Friday, December 30, 2011

Company who brought us Meter - Eye now targets the disabled bay abusers.

The New Zealand tech company that brought us the Meter-Eye, and has flatteringly been copied around the world, has now brought us a sensor that will allow for disabled bay abusers to be caught and infringed automatically.  Ingeniously simple and set up to have maximum uptake and marketing affect, the system should revolutionise the compliance side of disabled bay parking.

The Good - disabled bay abusers will get infringed immediately if they don’t have the right transponder in their vehicle.  The in-bay sensor will interrogate the vehicle as it sets itself over the top of the sensor, and if an in-car transponder doesn’t reply, then a message will be sent to the local enforcement team to attend and issue an infringement notice.

Also, uptake will be automatic, as the people who utilise the bays will want to have a transponder in their vehicles.  Uptake will be like a wildfire out of control.

The Bad - The sound of the people bellowing at local municipal authorities, large chains and the smallest of retail outlets will be deafening and create another item in the cold war style of technology one-upmanship.  Even authorities that can’t afford the new technology will be chastised by its citizens to keep up.

The abusers who do have the in car transponders, that is people who are NOT using the cars for the legitimate purpose of transporting a disabled user, will also get best seats in the house.  Nothing can be done about this abuse.

All in all, this is a great first step and the technology will be improved upon and the breadth of the technology will allow for the 'idea' to sprout up in other areas unrelated to disabled parking.

Kevin Warwood

Sensor tech Company Targets Parking Rogues

New Zealand Company Car Parking Technologies has created a product that uses sensors and electronic tags to locate and fine motorists who are illegally parked.   The kit could also signal the end of residential permits on dashboards and parking meters, company managing director Paul Collins said.  ''If everyone has a chip in their vehicle, we know who they are,'' he said. ''If that chip is aligned to some form of credit card or phone service, you just top up your tag.''

While such residential developments are still a year away, the disabled parking technology is now being tested in Britain by the City of Edinburgh and supermarket chain Sainsbury's.  And the company, whose chairman is the Computershare founder Chris Morris, will soon start talks with Australian airports, hospitals, shopping centres and councils.  Instead of carrying disabled parking permits, drivers carry electronic tags that are read by sensors in parking bays.  If the sensors cannot detect a tag, they send a message to parking officers, who issue fines.

The technology would change people's behaviour, Collins said.  ''There has always been an issue with disabled parking,'' he added. ''People will look at these disabled parks and say, 'I am going to get caught, I'm not going to park there'.  ''When we put sensors in, the abuse goes down immediately.''  The technology would also eliminate the need for parking inspectors to constantly patrol the streets, Collins said.

Sandi Havekotte, whose 13-year-old son Aidan has cerebral palsy, said she often struggled to find a disabled parking space.  ''A few years ago we arrived at a shopping centre and a lovely shiny red convertible pulled next to us in a disabled spot,'' she said.  ''He was young and athletic and had just ducked into the bank. My younger son, Ryan, who was eight at the time, told him off. There was no apology.'' 

Disability organisation Scope said a growing number of people were misusing disabled parking bays.
''It is always a cause of frustration for people we support,'' Scope business enterprise general manager Tom Baxter said.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Hospital ‘transaction’ is one that starts at the hospital Car Park and ends at the hospital Car Park.

The Hospital ‘transaction’ is one that starts at the hospital Car Park and ends at the hospital Car Park. In between they get assessed by the healthcare professionals.  I don’t mean to downplay the very obvious importance of Doctors and Nurses, far from it.  The day that your local hospital builders, designers and municipal bodies accept that people will arrive to a healthcare assessment in a much better state of mind, ready to be cured, if car parks are available, not too far from the facility and have great guidance to the various parts of the hospital, will be a good day.  Visits to the Hospital are about the journey and not JUST the all important bit in the middle.

