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Cash Discounting for Parking

In today’s primarily digital world, you will not find many folks carrying cash in their wallets or purses. With the ease and simplicity of credit and debit cards, keeping cash can seem inconvenient. However, there are many unrecognized benefits to paying with cash. For example, keeping cash on hand can be a life-saver in a multitude of emergencies, such as driving on an empty gas tank or keeping hungry children from eating their crayons. But better yet, carrying cash can potentially save you money when making purchases.

Surcharge Fees

Despite common knowledge, merchants may offer a lower cost for purchases made with cash. Often, a supplemental fee is added to electronic transactions. This additional charge is called a surcharge fee or convenience fee. Customers incur a surcharge fee when a credit card, debit card, or personal check is used to make a purchase. This fee is part of a surcharge program that covers the cost charged to the merchant for payment processing services. It is typically unnoticed as it is automated in most transactions.

Why Cash Discounting is Worth It

 On average, surcharge fees are an additional three to four percent of your total purchase. For example, a $100 purchase is increased to $104. On paper, this does not sound like enough to break the bank. Nevertheless, what may seem to be a reasonable four percent surcharge can quickly add up. A consumer will potentially save hundreds of dollars per month by paying cash for day-to-day purchases and services.

Parking with Cash Discounts

 Parking in large cities, downtowns, or shopping plazas usually requires an hourly payment. Unbelievably, when parking in public places, paying with cash can conserve several dollars. Most parking garages and parking lots accept payment via automated machines. However, while it is rare to find a parking attendant accepting payment, it is not obsolete. Either way, paying with cash is the way to go. When paying at an automated process station, two options are provided- pay with cash or card. Selecting to pay with a card will automatically incur a surcharge fee at a three to four percent rate. However, choosing a cash payment option will eliminate the convenience fee and automatically charge a cash price. When directly paying the parking attendant, do not doubt the opportunity for a cash price. Simply ask the attendant if they have a cash price available. Chances are, they will gladly accept a cash payment at a discounted rate.

Benefits of Cash Discounts

The most obvious benefit of cash payment is the financial savings from not paying convenience fees, but that is not all. Paying with cash reduces the risk of data breach. Unfortunately, paying with a debit card or credit card increases the risk that the card information will be stolen, especially in popular, public places, such as gas stations or parking garages. Using cash for day-to-day expenses, will also increase cash flow, which provides a variety of benefits itself. Benefits of increased cash flow include prevention of overspending, increased chances of remaining debt free, preparation for emergencies, and more.

In a world that heavily depends on digital payment, it is wise to reduce the risk of data breach, increase cash flow, and save money by simply choosing payment with cash. After all, this is a very easy way to save a few bucks every day.

Chargebacks and Challenges They Present for Merchants

In an age when e-commerce accounts and digital payments are king, merchants can encounter many difficulties in completing a simple sale. One such challenge is dealing with chargebacks. Simply, a chargeback is a reversal of a credit card charge enacted by the card-issuing bank at the request of the cardholder.

Chargebacks began in the era before e-commerce when a card was used physically in exchange for a good in a store. Meant to encourage the use of credit cards, the Truth in Lending Act of the 1960s was drafted to protect customers from merchants who might rack up fraudulent charges on a customer’s card. But the laws haven’t evolved with the times, leaving merchants exposed to a different kind of fraud—“friendly fraud.”

The term friendly fraud is used to describe what happens when a customer makes a purchase, decides against it, and chooses to request money back by contacting the bank instead of the merchant. By established law, when a chargeback is initiated, the cardholder is no longer responsible for payment.  As a result of the chargeback dispute, merchants lose twice—on the initial payment, and on the goods that the customer is allowed to keep—and often they incur other, more stiff penalties.

Many customers don’t realize that requesting a return is faster (and often easier), and that merchants are unfairly charged. Unless identity theft or fraud is suspected (or unless a mediation with the merchant was unsuccessful), seeking a chargeback as a first course of action is chargeback fraud.

Inaccurate Reasons for Initiating a Chargeback

More than 9.5% of all retail sales are online, according to a 2018 Forbes article by Corey Baggett. With no-contact sales on the rise, all interactions with a customer—including the marketing, communication regarding inventory and ship time, the payment process, and subsequent encounters—it’s easy for customers and merchants to miscommunicate. These gaps in communication lead to customers who:

  • become frustrated because an item hasn’t arrived (only to have the item show up a few days later)
  • believe the item was inaccurately represented in marketing material
  • believe that they are outside the refund window or that obtaining a refund would take longer than requesting a chargeback

Speak to the Merchant as a First Action

In all these cases, customers may request a chargeback without ever reaching out to the business first. But in reality, many merchants would prefer to settle the dispute directly with the customer because of a few reasons:

  • Chargebacks are difficult to and costly to dispute with a low win rate
  • Returns are faster for both parties than chargebacks with less red tape
  • Dollars are lost in time, shipping, and product (consumers keep the goods in a chargeback scenario)

Merchants face a variety of chargeback challenges, including wasted time, lost shipping charges, difficulty in understanding and following chargeback guidelines, and difficulties with their own bank and credit card processor. In addition to these hurdles, merchants have difficulty identifying which chargeback disputes to pursue since there’s a historically low win rate.

Wasted Time

Chargebacks are costly for merchants in labor hours, and often a merchant won’t pursue a chargeback dispute because they lack the staff or resources to combat it effectively.

Although an issuer may provide a reason code for why the cardholder has raised a dispute, the chargeback reason codes aren’t standardized and vary from issuer to issuer. The reason codes are often vague or difficult to understand. In order for a merchant to understand how to begin to dispute the chargeback, she has to sort through the codes and communicate with the issuer to determine the reason the chargeback was requested in the first place.

The dispute process also varies significantly based on the process of the credit card company and the reason codes themselves. With each dispute, the merchant has set time limits to provide information to the bank for review. Although customers usually have anywhere from 45-180 days to request a chargeback, merchants usually only have 30 days to respond with appropriate data.

If at any time the merchant misses a deadline, the case is decided in favor of the cardholder. Merchants have to set aside time to deal with chargeback disputes on a regular basis—time that they could be spending growing their business.

One of the merchant’s only safeguards against fraudulent chargebacks is meticulous record-keeping. By keeping track of every customer communication, detailed records of charges, and proof of delivery statements, merchants are able to provide information in a timelier manner to the investigating bank—but detailed record-keeping adds to the hours that a merchant has to spend completing tasks other than making a sale.

Fees

Because the chargeback laws were initially created to protect customers, as soon as the chargeback is initiated, the payment is temporarily reversed in favor of the cardholder and the merchant is charged a fee which varies based on their merchant account and processor, but is usually in the neighborhood of $15 to $25 per chargeback. Most times merchants are stuck with this fee even if the dispute is dropped.

