With mobility effectively grinding to a halt at times over the last year, stricter control on public sector budgets has resulted in a total strategic rethink for local authorities.
Many are now scrutinizing their relationships with parking providers, and rightly so. It is no longer enough for parking partners to ‘do as they’ve always done’ and expect the confidence and trust of a local authority in return. Instead, local authorities should expect resilience and adaptability from their parking partner, working together to respond effectively to an ever-changing world.
In order to forge a strong relationship with a trusted parking solution provider, local authorities should have a clear list of questions in place to ask their parking provider. We’ve come up with the five big questions we’d urge local authorities to ask their parking solution provider. These questions will help to develop the right connections and forge a positive transport strategy throughout 2021.
1. How do you use data and how can it help us shape future parking policy?
Data has become an invaluable resource during the pandemic. The wealth of parking and behavioral data available from cashless payments providers can not only inform plans, but also help to measure and evidence the impact of them.
Positive data trends cement future attitudes and behaviors of motorists across the country; government data shows that greener driving habits improve air quality, with London boroughs implementing Emissions Based Parking schemes experiencing a drop of 44 percent in recorded nitrogen dioxide levels.
Parking solution providers should be able to demonstrate how they can unlock data insights for the benefit of the council. Whether the goal is to drive revenue, influence environmentally conscious behavior, improve air quality or efficiency, parking partners must offer simple, user-friendly tools to boost the accessibility of rich insights and apply them effectively to strategic decision-making.
2. What happens if your service goes down – and how often could it happen?
Intelligent risk mitigation and a reliable, resilient service are two ‘must haves’ of any parking partnership. That’s because loss of revenue, a rise in penalty charge notice (PCN) challenges, complaints from unhappy motorists and, ultimately, reputational damage are steep costs to cover if a provider’s service goes down.
That’s why it’s fair not just to challenge a supplier to prove their system reliability, but to also ask them to be transparent about the measures they have in place to handle any problems. Knowing where their technical and customer support teams are based, how large they are and how they resolve questions and issues can give an indication of the help that’s available should the worst happen.
3. Other than our car parks, where else do you direct motorists to park?
It’s a thorny question but, at a time when maximizing parking revenue and saving on costs is so essential to operators and local authorities, a necessary one. Because the reality is that the parking world is diverse, with no two providers alike.
Knowing where a provider’s interests lie can help to not only to build trust with an essential supplier, but also make it possible to build a sustainable and profitable partnership.
Some providers offer a simple ‘no-frills’ cashless parking payment service for minimum cost to help tick the box of accessible payment methods. All well and good, but if it likely means they aren’t making a profit with this service, they'll be focusing on different revenue streams with higher profit margins. Asking this question can give a clear picture of a parking provider’s priorities and highlight areas for further improvement.
4. Are you ready to adapt to changing regulations and stay compliant?
Compliance, when approached proactively, can become a catalyst for change. Take the ‘Payment Services Directive 2 – PSD2’ as an example. This is an EU regulation that may not have caught everyone’s attention when it was announced a few years ago but it’s as wide-reaching and serious as the GDPR rules that prompted the overhaul of data management practices in 2017.
If a provider isn't proactively adapting to these regulation changes, it could result impact cash flow and reject payments. With use of cash inexorably declining in the UK (predicted to make up just 9 percent of all payments by 2028), it’s critical for providers to have cashless arrangements in place to continue seamlessly processing payments without interruption. Banks and card issuers have had a few years’ head start in preparing for PSD2, which means they’re ready to decline payments that don’t go through the appropriate checks.
Overall, it should be an active process, with solutions designed to make the transition to compliance frictionless and simple, and communicated to clients in plenty of time.
5. Are you giving us a cost-effective solution?
Cost-effective pricing is often high on the agenda when choosing a parking solution provider, but as with many other things, you get what you pay for. To make sure that cost never compromises quality, conversations about money should challenge providers even harder than they already do; looking beyond just price per transaction to truly interrogate the value your parking partner can bring you.
Key focus points for this discussion should be cost efficiencies, cost saving opportunities and the quality of the service. Having all three front of mind will provide an understanding of whether to make a switch, or reaffirm the partnership.
Why quizzing is the way to go
Going beyond the bottom line, local authorities have a right to expect a lot from their parking provider. Challenging a provider to back up their claims with evidence is an important step to make sure their services are not only available but can be relied upon.
It’s time for local authorities to grab hold of the reins as we prepare for restrictions to change, but acing transport strategy can only be done in confidence with the right parking provider on your side.
Peter O’ Driscoll, Managing Director, RingGo