People are always on the lookout for a new, cheaper, better and faster service. How, in today’s competitive environment, can you create customer loyalty in an anonymous industry like parking?
I often go to a coffee shop close to my house in the mornings on my way to work. I always pick up a coffee to go, maybe three days a week. There are a number of coffee shops within the few blocks I walk through on my way to the bus stop, all selling the same brands of coffee with pretty much the same price. Yet I always find myself going to this one. The reason?
A loyal customer is happy and committed
When it comes to my coffee shop of choice, it would be easy to offer a simple “their coffee/service/price is the best.” Of course, you have to give a great experience to even be part of the competition for customers. But that’s just the first step towards loyal customership.
Customer loyalty by definition consists of creating a recurrent positive experience that makes the customer visit your business continuously, creating a habit. The positive experience consists of emotional response (customers are happy and satisfied), and perceived value (customers get what they want).
In a previous post, we discussed how to attract new drivers to your garage. In this post, we’ll focus on customer engagement – how to get those customers to visit your garage regularly. It costs up to 5 times more to find a new customer than it costs to get an existing customer in, so finding a way to make the latter happen is definitely worth the while.
Reward customers for choosing you and create a habit out of it
To get a customer to return, he or she has to be rewarded for choosing your garage. There are a couple of simple proven practices for making that happen.
There’s a very specific reason I go to that exact coffee shop day after day: I have a stamp card. Every 5th coffee half price, every 10th for free. That simple hook makes me choose it over others.
Parking is a recurring low-value purchase just like coffee. You can for example offer 10 hours of discounted or free parking for each 50 hours a person parks at your facility. Offering parking credit as a reward for each session at your garage creates the same effect as a stamp card. Once a person knows they are gaining something by using your facility, they have all the reason to use it over others.
Deals and discounts:
My coffee shop offers what they call a “morning latte.” That means that their coffees are extra cheap before 10 am in the morning – the time when commuters like myself go there. I love it, because it directly benefits me.
Garages can benefit from the same “early bird special” system – adapting prices based on changing demand. Parking deals can also be matched to interesting events, a season sale at a mall or a football game – after all, parking is always the byproduct of some other activity. Giving special offers on parking fees at certain times gives drivers the chance to save money and the sense of satisfaction from routinely receiving great deals.
You can also reward drivers when they bring you a new customer by giving both of them a discount. This way you get a customer to engage and to help you grow your business.
Customized rewarding is possible with technology
As a business, parking is traditionally very anonymous and without much human interaction – you drive in, insert change, get a receipt, drive out. Today’s technology makes it possible to turn that into actual customer-business-interaction. Forget stamp cards and coupons – it’s possible to offer all that directly on a driver’s smartphone(which is what they more and more often use for parking anyway).
Drivers can get your offers straight into their phones through an app, and claim them with just a few taps. What’s great is that when you do it digitally, you also get all the information about drivers’ buyer behavior because the app collects that data. That in turn helps you to time and customize rewards to actually be useful and valuable. A driver that always parks for a maximum of 30 minutes won’t be interested in a 3-hour parking deal, but a driver going Christmas shopping might be. No one will claim a reward that gives zero value, so succeeding means knowing what that particular driver wants.
Offers can be boosted by sending out notifications, emails or newsletters, so that drivers get reminded of their benefits on regular basis (or right when they’re cruising for a parking spot). A garage can also offer discount codes for drivers to hand out to friends – and reward them when someone parks using that code.
This is just a fraction of all the possibilities. With technology such as parking apps, sky’s the limit when it comes to personalized rewarding and engaging drivers.
The benefits of customer loyalty go far beyond single transactions
In a high-volume business like parking, you don’t have to wait around for the benefits of customer loyalty efforts to pay off. The effects can be seen very quickly:
- Drivers recommend your business to other drivers
- Customer relationship aren’t shaken up by single setbacks, because drivers are not actively looking for another option
- Parking companies get more information about driver needs and can continue to make customer engagement even better
- There’s predictable income that doesn’t rely only on new customer flow
Happy customers keep a business afloat
A successful business is not only about getting a driver to your garage from the street. It’s about establishing a lasting relationship with each of those customers. That doesn’t mean just individual actions but an overall, long-term approach.
For this, using smart technology like parking apps is great because it makes it possible to engage with customers directly despite the anonymity of parking. Not only is it possible to communicate offers and deals, they can also be customized so suit different drivers – making success rate higher.
To wrap this up, let me share another short anecdote. As usual at the beginning of the year, I’ve been thinking about renewing my gym membership. The other day, I got an email from my gym with a deal for 13 months. Normally, I renew my membership for 6 months at a time, but the offer was so good that I took it. They knew my membership was ending, and contacted me at just the right time. I got the feeling of saving money, and getting a personalized offer. They got a sale, and me as a potential buyer of other services for an added 7 months.
That’s exactly how customer loyalty works at it’s best: the buyer ends up happy, and your business thrives.