Many dealerships have parking problems which have a negative effect on both customer experience as well as employee productivity. This post is the first in a series of three that we are writing to help dealership teams who are looking for a way to solve this problem themselves.
Want to solve dealership parking problems? – First think about ‘demand’
To understand your dealership parking problems you need to start by thinking about parking ‘demand’.
During the course of the day, the total number of cars at a dealership will change. Underlying this change is a predictable pattern. To help describe this pattern we will use a ‘seaside’ analogy as most people are familiar with how that works.
The total number of cars on site rises to a peak and falls away again by close of business. Think ‘low tide’, ‘high tide’, ‘low tide’. This underlying pattern is caused by customers leaving cars for service and then collecting them again.
In addition to the underlying rise and fall pattern, there are unpredictable ad hoc customer visits, as well as planned deliveries and other arrivals like trade-ins. Think of ‘waves’ in demand in varying sizes coming and going.
These ‘waves’ in demand add to the underlying ‘high tide/low tide’ demand. They are unpredictable in timing and size due to the nature of ad hoc customer demand. They can make customer parking seem completely random and unmanageable – but it’s not.
Dealership parking problems usually occur during ‘high tide’ peaks when total parking demand is at its highest. A simple plan to manage space in line with this underlying demand each day, to plan for known ‘waves’, and to keep an appropriate number of customer spaces free to meet ad-hoc ‘waves’ will work most days.
Customers experience dealership parking problems when demand exceeds ‘capacity’
Now think about your parking ‘capacity’.
Your customer parking area probably has a fixed number of spaces. The whole dealership site also has a fixed number of spaces. These are all the spaces you use around your site for parking cars for whatever reason. Some of these spaces may not be ‘official’ parking spaces.
At peak times the number of customer vehicles on site may exceed the number of spaces marked for customer use by some margin. Even when the workshop is busy and some customer cars are on ramps. Customers who arrive after this ‘customer parking capacity’ is reached often find there are no marked spaces free. This seems obvious, but it happens frequently, and often without any intervening action being taken by dealership employees.
On some sites, the point at which customers experience problems is reached much sooner and more frequently than necessary. This will happen if the marked customer zone is too small or if spaces are difficult for customers to use or find. If this is the case you need to take action and intervene in some way to make sure convenient customer spaces are always available. (Parts 2 & 3 will describe how you can do this).
In addition, customers will experience problems much sooner if dealership employees also use customer spaces for their own activities. Employees will use customer spaces if they don’t adhere to site rules about parking. However, employees most often use customer spaces because they are busy and there are no convenient spaces elsewhere on site that they can find and use quickly.
Employees make dealership parking problems worse when there are no convenient spaces elsewhere
There can be a lack of convenient spaces elsewhere on site for two main reasons:
At some dealerships, there are simply too many cars on site. At peak times total parking demand exceeds total site capacity and all types of spaces will be in use. You will need to get more space or move stock off-site. At many dealerships, all customer parking spaces are in use at peak times but there are other parking spaces around the site not in use. If this happens there is a space management problem. In this case, the dealership can make improvements with better space management.
At some dealerships, there are simply too many cars on site. At peak times total parking demand exceeds total site capacity and all types of spaces will be in use. You will need to get more space or move stock off-site.
At many dealerships, all customer parking spaces are in use at peak times but there are other parking spaces around the site not in use. If this happens there is a space management problem. In this case, the dealership can make improvements with better space management.
Signs of Poor Space Management
Site parking rules are ignored or non-existent
With a lack of convenient spaces available, busy employees ignore rules and adopt a ‘first come first serve’ attitude. Customer spaces are used in the same way as any other space that becomes available. Sometimes cars are left for long periods in customer spaces.
Nobody manages space proactively
Car movements are made to solve problems after they have occurred rather than to anticipate them before they happen. Customer parking spaces are not cleared at the end of each day. Where there is a zonal system nobody manages what happens on a daily basis. Problems build up and ‘tidy up’ projects are required when customer and employee complaints get out of hand.
No regular ‘housekeeping’ activities
The number of empty spaces that are trapped and inaccessible is allowed to build up. This reduces the availability of convenient spaces. Cars that are stored for long periods occupy accessible and convenient spaces.
Dealership parking problems can be improved with a ‘Space Management Plan’
For many sites, improving space management is the most effective way to improve dealership parking problems. On some sites, it will be the only way.
In Parts 2 & 3 we will go into more detail about dealership ‘Space Management’ and describe how you can develop your ‘Space Management Plan’ and what should be in it.
In the meantime, if you would like to make a start on improving parking problems at your dealership then we suggest undertaking a short diagnostic programme gathering information and insight about your site. We call this ‘Dealership Discovery‘ and have produced a guide for you to use. (You can request a pdf of the guide here ).
All dealerships sites are different. With Dealership Discovery you will start by collecting the information that you need to understand exactly why parking problems are happening at your particular site. Once you have this information you will be able to share it will colleagues and show how parking is affecting business. You will also be able to show them that your parking problem has a solution if everyone works together.
Once everybody is on board you can start making your ‘Space Management Plan’ with help from our later posts.
If you need expert help with Dealership Discovery or your Space Management Plan, or if you just don’t have the time to do any of this yourself then get in touch. We will be happy to help.
Paul Purcell is the Managing Director of Konvergence, a field research and consultancy group that specialises in solving problems and improving experiences in buildings and outside spaces – like parking!