Revenue, Loss of Goods, Shipping Charges

Although some chargeback fees don’t seem exorbitant, they sting when you consider that the merchant has already lost revenue twice—once on the original payment which was reversed, and again in loss of goods, which the customer is allowed to keep. It was estimated in 2016 that for every $1 of fraud cost a merchant lost $2.40 (as reported by chargebacks911.com).

Consider the financial implication of loss of goods in the case of a customer who decides to make a purchase through an online seller. He places an order, but grows impatient with waiting for the item to be delivered (or doesn’t understand the logistics of delivery). He decides to buy from another seller, but instead of contacting customer service to cancel the order and request a refund, he initiates a chargeback with his bank. Two days later, the order arrives. He keeps the item and gets his money back. In this case, the merchant is required to pay a chargeback fee in addition to the loss of payment and loss of goods that he could have otherwise sold.

When a chargeback occurs, merchants also lose the shipping cost incurred in order to deliver the item to the customer. In the case of larger household goods or ones that require special handling, the sums can be significant.

Higher Account Fees, Termination of Account

Additionally, merchants who have frequent chargebacks may be required to pay higher fees by credit card processors because the transactions are considered high-risk.

If a merchant has enough chargebacks, their account may be terminated, leaving them with no method of credit card processing. In extreme cases, a processor may add a merchant to the MATCH (Member Alert to Control High Risk Merchants) list, effectively blacklisting them from being able to secure a contract with other processors for five years.

Prevention & Mitigation

Even when merchants attempt to prevent chargebacks, there’s an inherent cost in lost sales. In most cases, chargebacks are the result of a miscommunication or are because a customer who actually purchased the goods doesn’t realize a refund would be more effective. In some cases, customers actually engage in fraudulent chargebacks on purpose in order to obtain goods illegally. In order to decipher which purchases are fraudulent, merchants often use red flags on their payment process. For instance, if a billing address doesn’t match a shipping address, a merchant’s processor may flag the transaction. Although this situation is sometimes fraudulent, other times the purchase is legitimate. In order to protect themselves, e-commerce merchants decline millions of legitimate transactions each year to mitigate chargeback risk. Some sources estimate that one in 13 transactions are declined because of suspected fraudulent activity.

All of these costs are before merchants even consider fighting the chargeback. Often, because of the vague chargeback rules and exorbitant hours required to dispute, merchants seek assistance from third-parties who specialize in mitigation at an additional cost in hopes of saving money long-term.

Historically Chargeback Decisions Favor the Customer

Although merchants may choose to engage a third-party organization for mitigation services, there’s still no guarantee that the case will be decided in favor of the merchant. Without detailed record-keeping and a true understanding of why the customer initiated the chargeback in the first place, merchants may still lose.

Chargebacks can be initiated for so many reasons, and merchants often have to pick and choose which chargebacks to dispute. In cases where a customer initiated a chargeback because they felt it would be easier than a return, the merchant might be able to settle easily. Alternately, a chargeback initiated by a fraudster who just wanted to keep the merchandise and get money back may have exactly the same reason code. With so little information, it’s difficult for merchants to decide which disputes may be winnable.

In a Wall Street Journal article published January 2018, the author noted that hundreds of millions of dollars in charges are reversed each year in favor of the customer. Each year, chargebacks spike just after the holidays totaling as much as $980 million.

Most sources estimate that even merchants who utilize third-party services don’t win even half of the chargeback disputes. In the case where a merchant does win the dispute by providing adequate information, the acquiring bank re-presents the transaction that was removed and charged back to the cardholders account, a term called “representment.”

Fraud Prevention Tactics and Trouble Disputing

Because win rates are historically low for merchants, most choose to try and eliminate fraudulent activity before a chargeback occurs. One of the ways merchants do this is by looking for suspicious activity in the payment process.

Two of the tools that merchants use in the payment process are AVS (Address Verification System) and CVV (the three-digit code on the back of a credit or debit card). Merchants can set up rules in the payment process for declining a payment. Although the customer may enter a card number and their bank may authorize the payment, if one or more of the rules are broken, a merchant may choose to decline the transaction, leaving a customer with a “declined card” message on the payment page.

Although AVS and CVV rules, among others, are intended to safeguard the merchant against chargebacks, sometimes fraudsters still pass through the system—either because of a stolen credit card or because the person placing the order had all the correct information. In cases like these, it’s difficult for merchants to dispute a chargeback because none of the rules were broken.

Confusing Guidelines from Card Issuers

Even when merchants are prepared to fight chargebacks by providing information in a dispute, the guidelines provided by card issuers for fighting chargebacks are often confusing.

In order to be able to navigate a dispute, merchants need to at least have basic knowledge of the process, paying special attention to timing and required steps.

Each credit card company often has its own set of guidelines for engaging in a dispute, and those guidelines can change over time. Although some companies like Visa are working to create more merchant-friendly guidelines, some guideline manuals are more than 400 pages long.

Summary

Although chargebacks were originally a balance point for the merchant-customer relationship, they now pose many significant issues for merchants, especially in e-commerce sales. Until equitable laws are enacted to protect merchants, many will continue to struggle under fraudulent and unfair chargebacks.

With so many challenges—from wasted time and resources, assumed cost, unclear guidelines, and a historically low win rate—many merchants will choose to focus on fraud prevention techniques to reduce chargebacks or the likelihood that they will occur.

As e-commerce continues to become more popular, chargebacks will continue to be a losing system for banks and merchants, and will eventually raise cost for consumers.

Data Breach and It’s Impact on Reputation

Data Breach and It’s Impact on Reputation

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Almost daily, news broadcasts are reporting breaking stories about yet another data breach. In 2018, data breaches affected many of the United States’ largest companies, including Marriott Hotels, MyFitnessPal, Quora, Google Plus, Orbitz, T-Mobile, and even Facebook. Unfortunately, the mile-long list doesn’t end there. With increasing frequency and rising risk in today’s digital world, data breaches loom behind every corner. And, whether big or small, the companies affected are not left unscathed.

What is the impact?

The impact of a data breach is minimally horrific, if not detrimental, to any company involved. Once confidential information is breached, companies are under a regulatory burden to notify anyone who’s information was compromised. However, when a breach becomes public knowledge, the consequences to a company are almost unavoidable. In one crushing blow, the reputation of a company is at stake.

In today’s world of social media, it is no secret that news spreads like wildfire. Through news reports, Facebook shares, Instagram stories, and more, word travels fast. In a matter of seconds, the whole world is “in the know.” Thus, the consequences of a data breach run far and wide. From credit card numbers to identify theft, the opportunity for cyber attacks are vast.

Among a long list of imminent ramifications, the most impactful one is the loss of customer trust. Undoubtedly, losing the trust of beloved customers can decrease a company’s value immensely and very quickly. Once a customer no longer trusts your company to protect their valuable and confidential information, you can bet you’ve lost their business. With the loss of customers, the company’s reputation will most likely take a hit, leading to a decline in brand value. This downward spiral is difficult to quell.

