The other day, I had a meeting in an office tower I hadn’t been to. Don’t tell David Suzuki, but I drove. Luckily, there was parking in the building.
You all know how parking lots work: Pave or dig land and rent out the space for brief periods of time. (It’s like a short term motel without the bad drapes and naughty behaviour.) When someone enters, they punch a clock and when they leave, they pay someone sitting in a booth for their time. Simple enough.
How do you innovate such a simple system? Well, there’s a right way and a wrong way.
The wrong way to innovate
Some parking lots decided to invest in technology to cut costs by replacing the people with machines. Innovation! You grab a ticket when you enter, take it with you to the lobby and before you leave, insert it into a vending machine, pay your bill, and then insert the “I’ve paid” verified ticket on your way out without ever interacting with a human being.
That’s not innovation folks, that’s a recipe for decreased business.
Someone loses their job and the customer gets to do more work and experience more aggravation all so that an accounting line item is improved. Sure there are signs that remind us to take “Take your ticket with you” but you might as well say, “We’d like to make more dough. Please don’t screw this up.” Unless the savings are passed on to the consumer or re-invested in the product to add more value and differentiate you from the competition, it’s wrong. And it’s kind of evil.
The right way to innovate
Other parking lots have taken a different route. Enter your credit card when you enter, insert it again when you leave and you’re good to go. No muss, no fuss and no cursing yourself when you realize you’ve left your ticket in your car. While I don’t love that someone loses their job in the process, hopefully, the money saved can be re-invested to create other employment.
Now THAT’S innovation.
A win-win that satisfies the customer and decreases operating costs over time which can be reinvested to create even more value for the customer.
Who knew this much thought could go into a parking lot?