now. They have more years of business under their belts and existing customer relationships to leverage.
Learn what parkers want by asking your existing customers for feedback in person, via email, or through surveys. Knowing how to please your customers will give you an edge over your competition.