These are just a handful of the consequences that no company can afford. For all these reasons and more, it’s essential to protect yourself and your business.

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What measures can you take today?

Undeniably, the risk of data breach is high and it is vital to have a response plan in place. Being proactive can save you from a data breach catastrophe. A response plan will work to reduce the risk of data breach, protect the information of your priceless customers, and reduce the amount of harm when a breach is attempted.

First, ensure you have the protection of cyber security. Cyber security companies like Norton, provide your business with data protection from cyber attackers and hackers. Investing in the appropriate security measures may save you endless strife, time, and money.

Once an attack has been confirmed, it is important to implement a data breach response plan.  Quickly identify the objective of the attackers and the severity of the breach. Alert the security response team of the attack immediately.

After a successful breach has been made, notifying all compromised parties and customers is non-negotiable. In order to prevent further harm, it is important for the affected individuals to become aware of the situation and take further action on their behalf, if necessary. Work closely with your security team to restore a secure network as soon as possible. Complying with the Human Resources team to handle any negative publicity of a data breach incident is advised. It is no surprise that the risk of data breach in today’s digital world is costly.  However, there are steps you can take to provide your company and customers with the highest level of protection from data breaches and cyber attacks. Don’t wait until it is too late! It is important to be proactive in maintaining the integrity and reputation of your company.

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Benefits and Challenges of Using Contactless Payment

Benefits and Challenges of Using Contactless Payment

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If you’ve ever been waiting in line to pay and seen a customer wave or tap her debit card near a payment terminal to buy something, you’ve seen contactless payment. Many stores are moving to make payment easier for their customers—by eliminating the need for cash and allowing payment with a variety of devices, including everything from iPhone and Android smartphones to wearable devices primarily used for fitness tracking.

These transactions are possible because of something called near-field communication (NFC), a special payment technology that allows a card to receive and transmit information securely over a short distance when the cardholder makes a payment. Only requiring about 4 cm of distance between the card and card reader, NFC is fast and easy, allowing purchasers the ability to move through more quickly without entering a pin number and without requiring a signature.

Although contactless transactions are gaining in popularity and are an improvement to radio-frequency identification (RFID), many cardholders still question the security and benefits of contactless transactions.

Benefits of Contactless Payment

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1)Paying is fast and convenient. Most new mobile phones, smart watches, fitness trackers, and some commercial key fobs are enabled with NFC technology. Users also spend less time waiting at the register by using tap and pay rather than swiping a card and using a pin or signing for a payment.

2) In some ways, it’s more secure. Contactless debit (and credit) cards that contain NFC technology have layers of security, using encrypted data to transmit a unique transaction number.

3) The card number isn’t used for the payment and merchants don’t use or store the card information in their POS terminal, so there’s less likelihood of a debit number being used in fraudulent transactions after being compromised in a data breach.

4) Since cardholders don’t swipe, they also avoid fraudsters who collect data from gas station pumps, ATMs and other public terminals.

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Challenges of Contactless Payment

1) Although contactless payment cards have been used globally for a long time, many issuers in the US are just now getting on board, so contactless payment isn’t accepted at every terminal yet. Users would need to know ahead of time which merchants are able to accept contactless payment and which ones require more conventional payment methods.

2) Card issuers are working to raise awareness and make transactions easier, but some consumers may be confused by the new technology and how to use it.

3) Many companies have a transaction limit, so users might still have to use a conventional payment method for larger purchases. Users should research their transaction limit by contacting the issuer ahead of time.

4) Although the technology is improving, occasionally the connection may be poor, requiring a customer to swipe or sign anyway. Users would need to be prepared ahead of time with an alternate payment method.

5) With the use of smartphones or wearable devices for contactless payment, it’s easier for the actual debit card to become lost or stolen.

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Summary

For customers who make a lot of quick, digital payments as part of a daily routine, using contactless payment makes sense—it’s faster, allows users to multitask with capability on other devices, and is a more secure transaction in many ways. For larger, more calculated purchases or in situations where a connection may be tenuous, it’s a good plan to have a debit card or credit card available for more conventional use (swiping or inserting). Users should speak with their issuing bank and research the specific form of contactless payment that may works for their use. Although it’s a complex technology, contactless payment has the ability to bring simplicity to many aspects of customer transactions.

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Finding The Name Behind A Domain

Finding The Name Behind A Domain

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Finding the actual people who are behind the domain name you are looking for ranges from easy, to darn near impossible. But where there is a search engine and a little ingenuity, there is a way.

 We’ll cover some of the basic behind domain ownership, major resources you can use to search out the answers you need, and the steps needed to get past the walls between domain name ownership, and domain owners.

So, who cares, exactly?

Well, you do. Perhaps you have a name for your company, or a specialized service or offering you want to put to work on the web, and you have the perfect name in mind. That name is worth digital diamonds in the world of search; but if it is owned there’s pretty much nada you can do, even if it is inactive, until you find the person in possession of the domain name you need. Otherwise, your path to web success can meet a dead end even before you start.

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Where do you look? Whois

Any time a domain is registered, the registrant has to provide contact information with the service they are using, and if they fail to keep that information current, they can lose the ownership of the domain. That information gets stored by ICANN – the Internet Company for Assigned Names and Numbers (catchy, huh.) And all of it is kept on a pubic database for any and all who know where and how to look. And where and how DO you look to get to that juicy data?

You perform a Whois search. There are any number of providers on the web that offer the tools to do a simple search of available information held by ICANN, and that search has a name. Whois. And with any of these search engines the process is really, really simple. Enter the domain name into the box. Click Enter. Out comes whatever is stored in the database.

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And what exactly is in there? Lots of stuff

Every registrar’s contact information, including up-to-date email and phone (ever get those annoying, “Update your contact information” requests from Go Daddy? This is where that info goes.) You can get the when, as well as the where a domain was registered. The domain might actually be available; a Whois search can reveal that as well. Is it soon to expire? A domain that is close to expiring MAY not be renewed, and with some patience you might not need to approach the current owner to gain the name. Is that data available? Well, Virginia, there may not be a Santa Claus but there is a Whois report.

And it is all at your fingertips, if your fingertips click the, “Lookup” button.

What if they DON’T want their info found. Private Domain Registration

All of the “protect my information at all costs” hysteria circulating in the web has given rise to a number of Private Domainregistration services. These protect personal information by creating “generic” phone/name/address information to be posted in the ICANN database, acting as a shield from the reach of Whois searches. The actual information is stored (at a cost to the owner) inside of these private domain services. In many of these cases, the service acts as a proxy to the actual owner, an intermediary between inquiries and the people with the actual answers you seek.

But while the phone or email a Whois search reveals about a privately held domain can lead to the true owner, it can just as likely result in a dead end. Private domain owners generally do not want to be contacted. Which is why they pay for the service in the first place.