Kevin Warwood

Car parking triumph

BY THE middle of 2011, finding a free car park at the Bundaberg Hospital became akin to finding a winning Lotto ticket, prompting action.
The NewsMail demanded something be done in August, starting a petition demanding the State Government provide the hospital with adequate infrastructure.
Patients and visitors alike told tales of spending at least 15 minutes looking for a park, others spoke about how they ended up parking near the Mater Hospital and walking down.
Meadowvale cancer patient Jenny Heath told the NewsMail at the time that walking a long way back to the car after treatment was "not fun".
"For anybody who is sick or older, it can be difficult," she said.
Kalkie woman Dianne Farmer, who suffered a muscular condition, lamented the fact all the disability parking spaces were often also all taken.
"There is a gentle incline which makes walking to the hospital very hard (for me)," she said.
Businesses near the hospital expressed their frustration with the parking situation, saying it was inconveniencing customers and potentially costing them business.
Health Minister Geoff Wilson refused a meeting with politicians and civic leaders about the parking situation.
While signatures racked up, Queensland Health repeatedly emphasised that 25 more public car parks would be opened when the new rehabilitation ward redevelopment was finished and a further 30 would be finished with the completion of the Bundaberg Regional Cancer Centre in 2012.
After almost two months of campaigning and almost 2800 signatures on the News Mail petition, Mr Wilson announced a car park with 130 new spaces would be built.
Construction on the $230,000 car park started in late November and was expected to be open for business early in the new year.
But rain has delayed work on the site.
The car park was not the only development news from Bundaberg Hospital in 2011.
A more than $50 million development of the hospital was finally completed with the opening of the new rehabilitation ward in August 2011.
The expansion was more than two years overdue.
But Wide Bay Health Service District CEO Ken Whelan put the delay down to changing the plans to add more services and due to the weather.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Moving to Christchurch, New Zealand

Hi all,  we are shifting house this week, to Christchurch, New Zealand.  Yes, the city flattened by the two recent earthquakes.

I have taken up a role with the Christchurch City Council as the Parking Business Manager.

This will be a role that is strategic in nature and will be primarily set up to coordinate the new parking 'Plan' for Christchurch City and to bring the stcok damaged in the recent earthquakes, back online over the next few years.

This is going to be a great challange, to work in an area after a large natural disaster.

I will keep you all up to date with the progress.


Kevin Warwood

Friday, December 9, 2011

Hospital Parking – Why paying for hospital parking is good for you

Charles Gordon of Ottawa this Week gives us an interesting perspective on the paying for parking at the Hospital discussion that has been raging in Canada for some weeks now since the report from the healthcare professionals claimed that paying for parking was hindering the patient’s ability to get well.  This would almost be satirical if it wasn't so true.  He sheds some 'common sense' light on the situation and places hospital parking in with its peers, airports, churches, shopping centres and universities .... that is, places where people will bring their cars and owners who need the revenue.

