Not stuck in park!

I don’t expect to get a great customer experience from local Government services. Which, made it all the more pleasant when I did. I went to my son’s school late last week for a presentation that he gave (and he did amazingly well). All of the school parking spots were taken, so I parked at a meter.

ParkMobile emailAnd, the meters in the town are clever. Sure, you can fire in your quarters and try to remember what time you have to get back to the car. Or, you can manage the entire process through an app. I’ve used the app for a while now, but on this occasion it led to an excellent customer experience. Why?

  • It was fast. I pulled up the app, punched in the four-digit code on my meter, confirmed which car I was parking (I had it pre-loaded), and accepted the price (including the 35 cent usage fee) which was billed to my registered credit card. I completed the transaction half way between the street one block away, where I’d parked the car and the school. It was a lot quicker than had I had to go in to a local store and grovel for quarters.
  • It provided a service. Ten minutes before my time expired, the app alerted me that my session would end soon. I had lost track of time and was grateful of being reminded.
  • It provided a valuable utility. Rather than having to run back to the car, I was able to extend my session on my phone. Yes, I paid another 35 cents for the privilege, but I was more than happy to do so.

Meanwhile, the town benefits too. There’s probably some form of monetary benefit — for example, if I remove my car before my time expires, there isn’t a way for me to transfer the excess time to another driver. For some percentage of the day, some meters will earn double time.

And, if they are using the data to its potential, there’s a lot to gain. They can tell which parts of town are busiest at what time of the day — potentially determining where to open up new parking areas, or changing parking rules to reduce the time that people can park in specific areas to allow for greater turnover.

But, listen, here come the privacy over-reactors! They don’t want the town knowing this and tracking that. But, I’m a huge believer that we’re generally willing to trade personal data for utility and value, and these smarter meters delver both. Who knows, in time they could even deliver more – it’s not hard to foresee a feature that highlights where there are meters that are (or should be as long as other drivers aren’t overstaying their welcome) available for drivers in search of a parking spot — after they’ve pulled over to safely look at their smartphone, of course.

Value and utility from a local Government? I’ll take it!

Cheers,

Dave

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