If you run a Whois search and retrieve a nameless email and a generic phone number, chances are you are not going to get to the actual information you want on that domain.

In July of 2018, Verisign, one of the top companies in domain registration estimated around 338 million registrations were held in July of 2018, with a growth rate estimated at just shy of 4% a year.  ICANN has estimated around 20% of that number are registered on private or proxy servers.

The odds you’ll find what you are looking for – or who you are looking for – are on your side. 

Isn’t that worth one click?

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Increasing Revenue with Smart Parking Technology

Increasing Revenue with Smart Parking Technology

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Parking industry technology has come a long way. Automation is making parking lot attendants become a thing of the past, saving operators overhead and streamlining the process for customers. But beyond the obvious factor of having to pay fewer employees, there are lots of ways technology is increasing revenue for parking lot operators who know how to leverage it, all while improving the customer experience.

Here, we’ll break down what sorts of smart parking technology is available, and how to make the most of these smart parking innovations for your facility.

Types of Smart Parking Technology

Mobile parking technology and parking apps are some of the biggest trends in smart parking technology today. These come with a number of possible features that help automate the entire process, and in addition to other benefits, remove the need for human hands to handle ticketing and payments.

Seamless Spot Booking

Seamless spot booking is a feature that allows customers to pre-book a vacant parking spot ahead of time, before arriving at your facility. They can then use a code sent to them via email, SMS, or a mobile app that lets them scan their phones and then enter the lot to park. This removes the need for on-site payment systems and automates the process from booking to exit.

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Dynamic Pricing

Dynamic pricing systems allow for automated price increases during high-volume parking periods, such as rush hour or during local events. Not only does this increase revenue by responding dynamically to changes in demand, but empowers you to give customers more affordable parking options when overall volume is lower.

Improved User Experience

There are myriad ways that smart parking technology improves the user experience for your customers. Features like pre-booking and streamlined payment systems, vacancy checks, and on-site credit card processing make the reservation, parking, and payment process easier than ever for customers.

Subscription & Pay-Per-Use

New parking facility technologies give operators an easy way to offer their customers various payment models, including subscription and pay-per-use. A pay-per-use model is typical in most parking situations. It is exactly what it sounds like: a customer pays once, and gets to park for a certain period of time. If they leave and then return, they have to pay again.

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A subscription model, on the other hand, allows customers to pay a flat fee on a certain schedule – usually monthly – and then they can park as often as they like. Operators can use smart technology to offer both models for different customers, if it is a good fit for their demographic.

For example, it your customers include numerous commuters who will need to use your lot frequently, but you get a lot of one-time users as well, you can sell parking subscriptions to customers who need it and charge a per-use fee for others. As the operator, it’s all up to you, and it’s easier than ever to offer more than just one model for collecting payments.

Commissions on Mobile Payments

In addition to new payment models for you to offer customers, parking lot operators can take advantage of different payment models that increase your revenue in innovative new ways. One such way is charging a small commission to customers who are using mobile payments.

By tacking on a small fee for the convenience of paying with a mobile phone, more revenue can be collected on each mobile payment that you process. This fee will be minor for the customer, but will add up greatly over time for you. Commissions on mobile payments increase profit margins by helping to offset the costs of maintaining a mobile payment network for your customers.

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Rewards Programs

Smart parking technology allows operators to reward their frequent customers with discounts and special deals. By automating the process, this can be “hands off,” requiring little to no input from operators once the reward system is set up.

For example, customers can sign up for an automated system to keep track of how often they use your facility. The system can be programmed to offer rewards of all kinds. Customers might get a free parking pass after five parking sessions, or a free week of parking after a one-year subscription period lapses. Any number of incentives can be implemented without the need for additional monitoring on your part.

How Smart Parking Technologies Improve Productivity

Smart parking technologies promise to improve your productivity and efficiency in a wide number of ways. Automation for the customer is only part of the equation. In the next section, we’ll explore some of the other factors.

Smart Data Analytics

The revolution in parking lot data analytics in recent years has been staggering. Thanks to technological innovation, parking lot operators can have total, real-time insights into every aspect of their operations. From volume and vacancies to new payments and subscribers, operators can dial down into every detail for deep insights into their business, even viewing trends over time for various data points.

This allows you to make adjustments and investments as needed, putting your time and money into the most productive areas. Over the life of your business, modern analytics tools can deliver monumental money and time-saving opportunities.

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Less Need for On-Site Parking Attendants

As mentioned in earlier sections, one of the most obvious benefits of smart parking innovation is the drastically reduced need for on-site employees to operate the lot. Since aspects like entry, exit, reservations, and even payment can all be automated, you’ll no longer need to pay employees to work at your facility to manage daily operations.

In addition to payroll savings, this also reduces loss. Unfortunately, employees make mistakes or can decide to become dishonest. Misplaced, miscounted, and stolen revenues are a guarantee, to some extent, when you are forced to hire human beings to operate your business.

Automated systems and software won’t be subject to the same quirks and mistakes as their human counterparts. They can also move more efficiently, making instant calculations and eliminating delays.

Optimized Parking

Smart technology can optimize the parking process for customers, increasing revenue for you. For example, mobile apps downloaded by the customer can be used to display vacant parking spots. This reduces traffic congestion in the lot by making it clear exactly where customers can park, sending them directly to a vacant spot of their choice.

In addition to making your lot more efficient and consumer-friendly, eliminating the need for customers to wander around looking for a spot reduces the likelihood of collisions, road rage, and other legally cumbersome incidents.

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Generate New Revenue Streams

Technology gives operators the opportunity to generate new revenue streams from their parking businesses. One opportunity comes from “premium” packages for customers. These could allow customers access to special tools, such as a mobile app, to give them fuller visibility into real-time information like current parking spot vacancies for an additional fee.

As mentioned in a previous section, commissions collected on mobile payments are another potentially valuable new revenue stream offered by smart technology. But in addition to new revenue streams for you, your lot can generate revenue for the local municipality as well. While this isn’t always a direct source of revenue for you, this could increase the overall value of your business drastically.

Final Thoughts

With the advent of smart parking technology, managing a parking facility isn’t like it used to be—and that’s a good thing. Technology improvements are providing an enormous opportunity for operators to automate their business, continually improve their operation, and collect more revenue than ever.

But things have improved for parking facility customers as well. Parking lot patrons can enjoy a smoother, more informed, and more pleasant experience when they patronize a facility that takes advantage of the latest innovations. As technology keeps improving, it will continue to be a win-win for parkers and operators alike.

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Improving Customer Service in the Parking Industry

Improving Customer Service in the Parking Industry

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What is Good Customer Service in the Parking Industry?

As technology in the parking industry has developed, the customer service dynamic between parking lot owners and employees and their customers has changed dramatically. Today, the retail interaction is generally between the customer and an automated payment system.

However, customer service in the parking industry is no less important than it has always been. Improving service at your parking facility will have a direct impact on revenues. Good customer service is about more than just politeness and attentiveness to your customers. Just as important is the delivery of easy to understand information to each and every customer.