CHARLES GORDON / Ottawa This Week
Dec 08, 2011 - 8:57 AM

Why paying for hospital parking is good for you

Among the many arguments presented so far in the Great Hospital Parking debate is this one: If hospital parking were free, everyone would use it – doctors, nurses, volunteers, friends of people in the neighbourhood and people stashing their cars before catching the bus downtown. This would mean no parking left for patients and people visiting them.
If you turn the argument on its head, it means this: The only way to ensure that there is parking for hospital patients and visitors is to charge for it.
We have developed an extremely advanced and sophisticated society if we can come up with theories like this. In fact, it is a sure sign that we have moved well past Nineteen Eighty-Four, our slogan now being not “Freedom is Slavery” but “Free Parking is No Parking.”
A further 1984ish argument has also been published: namely that making parking free would encourage more people to drive, thus causing damage to the environment. “Paying for Parking Means Cleaner Air,” the slogan could read.
All of this comes about because the Canadian Medical Association Journal printed an editorial advocating the elimination of hospital parking fees, on the grounds that they constituted a barrier to health care, a hidden user fee and, therefore, a possible violation of the Canada Health Act.
Predictably, everyone has reacted because nothing gets Canadians more riled up than parking, with the possible exception of snow removal. And perhaps cable TV costs.
Horror stories abound, and you will have lived through some of them, particularly if a loved one has spent an extended time in hospital and you visited frequently. Doctors quoted by the Journal tell of patients who are more focused on parking fees than on what the doctor is telling them, or who even rush off before a full consultation because they don’t want to pay another hour’s worth of parking fees.
The hospitals say that they need the revenue. It is a tidy sum, although a small fraction of their overall costs. That it is necessary is the result of the province not giving them enough money. The provinces, meanwhile, won’t give hospitals the money because the feds won’t give the provinces enough money.
So, to reduce that to terms we can all understand, we are paying $13 for parking because the provincial and federal governments want to balance their budgets.
Not that they are having any success with that.
The conclusion to be drawn is that if we want hospitals to give us free parking we will have to help them find ways to raise more money. But how? They’re already selling handicrafts in the lobby, renting out space to donut shops, putting donors’ names on stuff, running galas and who knows what else. Perhaps they could sell chocolate bars. Perhaps they already do.
It is probably out of the question to bring back pay toilets.
The irony of it all is that many of the complaints about paying for hospital parking spaces would disappear if it were actually possible to find them. True, at some hospitals, such as the Riverside, parking seems ample, but at others, such as the Civic, parking is literally and figuratively at a premium.
If you could find a spot, and fairly close, you probably wouldn’t mind as much paying for it.
There are places you pay to park and places you don’t and there is not much sense in it. As some have pointed out, you don’t pay to park at the church or synagogue. Or the shopping centre – yet. On the other hand, they charge you to park at the airport and the train station. Why do they do that?
Answer: Because they can.
The hospital is in the same position. Going there isn’t optional. You go there because you have to and you pay whatever. Don’t forget that it helps the environment.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The True Cost of Free Parking

This is a great discussion about two opposing forces in urban (parking) planning, libertarian vs conservative.  It's a long read if you follow through all of the links, but if you have the time, well worth the education.

Shoup vs O’Toole on the market for (free) parking

Posted by admin pci,Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Throughout September, we have been following a (very public) discussion between Donald Shoup and Randal O’Toole (a Cato Institute Senior Fellow working on urban growth, public land, and transportation issues, read full bio here). The discussion started when O’Toole responded to an article in the New York Times, penned by Tyler Cowan, which explained some of the ideas in Shoup’s book ‘The High Cost of Free Parking’.

Shoup replied via Streetsblog, attempting to correct many of O’Toole’s assertions and assumptions – a really interesting read for those who enjoy the Shoupian theories; as it delves into much of the rationale and referencing behind many of the key themes of Shoup’s work.

Further to-ing and fro-ing ensued with O’Toole and Shoup penning public responses, links to which are summarized below:

Parking Today’s blog followed the debate intensely, and you can read the (apparent) conclusion on their blog here.

If you want to see and hear Don Shoup and make your own conclusions we strongly invite you to register for the upcoming Australian Parking Convention ( One of the program highlights will be a debate regarding the issue of congestion and parking management - read more about this in the APC debate flyer, available here

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Future of Work in the US is Healthcare (and Parking). Is it the same in other countries?

This is an intersting article where the author has found that the best place for 'safe' employment in the future, is in the Healthcare sector.  This is also good news for related businesses like parking.  It makes you think.

Kevin Warwood

THIS Is The Future Of Work In America

 There's a lot of debate about the future of labor in America: Will manufacturing ever come back? Will automation be a job destroyer? Will we all be freelancers working from home, shifting from gig to gig every 6 months?
It's all interesting to think about, but if you want to place one solid bet on the future of jobs in America, this chart would be a pretty simple place to start.
Regardless of where the economic cycle is, health care jobs just keep going up in a straight line.

The chart is even more impressive when you look at healthcare employment as a percentage of the civilian labor force.

The fact of the matter is that with society aging, the number of people needing healthcare services (and thus healthcare workers) seems like one, rock-solid secular trend that has almost no chance of not continuing.
Every time the latest jobs data comes out, we pore through a lot of information, and we can say with certainty that there's no other category that looks like this. Every other sector is affected by cyclical trends in some way.
What's more, if the country is ever going to get a handle on surging healthcare costs, the answer will almost invariably require MORE healthcare workers (doctors, nurses, walk-in clinicians), since expanding the supply is how you get the price of anything down.
If you want a job, this seems like your bet.

