COVID-19 pandemic has completely transformed our lives. For businesses, even more so. As people around the world stay put in their homes, industries like travel and hospitality have invariably taken a hit. In fact, COVID’s full impact on global economies is yet to unfold. The repercussions of the pandemic are also being realized by the parking industry as a whole. If you run a parking business anywhere in the world, you know all too well the far-reaching consequences of the coronavirus.
Even as you witness a sharp decline in footfall and revenue takes a hit, there are some steps you can take to prepare your facility and ensure the safety of your employees and customers.
1. Preparing your personnel:
While it’s not possible for your facility staff to work from home, unlike in other sectors, observing basic hygiene and social distancing protocols can go a long way in keeping everyone safe. Given that your employees may come in close contact with customers, train them on frequently washing hands, which is especially important if you don’t have digital systems in place and still use receipts and cash for payments.
Moreover, since traffic has likely reduced unless you’re running a facility in places like hospitals, you can certainly have employees take turns to stay at home. A good idea to execute this would be to divide your facility staff into two groups – A and B. Keep the groups mutually exclusive i.e., have only one on-site at a time. This will minimize the threat of infection to a great extent, keeping both your employees and customers safe.
If you need to coordinate with your staff, do so over video calling instead of in-person meetings. The takeaway is to adopt more digital technologies to run your daily operations and minimize contact even amongst employees.
2. Regular sanitization:
In this time, the health and well-being of your staff and customers are paramount. Disinfect your facility several times a day and train your staff in proper sanitization protocols and procedures. The more you sanitize your facility during a given day, the more you lower the chances of your customers and employees contracting the infection
More importantly, lay down clear guidelines for your employees and train them to observe these sanitization practices and protocols even after the threat of the pandemic reduces. Your staff should still be sanitizing themselves and your facility rigorously once things go back to normal.
3. Control costs:
As revenue growth slows down, parking business amidst COVID-19, must look at ways to reduce costs. You could temporarily close some facilities, reduce electricity usage, or negotiate lease payments. Sit down with the stakeholders for ideas on cutting costs without affecting operations.
4. Go for Contactless Parking:
If you haven’t already, now is a good time to go contactless i.e., digitize your entire parking operations. This means embracing smart parking technology where contact between people is minimized – no handing of parking receipts and cash exchanging hands. In a contactless parking lot, your customers can enter and exit using RFID-enabled barrier gates and automatic ticket kiosks. Moreover, they can make payments using their mobile phones instead of using high-risk modes and cash and cards.
The current environment demands such a secure parking experience for the well-being of everyone associated with your parking facility. By minimizing interaction, your customers can stay in control of their journey and feel confident about using your facility instead of interacting with it in anxiety over fears of getting infected, especially when their travel is a necessity.
5. Digital Marketing:
This can be a great time to run marketing campaigns on digital platforms, especially if you find more time on your hands than usual. In your marketing efforts, emphasize on your safety protocols and how your facility is observing them. Lay the foundation for business development in the future through targeted and timely marketing campaigns. You can do this through increased investment in digital marketing avenues – running ads, content marketing, SEO optimization, etc. In fact, this would be just the right time to engage external help specialising in digital marketing activities.
6. Explore other avenues
Finally, this is a good time for business owners to think out of the box and expand their customer base. With much of your parking lot being empty, you can put the excess spaces to good use. For instance, contact car rental agencies and fleet companies to see if they need a place to park excess inventory. You could also offer your facility to health agencies. In fact, many empty lots in some countries are being repurposed as COVID-19 testing sites, making a positive contribution to their community.
Given the increase in demand for businesses like grocery delivery and e-commerce, it would be a good idea to use your facility to support them. Collaborate with food and grocery businesses and temporarily turn your parking lot into a warehouse to store goods or a cloud kitchen for delivering food. Your parking business amidst COVID-19 may be slow but don’t forget the massive real estate you’re operating has a lot of potentials. Have a (remote) brainstorming session with your team to figure out novel ways of monetizing your facility and have the cash registers ringing.
These are extraordinary times for all – individuals and businesses. For all we know, this may permanently change several aspects of how we live, work, and move around in a city. But, do keep in perspective that this dark period will eventually come to an end and the parking industry will rebuild. People will not stop moving around and going places in a city.
With this in mind, get smart about managing your parking business amidst COVID-19. Take a long-term stock of the best interest of your facility, staff, and customers. Above all, weather the storm with hope.