Don’t try to reduce customer service to a single action, such as answering a question, issuing a refund, or processing a credit card. Think of it as an ongoing dynamic: a pleasant and helpful way that lot operators exchange information with customers on a day-to-day basis. These interactions should be helpful both to the customer, of course. But they will also be helpful to your bottom line as a parking facility operator.

Most customer service issues will be based on the customer seeking information, such as the answer to a question. But at the end of the day, they are simply interactions. The customer will leave those interactions either feeling pleased and satisfied, or feeling frustrated. It’s up to you to ensure each customer receives service that pleases them.

Rather than an expense or nuisance, each customer service exchange should be looked at as a unique opportunity to improve your business. From becoming more proficient at processing refunds to addressing broken equipment, you and your staff can learn from every customer service inquiry you receive how to improve your business.

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How Does Good Customer Service Benefit You as a Parking Lot Operator?

Clearly, a good customer service experience is beneficial to customers. But it’s beneficial to you as well, and to your business because good customer service is a major factor that keeps people coming back. Convenience, price, and other factors are certainly important. But even a single bad customer service experience could cause someone to begin using a slightly less convenient or slightly more expensive option.

 

It Improves Your Employees

Exchanges between customers and service reps mold your reps into better employees, improving their skills and knowledge of the job. For example, if a customer received a parking ticket they believe is in error, they may contact your service department. The employee handling the call could improve their knowledge of your software systems or ticketing policies.

It Educates Your Customers

An educated customer is more ideal than one who is not. Customers who know policies, pricing, pay locations, and other information will have a smoother experience that will keep coming back to your facility. When a customer makes a customer service inquiry, they are essentially requesting a better education in some aspect of your business. If their interaction is positive, they will be a more educated customer as they continue patronizing your facility.

It Identifies Weak Points of Your Facility

Some customer inquiries will be due to the customer simply being confused. But if your service reps keep getting the same questions or complaints, you can see clear opportunities to improve your facility. For example, if there is a sign explaining the refund policy, and you have many customers asking about it, you may need to improve the sign’s visibility or clarify the wording.

By using customer service inquiries to improve, you can reduce the amount of confusion and the number of complaints and inquiries from customers. This turns the $5-$7.50 that it costs to deal with each customer inquiry into an investment in streamlining your facility. View every customer service interaction as an opportunity to make your business as efficient as it can be.

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Why Do People Change Parking Providers?

There are several primary reasons that customers change to different parking providers. The most common underlying cause is a change in their needs—for example, maybe a job change makes it so they no longer require parking at your location. Another possibility is that regular customers no longer have their vehicles, and don’t require parking service.

Sometimes, however, customers move to a competitor they think will offer them a better value. Value isn’t just the price tag for the service. The price is only one part of the value picture. Overall value takes into account components like convenience and quality of service in addition to price.

If a parking facility is inexpensive but is in a high-crime area, offers poor customer service, or has very small and difficult to use parking spaces, it may not be a great value. Similarly, a facility that charges a higher fee but has spacious lots, clear policies, great customer service, a convenient location, and easy-to-use payment terminals, could still be a good value despite the higher price.

To improve value for your customers, you could lower prices, offer better customer rewards, or invest in more user-friendly software for payment terminals. But the number one thing you can do that will have the greatest immediate effect is to improve your customer service. This leads us to our next section.

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How Do You Retain Customers With Better Customer Service?

All other factors aside, better customer service is the number one way to retain customers and keep them from abandoning you for competitors. So, how do you improve your customer service?

Be customer-oriented, and make sure employees are well-trained to show every customer that they care and understand about their concerns. Also make sure employees are as trained and up-to-date as possible on all policies, procedures, pricing, and other pertinent aspects of the business.

To give yourself a way to continually improve your customer service, allow customers to rate their experience so that you can learn more from each service call. That way, every single customer service interaction is leveraged to help you do a better job. This will help you identify and make the most of countless opportunities to improve your business and raise revenues in the process.

Cost vs. Value

As we discussed earlier, value is more than just cost. It includes things like rewards, convenience, ease of use, safety, cleanliness, and many other factors. To retain customers and be a better value without lowering your price, find ways to improve in other areas – and use customer service requests to identify what they are.

For example, if multiple customers have complained about trash in the lot, you can increase your value simply by ensuring litter is picked up. You can also make an effort to make customers feel special with rewards programs, frequent parker discounts, and other extras to keep customers coming back.

When customers find your service to be courteous, pleasant, knowledgeable, agreeable, and easy to deal with, they will return again and again. In cities with many superficially similar parking options, it can end up being the little things that create the sense of value that keeps customers coming back.

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Connect With Your Customers

You want to give your customers as many options as possible to get in contact with you. Of course, there are basics like email and telephone contact numbers. But there could be a live chat box on your website. These are easy to add with plugins that integrate with different hosting providers and website builders.

You could also provide an SMS text message customer support line. You might also have social media accounts that customers can contact. Electronic and automated customer service outlets will take less time to handle than phone requests, so any improvement to these methods will save you time and money.

Final Thoughts

The key to incredible customer service is thoughtfulness: always ask yourself, how would I feel if I was the customer in this situation? With a little empathy, an eagerness to improve, and a customer-centric company culture, you can turn even complaints into opportunities—both to make your customers happy, and to increase revenues for your parking facility over the long term.

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TOKENIZATION 101

TOKENIZATION 101

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It is no secret that electronic payments have revolutionized everything we have known as traditional commerce. This new era of e-commerce simultaneously satisfies both consumer craving for fresh marketplaces as well as convenience… both in person and online… in record time… on a global scale.

Along with this new way of conducting business electronically, there are also new words, acronyms, and even laws that govern how businesses maintain ethical standards of practice for payment processing. The understanding of tokenization is where we are headed, but to fully appreciate the benefits of tokenization, one must first understand the dangerous problems it has solved.

As the front doors fly open to trillions of dollars flowing throughout the world electronically, hackers are secretly working hard to break in through the back doors. Of course, the goal of these backdoor thieves is to tap into the vast stream of money by stealing credit card information, but the more sophisticated heisters have their eye on the most valuable diamond in the case, which is to gain private information in a readable form to sell, duplicate, or even exploit the consumers themselves.Small organizations can be easy targets to steal cardholder data (CHD) from, but as recent headlines prove, the skill set and patience of the hacker are the only real discriminations in the world of hacking success. The “big fish” such as large retailers, hotel chains, and websites with millions of users have also been targeted and successfully breached in recent years.To the consumers, the benefit of convenience certainly does not outweigh the risk of a data breach… or does it? Despite the recent hacks, the raging economy of e-commerce is unstoppable, largely due to consumers being somewhat protected against monetary theft. If, for example, a debit or credit card number is hacked or stolen, and then used to make a purchase, the consumer’s account is quickly refunded once a report has been filed.