The Hospital Parking Conundrum

In modern Health care facilities, there are generally two methods for the control of parking, charging and enforcement, and in most cases the issues of charging for parking in hospitals are a 'contstraint' issue and not just about the money.

Most parking professionals, who have in healthcare parking, know that the main culprits on site are the staff who will park anywhere and use their status to escape the consequences of their actions (very big generalisation here). A clearly defined area for staff parking is required and then (especially if no charging is used) a complete and high tech Enforcement solution is required, with fines that will make the culprits think twice about repeating their actions. Being soft on these issue are just a method of creating problems in the future. Toughen up and back the patients and staff who want to park and follow the rules and isolate those who make the need for high technology and enforcement a must.

Hospital parking is the most complicated business case in parking, especially on the large hospital sites. To control the site is always going to be difficult and will never get full buy in from the users as you are annoying all parties of users.

If you take away the fees in this case, you must replace them with a full Enforcment system or the same doctors who complain that it impedes their practises will be complaining about the same thing as patients will struggle to find a car park.


 Hospital parking fees should be scrapped, journal says

November 28, 2011
Richard J. Brennan
Parking at North York General Hospital on Monday. The Canadian Medical Association Journal is calling for free parking at hospitals, saying exorbitant fees are interferring with patient care.


It’s time hospitals abolished parking fees for the sake of their patients, according to the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
In an editorial, the respected publication states hospital parking amounts to nothing more than user fees and is subsequently an impediment to health care.
Putting the proceeds toward health care runs counter to the Canada Health Act’s objectives and could become the subject of a legal challenge, writes Dr. Rajendra Kale, the journal’s interim editor-in-chief.
“Some patients (who have often waited several weeks to see a doctor) try to end a consultation abruptly when they realize that they will have to pay for an additional hour for parking,” he writes. “This is parking-centred health care, which is not compatible with patient-centred health care.”
David Montgomery, president of Haldimand War Memorial Hospital in rural southwestern Ontario, agreed.
“My own personal philosophy is that we shouldn’t have to charge patients and visitors. We should be doing whatever we can to make it easier for them to seek out care,” he said.
Montgomery added that War Memorial’s “favourable financial position” has helped them avoid parking fees — a luxury not afforded by many other Canadian hospitals that rely on the revenue as a source of additional income.
“We think what they are recommending is absurd and totally unrealistic,” Tom Closson, chief executive officer of the Ontario Hospital Association, told the Toronto Star on Monday.
It’s important to remember the province funds only 74 per cent of all hospital costs, or $17.2 billion, while hospitals in Ontario spend $23 billion, Closson added. “This is a portion of . . . what they need to pay the difference.”
The editorial notes hospital parking fees were abolished in Scotland in 2008.
“Little needs to be said about the plight of patients undergoing regular dialysis or chemotherapy who need to make an endless number of trips to the hospital,” Kale writes. “And what about parents who have to drive sick children to hospital?”
Many Canadians have no option but to drive, given the size of the country and the fact specialists are often located in larger urban centres, Kale argues.
Natalie Mehra, director of the Ontario Health Coalition, a public health advocacy group, said scrapping “exorbitant” hospital parking fees makes perfect sense.
“What it means is that’s it’s a levy on the elderly and family members of people who are ill or people who are ill and require hospital care. It’s almost like charging them a user fee to see their doctor,” she said.
The CMAJ says the amount hospitals generate through parking fees is only a small amount of their overall budgets — in some cases, about 1 per cent.
Closson said that may not sound like a lot of money, but it represents $230 million a year across Ontario. “It’s quite a significant revenue source,” he said.
In Atlantic Canada, Cape Breton’s district health authority began rolling out paid parking to its hospitals in the mid-1990s to fund medical equipment purchases, said district spokesman Greg Boone.
Four of the district’s six critical care hospitals now charge patients and residents $3 each time they enter the parking lot. The fee, though small compared with the rate of major urban hospitals, is expected to generate over $900,000 this year for hospital programs, services and equipment, Boone added.
Justine Jackson, a senior vice-president and chief financial officer at Toronto’s University Health Network, said hospitals everywhere are looking to “make money so we can do more health care.” The network’s three hospitals — Princess Margaret, Toronto General and Toronto Western — net about $6.5 million annually in parking fees.
“It’s not quite a user fee because patients do have a choice,” Jackson said. “They don’t have to drive. They can take public transit. So the fact that they prefer to drive is a choice they make.”
At Queen’s Park, Health Minister Deb Matthews noted “parking fees do not fall under the Canada Health Act,” so the province can’t control them.
But Matthews said people should raise the matter with their local hospital, pointing out some already give special rates to some dialysis patients or parents of children in neonatal units. “I would urge hospitals to have an open mind when people come with concerns about the fees,” she said.
Pamela Fralick, president and CEO of the Canadian Healthcare Association, said in a “perfect world” it would be great to abolish parking fees. “But if we do remove this source of revenue, something has to give and my question would be what it is that we give up?”
With files from Robert Benzie and Niamh Scallan

