Every day, 39 million journeys end in a parking space.

The rise in cars on the road combined with limited parking availability continues to create a pinch around the issue of parking. With over 100 providers listed as a BPA Approved Operator alongside many who aren’t, choosing the right parking partner can be overwhelming – especially if you’re under pressure to quickly stem the flow of rising complaints or generate more revenue to support growth.

Undeniably, finding a perfect technical solution will transform the experience for both your users and internal teams alike but it’s also worth investing time to ensure you’re aligning with an organisation you can trust and who will deliver a service in line with your values. Here, we discuss the key factors that really matter when picking your perfect partner.

Let’s be fair

Responsible, fair enforcement is a crucial deterrent against abuse but a great provider never loses sight of the customer journey. Take the time to get a sense of how people-centric a business and its parking solutions are to ensure both your business and users are always at the heart of everything you, and they do. Less time, hassle and money spent parking means happier customers who will return time and time again, driving more business through your doors and a partner who is responsive to your needs and easy to do business with day-to-day will reap hours in saved time.

A truly ethical provider should be working with you to ensure genuine customers aren’t caught in the net alongside any abusers of your site/s. Good pointers to help you understand a provider’s approach to ethical charges include asking how they track and understand the customer journey, alongside specific processes and checks to ensure genuine customers don’t receive a payment charge notice (PCN). Good operators could well have other double-checks which may include proof of purchase for instance, to ensure the correct driver is receiving a ticket.

Bottom line – PCNs will always attract negative attention from the media and disgruntled motorists alike. For this reason, working with a respected, responsible operator is key. Ensure your partner shows your customers respect, only ever acts in accordance with your wishes and doesn’t create a battle out of parking tickets you request be cancelled. It’s your site, you decide. Simple.

Putting you first

A partner with whom you have shared principles is someone who will protect your brand reputation, today and in the long-term. But how to separate those who talk-the-talk from those who will actually walk-the-walk? Clearly, any business looking to install equipment on your site has to recoup cost somewhere, be it upfront or downstream. Maybe this is in paid parking revenue, ticketing charges, management fees and so on, but a word of warning… A partner who places their own revenue over the reputation of your business is the wrong provider. Simple.

Operators should be working with you before install and refining throughout the contract term to define a bespoke set of rules for each site which will enable clients to request cancellations and eventually eradicate the need for cancellations all together. It never stops, as the best providers will want what you want. Beware of any providers who have a reputation for making it difficult to cancel PCNs.

Instead of resolving a problem, poorly issued Parking Charge Notices and badly handled appeals can have a detrimental impact on a business in terms of time and reputation. It’s the reputational damage that can be hard to recover from so time spent to understand a provider’s approach to ticketing for instance will be a good indicator of whether they’re a business to align with.

POPLA publish a very useful list each year detailing the upheld and overturned rates of the top operators. Upheld rates are a great indicator of a robust appeals process as effectively, POPLA agree with the operator ruling. Higher overturn rates signal providers who aren’t getting it right.

A company who cares about the same things you do

The Park Mark® safer parking scheme is aimed at reducing crime and the fear of crime in car parks, especially important in the wake of increased crime by moped-riders. If your provider already works with this police-accredited scheme, that’s certainly a good sign as endorsement is a great way to differentiate your site from its neighbours whilst reassuring drivers that they, their passengers and vehicle are in a safer environment. Take a closer look at http://www.parkmark.co.uk/

Safety is king of course, for your users and your site so compliance with CDM – Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 and Health & Safety at Work legislation should be top of your list and a hygiene factor for any provider worth their salt but it’s also worth asking about what level of training is provided to staff. The better providers may offer an in-house Health & Safety Manager and conduct a series of proactive site safety audits periodically (ours are undertaken every week, for instance).

ANPR can also assist in identifying who’s on your site at any given moment. Don’t confuse this with CCTV which provides actual footage but this next generation technology tracks the ‘footprint’ of every single vehicle entering and leaving your car park, with accurate time-stamped registration data which police can request. It’s seamless, creates an entirely free-flow environment and acts as an effective deterrent to criminals as cameras are clearly visible on-site.

Finally, don’t underestimate how your users are treated whilst on-site. If you require a manned solution either to supplement your customer service or if ANPR isn’t suitable for instance, site personnel represent your brand in the eyes of your customers and any partner needs to take that seriously. It’s in these interactions where the small things really matter and whether that be attendants going the extra mile (pardon the pun) to help the elderly into their cars or hand back credit cards left in payment machines, it’s these behaviours which speak volumes about the core values your partner displays at all levels of their organisation. Ask for examples – it might surprise you.

If you’ve found this article useful but still have questions, we’re here to help – whether you’re a blue-chip household name or a small independent surface site. As the biggest private sector operator of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) systems, with the largest privately-owned ANPR database in Europe, we’re serious about doing things right.