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Refunds may satisfy consumers, but there are still two looming questions that must be answered: who is going to pay, and how much data was stolen?Who is going to pay? The answer is simple to the issuing bank or credit card provider: the retailer. In the end, it is the retailers who are responsible for keeping a consumer’s data secure, so they must make good on the purchase if there is a breach. This is called a chargeback.  Chargebacks are expensive to the retailer, and they are still out the stolen goods.

Chargebacks are also very stressful, because retailers know the larger diamond will always be personal data, which can take years to be fully realized. What type data was stolen? How many customers were affected?  These two giant elephants in the room leave companies scrambling to secure ever-changing technology to protect themselves, while keeping transactions simple, fast, and convenient for the consumers.

As the need for electronic payment and data processing grows, so must the trustworthiness of the security systems put in place to protect against identity theft and data breaches.  After all, being hacked is not a result of a company’s conscious willingness to divulge its customers’ valuable information, but rather the result of an overlooked, insufficient, or outdated security measure that is simply surpassed by hacker technology.  It’s no wonder that identity theft has quickly become more lucrative than ever before. It’s a big, fast-moving problem that requires an ingenious solution that will keep private data safely ahead of the curve and untouchable to hackers.

ENCRYPTION

One of the first and original lines of defense that companies and consumers have used against hacking is called encryption. Encryption can be as simple as a password to protect a computer, cell phone, email, or document. The longer a password is, the more protected the device or data is. This type of security can be a fairly basic breach from a hacking standpoint.

Taking the encryption up a security level is a mathematically generated “secret code.” Just as codes have been used in the past for secret message delivery where only the recipient has the key to decipher the message, so it goes with electronically encrypted data. The data is encrypted into unreadable characters by the sender’s key, and then decrypted by the receiver’s key. The sender and receiver can share the same “code key” to lock the data and re-open it. This form of encryption definitely makes it harder to hack, but if the code key falls into the wrong hands on either the sending or receiving end, the hacker can easily gain access to the data stored within.

An even higher form of encryption security is when the sender and receiver each have a unique key that will only lock, or only open the data. In this case, a hacker would need to have both keys in order to crack the code into usable data, and having to find both keys is definitely harder than having to find only one.

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PCI COMPLIANCE

Whenever a transaction takes place, encrypted data is sent from the retailer to the payment processor through the internet. After the transaction, no matter the encryption style hiding it, the data still remains, potentially sparkling at hackers wherever it is stored. If the data were to remain in a retailer’s system once a credit card payment had been processed, it would be up to each retailer to determine how much security was enough. To some, a simple password seems like plenty, especially when the latest security software is outside of their budget. To others, encrypting the data plus a computer password would be a proactive approach. 

PCI COMPLIANCE

To “help” minimize the risk to retailers who accept credit card payments, it is mandated that they not store the data locally, but rather on a server deemed up to the task, and protect the information as it is being transmitted to the secure server, as defined by the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, or PCI DSS. Hosting data on a PCI-compliant server seems like a great solution because, after all, the best kind of security for a retailer’s system is when the data doesn’t exist at all.  The retailer still needs to take steps to be PCI compliant, though, as the data is still being transmitted to the place of storage.

As good as everyone’s intentions are in adhering to or enforcement of security laws, any server can be vulnerable to hacking, because the encryption code is based on what’s called an algorithm, which means a mathematical pattern created the encryption.

ALGORITHMS

The word “algorithm” is basically a fancy word for systematically solving problems using step-by-step procedures. Sounds pretty complex, but a common example of an algorithm points to the concept of following a simple cooking recipe.

When following a recipe, an algorithm of ingredients is being followed to create the dish. There may be some instructions mixed in, but it is a system of adding ingredients in a specific order to create a final “encryption,” or “Mom’s Casserole,” or whatever is being cooked.

While the recipe example is great for explaining what an algorithm is, it may not be the best example to explain from a hacking standpoint, but will give a general picture. To hack “Mom’s Casserole” recipe would be a painstaking, scientific process where instruments and a sample are used. Using scientific measures, diagnostics would be run on the sample to figure out Mom’s secret ingredients based on data of known foods and their scientific breakdown.

The time it takes for the diagnostics to be run may be an analogy of how a hacker would spend time running their program on an encrypted file, but without being a hacker, it’s almost impossible to know exactly how this is accomplished, or how big of a sample is needed.

What is known, and what is important to know, is that hackers do manage to crack very complex mathematically-generated encryptions, making encryption by itself a possible recipe… for disaster.

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TOKENIZATION

With that said, encryption has been around for a long time, and has been a great solution over the years. The key to success with encryption is managing it well. It’s still being used today, and isn’t going anywhere… but… what if there was a way to encrypt data that was not a mathematically generated algorithm? What if no primary account numbers (PAN) or cardholder data (CHD) would have to be transmitted from the retailer while processing a payment? What if the “encryption” process could generate a secret code based on utter randomness? It sounds like a crazy, philosophical idea, but this is what tokenization has accomplished, except that tokenization takes encryption a million steps further than that: there are no keys, either.

The absence of keys is not because no keys are needed to open the protected data, but rather there is simply no data left on the retailer’s computer to protect; in fact, this private data never even touched the retailer’s system, saving them from mountains of potential liability and simplifying PCI compliance issues. Tokenization is revolutionary for many reasons, and doesn’t stop at payment processing. The world of personal and medical data also utilizes the benefits of tokenization’s security. It’s big. 

From the payment processing standpoint, the retailer, which could be a store, cell phone app, website, or anyone who accepts a digital payment, can directly integrate tokenization into their POS system so everything is automatic and simple. When a customer swipes a card, the information is sent to what’s called a token vault. This ingenious form of communication, the token vault, is where the consumer shares their cardholder data, rather than with the retailer. Retailers can finally relax, because they never have to store the cardholder’s account number or other personal information associated with it.

TOKEN VAULT

Once a card is swiped or entered, the token vault sends the card number along with the token to the issuing bank, who issues approval for the charge. From there, it’s all token. The long string of randomly generated letters, numbers, and symbols, has BECOME the one-time credit card number without storing any cardholder data, and this new token is useless on its own. 

Because there is zero connection between the customer’s card number embedded in the token, the token can be set up for recurring charges, making it a secure way for retailers to offer subscription services.

The token vault is a chosen service, and there are several “token makers” to choose from. When choosing a token service provider (TSP), it’s important to make sure the vault company is not merely encrypting the card numbers and calling them tokens. To be a real token vault, it must be randomly generating the card numbers. Tokenization has not been without growing pains, as the vaults can get overloaded, creating glitches and speed issues; however, this technology has proven to be reliable, secure, and convenient. Tokenization is here to stay, and payment processing is just the beginning of what this ingenious security solution can, and will, offer the future.