The lowdown on parking rates — and revenues
Sunnybrook Hospital
1,200 parking spaces.
$4 per half-hour, $23 max per day at Bayview main campus (all figures are regular weekday rates)
Approximately $6 million projected parking revenue for this year
“About 90 per cent of parking fees go to fund scientists’ salaries and 10 per cent for research administration,” said Sunnybrook spokesman Craig Duhamel. “It would really be a major blow to our research infrastructure and our ability to pay for scientists salaries (if parking fees were abolished).”

North York General Hospital
1,700 parking spaces at the general site
$4 per half-hour, $18.50 max per day
$5.5 million projected parking revenue (for all sites)
Money raised from parking covers the cost of maintaining the lots and supports programs, said spokeswoman Elizabeth McCarthy. “If we didn’t have this money, we would have to consider cutting some services.”

The Hospital for Sick Children
970 parking spaces
$5 per half-hour, $30 max per day
4.5 to $5 million in parking revenue per year
Parking fee revenue is used to offset the hospital’s operating costs, said hospital spokeswoman Matet Nebres. “If this funding source was lost, SickKids would have to find other sources of revenue to support its current level of activity,” she added.

The Scarborough Hospital
599 parking spaces.
$3.50 per half-hour, $14 max per day
$3.6 million projected parking revenue for this year
Revenues support patient care

Mount Sinai Hospital
109 parking spaces.
$4 per 20 minutes, $20 max per day
$1 to 1.5 million projected parking revenue for this year
“Commercial and retail ventures, such as parking, generate much needed revenue to help support Mount Sinai’s programs and equipment upgrades to best serve our patients,” Mount Sinai spokesman Rob McMahon said.

St. Michael’s Hospital
20 parking spaces.
$4 per half-hour, $20 max per day
$122,000 projected parking revenue for this year
Funds are used to offset the hospitals operating costs-

University Health Network
1,238 parking spaces at Toronto General Hospital; 604 parking spaces at Toronto Western Hospital
$4.50 per half hour, $28 max per day
$7 million projected parking revenue for this year
“UHN generates net revenue of seven million dollars per year which is the equivalent of seven ICU beds or approximately 30 medical beds,” says Justine Jackson, University Health Network’s senior vice president and chief financial officer. “If we didn’t charge for parking, we would have to find the equivalent amount in savings which would affect patient care.”
Niamh Scallan

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Predicting who your Customers are in the Future.

Palm-reading, tea leaves, the spinning of my grandmothers crucifix are all methods, sworn by methods of telling the future.  I prefer to read the blogs of a proven prophet like Tom Peters. This is an interesting article by Tom Peters on the people he calls 'Boomers and Geezers'. How are your business customers going to change in the future? How will you accommodate your clients? Tom Peters gives you an idea of what your audience might look like.

In parking, its understanding how the customers will start to work more from home and the flexibility of work hours, the feminsing of the work force, moving parking infrastrucutre to the suburbs and grey businesses. 

Tom Peters gives you an idea here. 

