2013.06 | No Omnichannel without Operations

All of my talks on Omnichannel with retailers drive me to try out every option I possibly can with my own transactions.

Last weekend I went to see Bharati in at the Sony Centre in Toronto. (I highly recommend the show by the way.  See it if you can!)  Being part of a busy family our weekend was packed with events, ride giving, lessons, and more.  I found myself getting ready to leave the house only about 2 hours before the show – this is definitely cutting it close.

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While I was preparing to depart, I used all of the tools technology available to enable to get there on time.  Ticketmaster was kind enough to send me a reminder email about the event on Friday, so I was able to pull up that message and logging into my account, I printed my tickets.  Great omnichannel experience from Ticketmaster.   It costs too much for Ticketmaster, but it worked smoothly to the point where I didn’t even think about it.

I know the route to get to the theatre well, but always check the GPS routes for options.  I also had to think about parking. Everyone who goes to any urban location knows that parking is a changeable proposition.  Your favourite sites get built upon, closed up, or changed to some other use.

I visited the Sony Centre website to see what parking options were recommended, and I was intrigued by a link to something called Click and Park.

When I clicked that link, I saw a list of the events at the Sony Centre.  The system allows you to pre-pay for a parking spot during your event in a prime location right next to the theatre.  It makes a lot of sense to have a parking spot reserved in a convenient location.  The site indicates the process is as simple as three easy steps: choose your event, select your location and print your permit.  I read through the FAQs, and decided I definitely wanted to try this.  What a terrific idea to optimize a consumer experience and that of a parking lot operator.

I picked my event, validated the parking garage, and paid.  I quickly received my permit.  The pricing was high.  It was $22.42, including fees and the cost of parking.  I expected it to be more like $10 to $15 for a weekend, but I was willing to pay a bit of a premium for a good guaranteed spot, and well – this was for science.  I wanted to see how it worked.

The parking location is a garage I have frequented many times over the years, so I knew where I was going.    I was parking at the Brookfield Place garage.  I did a bit of checking as I know that there are multiple entrances.  One off  Wellington Street and one from Front Street at least.  Both were referred to on the Click and Park website so I figured I was ready to go.

CaptureI printed my permit, hopped in the car, and drove downtown, smug in the knowledge that I had parking covered.  As I approached the lot, I encountered my first problem.  I knew where I was going, but I like to double check any special instructions.  I pulled out my parking permit to double check the address and see what instructions were provided.

Unfortunately, the permit just says Brookfield Place.  Um, ok.  It also says 5pm to 6 am.  Wait, what? My show is on at 2 pm.  It says that right on there.  What does that mean?

Now, what if I didn’t know the address?  Would have been nice to have that on there, right?  Oh well, when I looked at the website, there was lots of friendly green and blue Web 2.0 branding.  I’m sure there will be some sort of signage to point me in the right direction.

I found the lot (after taking a detour – downtown construction being what it always is), and drove up to the kiosk.  I pulled out my form, ready to scan it at….at…..well, nothing.  There was no scanner.  There was no signage indicating what to do.  There was no logo from Click and Park telling me what to do.  There was a flashing light.  Thought that might be a scanner, but no.

Now, I like to think that I know what a scanner looks like.  If you glance through the blog, you will see I’ve worked with a few scanners.  I did not see a scanner, any signage, or any indication of anything other than pushing a button to get a ticket.  So….I pushed the button to get a ticket.

I drove through the garage.  No signage.  No indication that Click and Park exists at all.  I walked through the garage to the event, and saw no indication of Click and Park.

After my very enjoyable show, I thought perhaps I would see a scanner on the way out.  I drove up to the machine on the way out, and with a much more extensive search can assure you that there is no scanner on the exit system either.  I dutifully paid Brookfield Place $10 and departed.

Now, I can’t speak to how this Click and Park solution works in other places, and when I read through their site, I see all sorts of venues that love this system.  It may work well in those spots, but they are not going to get much in the way of business in Toronto without some changes.

If an omnichannel solution like this is going to work, it needs to work for everyone, virtually without them having to think.  I go well beyond the average person to seek out answers and make systems work, but this whole thing does not work at all.   I’m willing to take the $22 (well, maybe $32) hit for science, but I don’t think all of the potential clients of the Sony Centre will feel the same.

This is all about making it easy – not about making the user do the work.

Here’s what I hope the good team at Click and Park consider:

1.  FULL Process Transparency: Providing a process that goes beyond Click and Park getting money and the user printing a piece of paper is important.  That’s all that shows on the website.  It’s great graphic design, but it’s not going to help customers.  I understand that individual parking sites may vary on a process because different parking lots look different and have different systems.  In the interim, why not have specific images or video of the parking lots and how it works?  When you pick a parking lot on the site, it should show the user those images of the process (like scanning a barcode at a gate) so they can see what to expect.  If clients feel comfortable they will try the service and are more likely to use it successfully.  Once you have repeat customers; inertia can carry the solution more.

2.  Better directions: Writing Brookfield Place on a piece of paper is next to useless for the user driving in an urban centre.  Give an address at LEAST.  Better yet, provide some verbiage with details on parking – maybe even an image of the front entrance.   Why not provide a link to Google Maps with the garage on it so I can click an an email or text on my smart phone to get directions on my GPS?  There is no other Brookfield Place, but I’m still not sure if I went to the wrong place or what happened.

3.  Signage: Working with partners can be challenging, but there absolutely needs to be signage at a partner garage above or near the entrance.  If there’s no signage, I’m not sure I’m in the right place.  There should also be signage at entrance welcoming Click and Park guests with some simple instructions like: scan your barcode at the gate next to you.  On the gate itself, there should be some signage with the logo and simple instructions on how to use it.

4.  Recovery: If I as a user somehow manage to make an error in the process, like I forget to scan my card, there should be a way to recover.  The only recovery I saw was a message in my email saying no refunds.  Wrong message.  There should be signage at elevators coming back to the garage for Click and Park clients saying that if they missed scanning their codes, they can go to a certain place to get a new ticket, see an attendant or whatever works.   As a user, I now have a negative feeling of the Click and Park brand and about Brookfield Place.  If you make it easy, everybody wins.

5. Followup:  If I didn’t use the parking space, I should get a text or email asking me why I did not use it.  Click and Park has a list of tickets.  The Parking Lot has a list of tickets.  Mine isn’t on it. Why not ask me why it didn’t work out?   This is a missed opportunity to be sure the solution is working correctly and to gain feedback from users and the site staff.

I fully realize the effort required to complete the items I  have suggested here, but with absolute certainty I can say that this service may as well not exist if it doesn’t revisit its processes.   This is a terrific idea, and I hope it takes off.  For now it just feels like someone slapped a payments website up with this parking lot’s name on it.  It takes more than that for a solution like this to work.  It has to be completely aligned with the operation of the site.

I know I’m $22 smarter from my experience.  I fully expect the value on the knowledge Click and Park will be a much higher amount in the end if they don’t change things up.

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