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Guide to Choosing a Parking Management System

Parking facilities are complex operations with many moving parts. This makes the process of choosing the hardware and software systems complicated for owners of parking lot businesses. When choosing a parking management system, owners have many factors to take into account. Pricing is obviously an immediate concern. But you also need to consider maintenance, installation, user experience, levels of automation, and others.

All the factors can be a bit overwhelming. That’s why we created this guide to how to shop for a parking management system. Below, we’ll outline a couple of the major considerations you need to take into account. Then we’ll break down what you need to know for both the hardware and software aspects of systems sold by different providers. Lastly, we’ll give you some tips for how to go about the shopping process, and what homework you should do beforehand.

Know Your Provider: Key Aspects of Parking Management System Manufacturers

3rdParty vs. Direct Manufacturer

Some parking management systems are manufactured directly by the company you’re buying from, but others are manufactured by third parties. If you can, you should buy direct from the manufacturer. Sometimes you can find lower pricing from 3rd-party manufacturers, but the overall quality, maintenance, and customer service can suffer. Beware the temptation to pay a smaller upfront cost, only to be hit with high costs for installation, maintenance, and fixes if things break down.

Customer Service

When you’re shopping for the right company to provide your parking management system, customer service is extremely important. Parking systems require some degree of ongoing maintenance, which can include both mechanical maintenance and fixes, and software upgrades.

Find a company with a reputation for stellar customer service. Online reviews and trade publications are the two best places to start to find companies with the best service record.

You should also look at whether the company handles all customer service needs in-house, or subcontracts the work out to other companies. If they subcontract, proceed with caution. Companies that are most serious about customer service tend to invest in it.

If they subcontract the work out to others, it also means you might encounter service reps with less than comprehensive knowledge of the intricacies of the parking equipment. In-house customer service teams tend to be better trained in all of the products and how they work.

Hardware Components vs. Software Components

All parking management systems are made up of some combination of two things: hardware equipment and software components. The hardware includes aspects like pay stations, license plate readers, and entry/exit gates. The software is the aspect that allows the hardware to work and communicate. Without software, you wouldn’t have a way to automate payment collection, analytics, or other key aspects of your parking business.

In the next section, we’ll describe what you need to know when shopping for a manufacturer for each of these components, starting with the hardware.

Hardware

The physical hardware the makes up your parking management system forms the core of your business. The hardware components are what customers will actually see and interact with when they use your parking facility, so it’s critical that each piece of hardware is effective, and that its use is well-thought out.

Design: In-House or Outsourced?

The design of your parking facility will affect overall traffic, the number of passbacks that are attempted, and just about every other aspect of your business. That means that design is critical, and each decision you make will cut directly into your bottom line. The best parking management system providers have an in-house design team that is expert at working with individual facilities and usage needs to determine the best possible hardware components to place, and where to place them.

For example, is your space better suited to use an entry and exit gate with an integrated, stay-in-lane payment system? Or a ticket-dispensing entry without a gate, that integrates with a pay-on-foot station? These sorts of decisions play into how smoothly your business will operate and will affect overall profits for the life of your parking business.

Maintenance

As with design and customer service, it’s preferable for maintenance to be handled in-house. Find out if the company charges for regular maintenance or equipment breakdowns, as these are likely to be necessary at some point. Because equipment is specialized, not all maintenance will be possible to perform yourself.

Installation

Not all parking management system providers include installation, and others provide it for an additional installation free. Find out any installation costs ahead of time—if installation is not included by the equipment provider, you’ll have to pay a separate firm to install the equipment for you. If you aren’t expecting it, this cost can add up and quickly lead to going over your budget.

Ask about installation up front, and if you get so far as to receive a contract, carefully review what it says about equipment installation and maintenance.

Ease of Use

Ensuring your hardware is intuitive and easy for customers to operate is critical for avoiding missed revenue opportunities, avoiding maintenance calls, and keeping your operation turnkey.

Some hardware considerations while you inspect different equipment: are directions clear, and buttons clearly marked? Is each step easy for customers to decipher and link together? Are throughways and traffic patterns, for both vehicles and foot traffic, clearly marked?

Go through the whole process, as if you were a customer, and try to identify areas where confusion might crop up. Spending real time to figure this out before you finalize your purchase and install your hardware could save you a great deal of time, money, and frustration in the long run.

Software

Without the software to run it, parking management equipment wouldn’t work. Software allows individual hardware components to integrate, becoming a cohesive system. The software is also what enables the hardware to communicate with the Internet, allowing you to process payments, view analytics remotely, and otherwise manage your parking facility business from afar.

Smart Software: Smartphone & Tablet Integration

The best modern parking lot software systems are “smart” – that is, they are connected to the Internet, and can integrate seamlessly with smartphones and tablets. This has implications both for managers and customers.

For managers, it means you can log into an app and view key metrics for your business in real time. Look for a software system that allows you to use a smartphone or tablet view live metrics such as entries, exits, revenue, overall traffic volume, revenues, and profits. The best software, in addition to live metrics, will allow you to view charts of each metric over periods of time of your choosing.

You may also be able to use the app to view live streams from on-premise security cameras, though, oftentimes, video security systems have their own separate apps for this.

Smartphone and tablet integration is meaningful for your customers as well. Certain software systems allow customers to book ahead of time online, use their smartphone as an entry or exit system, send mobile payments, and view live parking spot vacancies.

You may not need all these features. But in the modern era of parking management systems, the overall ability to integrate with a smartphone or tablet is essential to running an automated operation.

Automation & Remote Management

In the old days of parking lot facilities, all management had to be done on-site. Automation has changed made the processes of managing a facility much more turnkey, but some software systems offer more powerful automation capability than others.

The more automated your parking lot management system is, the less time, money, and energy you will have to spend managing it. Smart integration makes parking systems more automated than ever, but not all are created equal in this regard.

Look for a software system that gives you the most possible options for automation and remote management of your facility.

Analytics

We mentioned in the section about smart integration that you should choose software allowing you to view key metrics about your business. How important each metric is, and what level of detail you need, will differ for every parking facility. However, automatic analytics collection is essential, and it should be easy and convenient for owners and managers to get the information they need whenever they need it.

Deep analytics and data collection tools empower you to make major business decisions that increase revenues. For example, some software might allow you an easy way to dial into peak and off-peak days and hours, when your facility is least and most busy. You could then start charging more for peak hours such as nights and weekends, increasing profits. Without an easy way to automate the collection of this information and make it easy to analyze, you would have to figure it all out yourself.

Pre-Paid Reservation Capability

Some parking management software allows customers to book parking online ahead of time, complete with secure pre-paid online reservation systems. For some parking facilities, this feature isn’t necessary or helpful. If it is, however, be sure your chosen software offers it.

Making this determination will require some market analysis of the parking needs and customer demographics in your parking facility’s area. Spend some time doing this research before making a final decision on software, as pre-paid online bookings can have an enormous impact on profits in the long-term, but may not be cost effective for all parking facilities.