Kevin Warwood

Zounds! Startling Boomer+ Stats!
I call them (us!) "boomers & geezers." Boomers alone number about 75 million. The goal of this short post is not heavy analysis. It is simply a vivid and brief set of seven startling numeric facts—that, current economic turmoil notwithstanding, aim to make the case for oldies as by far the most significant marketing opportunity in history.
**55+ > 55-
**1/8/20 (One USA boomer is turning 65 every 8 seconds—that rate will continue for the next 20 years.)
**22/1/10 (USA adult population will have grown by 23 million in the 10 years between 2006 and 2016. Ages 18–49 will have grown by 1 million—age 50+ will have grown by 22 million.)
**50@50 (At age 50, we effectively have ... a full 50% of our healthy adult life ahead of us.)
**7/13 (An American will buy 13 cars in the course of a lifetime—7 after age 50.)
**55+ > 55- (Age 55-plusers are ... more active in online finance, shopping, and
entertainment than those under 55.
**8.4 (Boomers inherit $8.4 trillion in the next few years; 70% of boomers will inherit on average $300K.)
**47X (Net wealth of households headed by 65+ is 47 times greater than the net wealth of households headed by someone <35; 20 years ago the ratio was 10:1.)

The way I summarize "all this" in my presentations is as follows:
We are the Aussies & Kiwis & Americans & Canadians. We are the Western Europeans & Japanese. We are the fastest growing, the biggest, the wealthiest, the boldest the most (yes) ambitious, the most experimental & exploratory, the most different, the most indulgent, the most difficult & demanding, the most service & experience obsessed, the most vigorous, (the least vigorous), the most health conscious, the most female, the most profoundly important commercial market in the history of the world ... and we will be the Center of Your Universe for the next twenty-five years. We have arrived!

Tom Peters

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


'Likes' are the new Online Currency
In marketing, they talk about there being two types of brands in the world. There are brands people like to talk about, and brands they don’t. Brands of the first kind – the brands some call ‘talkable’ – are uncommon. Apple’s iPhone is a talkable brand, so is Harley-Davidson. If you market a talkable brand, you have the luxury of tapping into customers who love you, but you have to be careful – those customers have already decided what the brand stands for, and watch out if you go against their expectations … think Classic Coke here.

Brands that people don’t like to talk about – some refer to them as ‘boring’ brands – are everywhere. These brands are hard work because they are trying to get people interested in something they don’t really care about.

In ‘parking’, your company could fit into the ‘talkable’ brands very quickly, but not because people love you, but because parking is a grudge purchase. However, the same rule applies, that is customers may have already decided what your brand stands for, but in this case, if you change, the only way may be up.

So the question remains, if your brand is talkable, and make no mistake, people are talking about our brand right now, face to face, in print, and online, how do you then change what our customer’s opinion is of you for the better? Answer: YOU MANAGE THE CONVERSATION!

What is a Social Network System? 
A friend tells a friend, who tells a friend …..
A Social Network System (SNS) is a general description for a collection of online websites and Applications (Apps) that refer to the whole world of people connecting and commenting with each other. You can call it the Social Web, or the Social Internet but I tend to think of it as a lounge full of people talking to each other but the individuals can be on the other side of the planet. It is informal and that is where the test is for businesses like yours is. Most businesses are scared of informality in communicating with customers and will avoid that informality like their life depends on it.

Rather than broadcasting messages (shouting) to audiences, you need to be encouraging participation in social networks to which people want to belong, where dialogue with customers, and between customers, can flourish, in networking sites like Facebook, MySpace,, YouTube, the blogosphere, Flickr, DIGG and Twitter. You must tap into this media to manage the discussion about ‘your’ parking company or Social Media may significantly impact a firm’s reputation, sales, and even survival.

In the ground breaking book, Groundswell, Li and Bernoff refer to the whole advertising methodology as ‘shouting’ at the customer, because they do not expect to get an answer back. Shouting media include channels such as radio, television, newspapers, flyers and even signage. This whole process is about ‘telling’ a customer about yourself, but definitely NOT wanting to hold a dialogue or engage a customer.... at all. SNS’s are the opposite. It is about participating with the client in the discussion through dialogue about your services and products, and it is most definitely about engagement of the customer.

Recently, Kietzmann et al. (2011) in ‘Social Media. Get Serious’ told us that social media presents a huge challenge for firms, as many existing management methods are not suited to deal with customers who no longer want to be talked at, but who want firms to listen, appropriately engage, and respond to their needs. So it’s a matter of join in or get left behind or more dangerously, participate or let someone else craft your future.

