This pay-for-parking technology is customer focused because it didn’t let me pay!

Estimated read time: 5 minutes

I’m the first to point out technology that isn’t customer-focused and that doesn’t help the customer buy the right thing.

My latest negative example happened with American Airlines. I had booked flights for my 4-year-old and I to Venice, Italy. I had booked us in premium economy seats with a main cabin ticket before American decided to list them as premium economy. (Though they can’t be bought as of this writing.)

The system let me pick those seats. Nice. Then later – without warning or notification it took them away. Hello! Maybe I would have paid the difference in fare?

If I end up using two upgrades to business class it’ll be a moot point but for now, I don’t have those updates handy and may even need a mileage run yet this year.

Anyway, that technology should just not offer those seats if they are then taken away or tell me how much they cost. A rare complaint about American by me, I know.

So let’s move to the great example that I spotted in Cedar Rapids.

Read now: My book on what it truly means to be customer-focused

Cedar Rapids uses Pay by Phone for on-street parking – like many other cities:

Once you have the app downloaded it’s super easy to use in all those cities. You don’t even have to get out of the car as long as you can see the stall number.

Just type the stall number into your app, pick the time and pay with your credit card. I always have this tied to a credit card that earns points, of course. Every $1.50 parking charge adds up.

It’s also easy to use while traveling and renting a car that you’ll then have to park from time to time.

So I was in Cedar Rapids and dropped an Uber passenger off near the downtown location of my gym. There’s no parking lot but on-street parking.

It was also raining. I even parked in front of one of these payment machines, which you could use if you don’t have the app, but they are super slow and require several steps. Plus, it’s raining. And the app is easy to use.

I got my phone out, typed my stall number into the app and got this screen:

How great! Free downtown parking on the weekends. The app could easily have taken my payment. And remember when we had coin meters? They would take your coins even if parking is free today, but you missed the sign.

Good and customer-focused technology does lead the customer to the purchase, but only when it’s the right purchase! In this case, parking was free and the app didn’t accept payment because of this. It’s nice to see when technology and offline strategy and practices align.

We know they don’t always – see example of wrong hours on the website.

That’s a step up from coin meters, for sure. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Sidebar (first written in 2016):

How incorrect information on your website can lose you customers

It’s a long weekend in the United States with Independence Day on a Monday in 2016. With that some businesses have adjusted their hours this weekend to allow employees to spend a bit more time away from work. Good for them, but it’s still important to let customers know about that change.

Here’s how my experience related to this unfolded:

I asked my wife  to see how long my typical dry cleaner would be  open on the Saturday before the holiday. She googled for their website, of course.

“For another hour,” she said, looking at their website, which had their hours listed. “We can make that.”

When we got to the store, however, a signed taped to the door said they are closed for the holiday weekend. Good for them, but why not update the website?

So we carried on with other things and I ended up going to a grocery-type store later in be day for some media mailing of my book. I remembered that this store also has dry cleaning, though I had never used them. Why not try it since that dirty laundry was still in my car. I dropped it off and with that my business intended for one place went to another – in part because of the unnecessary experience earlier. I would have never put the dry cleaning in the car had I thought they were closed. Usually they are open.

Where will I take my dry cleaning from now on? We’ll see how the grocery store’s dry cleaning turns out, but there’s a chance that it could at least get split between the two dry cleaners.

Updating our websites should always be top of mind. It helps us get and keep customers. Especially when we need to alert them of irregularities in hours, services or anything that affects them.

Some organizations post these kind of things on Facebook, Twitter, etc., and that’s a good start but not all customers will see them there either.

I remember the softball league my daughter played in a couple of years ago cancelled a game and they quickly announced it on Twitter, then Facebook, but the website didn’t have the update.

If website processes are too hard to make updates like this I would recommend a process like this:

  • Align all channels’ communication
  • Use a system for your website that is easy to update. I can update this site from my phone through the WordPress app, for example.
  • Remember that operational changes impact customers. Make sure to communicate them on all channels.

Keeping our website updated is important and can help with a great customer experience.