Security & PCI Compliance

Security is essential for all parking facilities. In the age of digital payments and payment cards, digital security is just as important as physical. Make sure the software you choose is fully PCI compliant. This ensures it is up to date with all the latest standards regarding secure credit and debit card payments, and payments using mobile apps.

In addition to PCI compliance, overall security is essential for software that integrates apps for manager or customer use. For example, if hackers were able to get into your management portal, they might be able to do anything from manipulate pricing to steal your business bank account information. Similarly, for hackers to gain access to the customer end of the software could end with your customers having their credit card information stolen.

Find out as much as you can about software security and PCI compliance with any given software system. Even a single security breach can cost you so much time and money that it has the potential to end your business.

Conclusions

With these hardware and software aspects in mind, you can shop for parking lot management systems with confidence. Before you begin, make a list of features you think you need or might enhance your business. From there, prioritize which are critical features, and which are merely ones you prefer to have but don’t absolutely require.

That way, you can rule out any hardware and software systems that don’t offer your must-have features. Then, only looking at the systems left over, you can narrow down which have your preferred features as well. This makes it easier to avoid long, unnecessary sales pitches for software and hardware you don’t need anyway, and streamlines your shopping process.

Good luck, and happy shopping!

Comparing Parking Management Systems

What are PARCS (Parking Access and Revenue Control Systems)?

PARCS, also known as Parking Access and Revenue Control Systems, allow parking lot owners and operators to collect revenue and control parking lot access using an automated system. They can contain numerous components including credit card payment terminals, gates, license plate readers, software, and others.

PARCS allow for full parking lot management and help minimize passbacks—that is, misuse of the parking lot wherein someone attempts to use access facilities out of order, or fraudulently.

First, we’ll run through the basics of each possible component:

Pay Stations

Pay stations are terminals where customers can input payments, print entry or exit tickets, and obtain receipts for parking. They allow for sales to occur without an attendant on-site. Some machines accept cash as well as being able to process credit cards, but others accept only credit card payments.

Pay stations can be either Pay on Foot (POF) systems, or Pay in Lane (PIL) types. POF systems require customers to park, exit their cars, and then approach the pay station on foot. Pay in Lane systems allow customers to stay in their cars, pay for parking, and then drive to their parking spot.

 

Entry and Exit Stations

Entry and exit stations can include a variety of features. They might dispense tickets, accept credit card payments, or both. They sometimes include a barrier gate that rises and falls for customers to drive through. These stations increase security and can result in lower incidences of stolen parking spots and missed payments.

 

Barrier Gate

As described above, barrier gates block access until a step, such as a dispensed ticket or a payment, is completed. After it is completed, the gate rises to allow vehicles to pass. The gate can be a bar or a pole. Barrier gates make it significantly more difficult for unauthorized cars to access the parking lot.

 

License Plate Capturing Systems

There are several types of systems used to capture and log license plate numbers of vehicles entering and exiting the parking facility. These can involve mounted or handheld systems, known as LPR and LPI.

 

License Plate Recognition (LPR) Systems

License Plate Recognition (LPR) systems use strategically-positioned cameras to capture license plate information. The results are then automatically searched in a database of legally-registered license plate numbers.

 

License Plate Inventory (LPI) Systems

License Plate Inventory (LPI) systems are handheld, requiring an operator to remain on-site. Instead of cameras, the handheld device scans license plates and saves them. The operator can then access the plate information later and cross-reference it with a database.

 

Software Systems

Software integrated with components like pay stations and entry/exit stations allow for smooth operation and automation of entry, exit, payment, and other components. Many systems allow owners to monitor operation with features like web integration, reporting, remote access control, and others.

In the next section, we’ll compare and contrast the features of a few of the most popular parking management systems.

Comparing PARCS (Parking Access and Revenue Control Systems)

Depending on your needs, you might benefit greatly from certain PARC features, but have little use for others. For example, if you require a completely remote system, you wouldn’t want to include a License Plate Inventory System, as these are handheld, and require an attendant to be on-site.

Since different parking access and revenue control systems offer different product lines and features, we’ll compare some of the biggest ones here: Skidata, Amano McGann, and Hamilton.

Skidata

Skidata’s parking management systems are fully integrated, with physical systems that can be linked with Skidata’s management software for turnkey operation. They offer both staffed and unstaffed, automated systems.

Skidata systems and software allow owners to accept a very wide variety of payments including cash, credit, debit, mobile payments, Apple Pay, and even coupons. They also offer a variety of technology in their ticketing systems like RFID, multiple barcode types, employee parking pass cards, mobile ticketing, and others. Industry-leading encryption keeps Skidata ticketing systems secure.

Amano McGann

Like Skidata, Amano McGann offers a full suite of parking management products and software. They offer entry and exit terminals that integrate with a payment station, requiring customers to take an entry ticket before they can pay via credit card at a payment terminal.

Their software is called the iParcProfessional Access Control Software. It includes a web client that allows owners remote access to reporting, real-time transactions, customer data, and other key information points. It also allows monitoring of the anti-passback system and alert you to potential passback attempts.

Hamilton

Hamilton is a leading manufacturer of automated systems for parking lots and car washes. Their systems use cloud-hosted software.

Here’s how each of the three PARCS systems measures up in key areas:

Skidata:

  • Cloud-based software platform with consolidated, centralized data reporting for multiple parking facilities or just one
  • Integrated credit card payment gateways
  • Mobile access to analytics for remote management
  • Automated data analysis
  • Credit card processing/point of sale features
  • Internal data hosting, storage, and processing meet the international ISAE 3402 standard
  • Real-time reporting of transactions
  • Web-based API
  • Offers online reservations, sending tickets to mobile for car park access
  • Full remote facility management

Amano McGann:

  • Cloud-based software
  • Powered by Microsoft Azure
  • Parking guidance systems include on-foot pay stations, pay in lane stations, and entry and exit terminals. Validation solution options include customizable online validation systems and encrypted QR barcode readers
  • Credit card processing/point of sale features
  • Analytics combine and aggregate information from multiple facilities
  • Real-time reporting of transactions showing card access, revenue, and entry/exit counts
  • eParc Suite software and hardware allows for full customization of access and validation systems

Hamilton

  • Cloud-based analytics and management
  • Integrates with netPark Parking Solutions software
  • Parking guidance systems include gated entry and exit solutions, self-pay terminals, and time-based ticket dispensing and reading kiosks
  • Credit card processing/point of sale features
  • Web development services for partner integration
  • No mobile payments

Final Thoughts

When it comes to choosing the right Parking Management System, it depends on your individual needs. Some parking areas will need to be secured with entry and exit gates, while others will not. Some facilities are better suited for pay in lane stations, and for others, a pay on foot station will be ideal. All major parking system providers come with advanced analytics. But ultimately, what features and equipment you choose will depend mostly on your particular facilities and budget.