Increasingly, the term 'social business' is being used. This shows that social media is no longer just something that your daughter does while lying in front of the television but is also being used more and more by customers, clients, staff, and managers. The point is, they are all talking about your business, including your daughter, and you may not even know how that conversation is going? So shouldn’t you make a point of listening?

The Swiftly Changing Landscape

But how interested are your customers in engaging with you?
Your customers are embracing social media as a normal part of their lives. Even the over-50 population is adapting at staggering rates. There are now more than 800 million active Facebook users, with over 200 million added in 2011 alone!  As an example, Facebook is growing rapidly. Nielsen found the following in their 3Q 2011 Social Media Report – around 75% of Facebook users are outside of North America with accounts available in 70 languages. Approximately 40% of social media users access their accounts through mobile devices, nearly 23% of online time is spent on social networks, more than half of Facebook users log in every day – that’s more than 400 million people, the average user has 130 friends and is connected to 80 pages, events and groups. Thats 52 billion interconnections with 39 billion of those outside of the US!

And so for business……
Fortunately, small businesses don’t have to spend much to get results: Zoomerang found that nearly 60% of all small business decision-makers spend less than $US100 on social media and 74% of businesses don’t employ anyone to manage their social media marketing however, of those businesses that have a presence, 50% of small businesses reported gaining new customers through social media – most notably through Facebook and LinkedIn. And finally, 51% of Facebook users and 64% of Twitter users are more likely to buy from the brands they follow online.

How do you engage with your customers?
Our world is being transformed by Social technology, whether we participate or not …..

Twitter has the ability to offer business a major return on investment. Twitter is a broadcast media, which sends out a mini text message of 140 characters or less. The people who receive the ‘Tweets’ are volunteers, that is, they opt-in to hear what you have to offer! For parking, the potential is huge. Imagine at 6:30 am each morning, a Tweet goes out to thousands of Twits, all ‘following’ the ‘parking tweets’. The message reads ‘Early bird special at Viaduct car park $3. Today only!’.
The followers who have opted-in to listen to parking specials, all rush off to the Viaduct car park and claim follow-on tickets by responding to the tweets. This is only one example of the potentially large ROI on SNS. This will also work for Monthly customers.

Managing the Conversation
Another example is managing people’s opinions of parking through moderating their conversations. Recent examples of the ‘talk’ that is occurring out there about parking companies are,
  • I would much rather have the plague than use (Name withheld) Parking.”
  • Jumped up little, fluro jacket wearing, unemployable, mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging as#%@*^s.”
  • These guys are very well known for poor customer service and accusations of generally unfair business practices.”
These are actual examples off blog sites.

The solution for parking companies could be to nominate a person who could log on to these sites and participate in the conversation and moderate the outcomes. But if that all sounds a bit ‘big tobacco’ for you, then,
  • You could offer a feedback site on our own parking website to moderate any conversation there
  • You could start a Facebook page (e.g. or MySpace page (e.g. www.MySpace/nzparking) that would allow our customers to engage with you in a positive and unhindered way
  • Start a viral video selection to add to The catch is it could be fun, for example, ‘Things you can do in car parks’, which would lead to a number of videos being posted and sponsored by parking related businesses.

How safe is all this engaging with customers? 
Are you a fan free zone? …. It makes you think!
If all the appropriate rules are put in place, opening up the wide end of the funnel to your customers is relatively safe. Common sense must prevail in that clearly only one person has access to moderate these sites. This one person should have an ability and permission to speak on behalf of the parking company and offer solutions, facts and direction, while maintaining an arms length to opinions, and must know the difference.

The benefits clearly outweigh any downside as the first parking company to demonstrate a willingness to engage its customers will have a huge advantage. Let’s not go predicting a change in public attitude to parking overall straightaway. Realistically, this new approach will firstly make people suspicious and then cautious and wary, before becoming an observer of the change. However, the change is worth it.

Firstly, the suggestion should be to trial a feedback page on your own website first. This will allow the conversation to be held very closely to your chests while giving the appearance of engaging the customer, even if it is in a very minor way.

