Look after the pennies…

I went canoeing at the weekend, there were 16 of us out for the day, where we were taken 6 miles by road dropped in the river. We were told to paddle down the river for 14 miles and be back for 5pm.

Now I have been canoeing for years but most of the friends I paddled with either had little or no experience. It made for great entertainment as they tipped and went in circles and a great day was had by all, but as we dawdled and embraced nature we suddenly realised it was 6.30 and the finish was nowhere near in sight.

We finally got back to the canoe hire place just after 7pm two hours late, where I was expecting a fine. After all we had stayed two hours beyond our welcome, in parking terms it’s a £60 fine or £30 if paid within 15 days.

Instead of a fine we were met with smiles and jokes and what I call excellent customer service. To compare parking with canoeing is not fair, but my point is where does customer service end? At what point does penalising the customer stop benefiting the business? On the flip side what point does the business suffer from being too lenient with customers abusing the system.?

I have worked in parking for just over 6 years now and I have always seen the benefit of potential fines, over actual fines. I have installed clamping signage, police branded warning signage yet I would not even know how to install a clamp. The car parks do not even own a clamp. We have never needed one, with a staff presence and a clear message the habitual abuse does not happen.

Clearly this approach doesn’t work everywhere but steaming in heavy handed every time clearly does more harm than good. Our industry seems to have taken on the mentality of a money machine of late and how to squeeze every penny out of our customers. No doubt spurred on by recent events in the financial world. Something we have worked hard to get away from, so many of us have tried to change the image of parking. We as an industry need to get back on track, customer service first.

If we treat our customers as the pennies, perhaps the pounds as they say, will look after themselves.