Secondly, open a Twitter account and start to broadcasting messages to followers. This also has the added advantage of showing the public the parking company is a modern company linking into the Social Network System to engage the public who want to engage with you. This is also relatively safe as Twitter is an opt-in solution.

Thirdly, start a parking company Facebook page, that has one-way communication first, that is, any feedback will not appear on the page, but will come through as email.

The last thing you need until opinion changes, is a collection of opinions that you can quickly upload to push any bad comments below the ‘fold’ on the front page, or you could be brave and just let the comments stand.

The key understanding is that Social Networks are the biggest phenomenon on the planet right now. Social business is catching up. Ignoring it and you risk ignoring your customers. Adopt it and you may become one of those ‘talkable’ brands and you may then get people and customers 'liking' you.

It’s your move.
Kevin Warwood

Rugby Cup Parking in New Zealand

All is in readiness for World Cup parking in New Zealand

With the Rugby World Cup only one sleep away here in Auckland, I have to admit that the mind does stray from the job at hand and the tasks that revolve around increasing revenue off a 6m x 2.5m block of land in the CBD are of minor concern today. The anticipation of such a big event in a small country like New Zealand is anticipation of an All Black win rather than the crowds of people who will flood the city for the opening night and the planned entertainment over the next 2 months. The plans are in place, the flags are all up, the rules have been published in the newspapers. And yet I allow myself a little rub of the hands as I think of the people flowing through Auckland Airport, through a car park in our portfolio, into the CBD and one of the many car parks that belong to the company and hopefully not too many into the Hospital, yet another car park in the portfolio. For parking, this will be a big event as well. All is in readiness.

A vague comparision with New Zealand and one of the major rugby challangers for the coveted rugby crown, South Africa, is a small trip into rugby/parking fantasy, especially since I have never been to SA.

New Zealand has mostly two main commercial rivals in the parking business, with a group of smaller businesses and local councils in the melee also. The 'Red' Parking company is by far the largest of the companies and is based out of Australia while being owned out of Hong Kong. They have a dominant market share created by being one of the first on the scene and has held over many years. The 'blue' Parking company is a fierce rival and has a large market share in the Auckland and Wellington markets.

The local councils are present and at varying levels of competency, mostly measured by their requirement to compete. An example of this is the Auckland City Council which has just spent many millions upgrading its very large CBD sites with the latest in technology from SkiData equipment, Meter-Eye vehicle guidance systems, a fully functional centralised control room, major over-road VMS signage for empty bay counting on the main roads into the city and dynamic signage at each car park. The investment has extending to Meter-Eye in streets and off street which may lead to a far smaller enforcement team as the signals from the meters lead fewer officers directly to cars overstaying their welcome in the busy retail precincts.

At the other end of the scale, tourist town Taupo, decided not to go down the track of charging for street parking and introduced the same meters to signal the end of your 60 minute stay to an enforcement officer, who would write you an infringement notice on the spot. There are the small vacant development lots with a pay and display meter but mostly parking in New Zealand is high tech as a result of high labour costs and high competition.

Apart from labour costs, I suspect their also may be one or two other differences between parking in South Africa and New Zealand, being the resistance to towing vehicles and resource consenting.

There is a general move away from towing in New Zealand as property law allows the owner to display terms and conditions upon entering the site. If you don’t abide by those terms and conditions, the owner can level an infringement fee similar to a fine as a local officer might level, for breach of contract. There is now a lot more revenue in levelling infringements than there is in accepting a ‘commission’ for allowing a tow truck company to operate out of your site and is a major growth area in parking revenue.

Resource Consents are an area where the local council enforces the ‘use’ of the land in the CBD and if parking is not a permitted activity, as deemed by the Resource Management Act, then the parking company must apply for a ‘departure from the consent’ to operate a commercial car park. The result of this is that the future of the small car park being set up on a development site in the city has now gone.

I do suspect that one thing will always be the same between South Africa and New Zealand and anywhere else in the world for that matter, the public will still resist paying for parking and we, as professionals, will still have to be on our toes in this business and the rugby competition will be fierce. All is in readiness.