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Why I Have a Commercial Operator at My University

By Robert Milner

Some have asked why our University chooses to use a contractor for its cashiering operation; since it was

already implemented when I started my career here, I can only explain the benefits I have observed. Of course, the ben- efits I describe in this article are my opinion, and not neces- sarily those of the University of Maryland, Baltimore, where I work.

Our parking operation here at the University is a bench-

mark for a lot of other operations; we have heard from numerous parking facilities that ours is one of the most suc- cessful in the United States. I attribute a major portion of our success to the great staff that takes providing great customer service very seriously. As a clarification, the University staff includes those

directly on the University payroll while the contractor staff is made up of those employed by and paid by the contractor of our operation. My parking background includes over 20 years experience

in both the private and University sectors. I have held executive positions in two of the nation’s top parking organizations; I have also run the parking operations in over 14 cities throughout the U.S. I am a self-proclaimed customer service fanatic; besides being a certified customer service trainer for the IPI, I am also cer- tified in many of the Disney University service courses as well. Now for our great staff, over

60 percent of our office staff came from the private parking sector with day-to-day field experience. This is an interesting fact because in some cases this vast amount of private parking experience in a university, municipality, and/or airport setting is unheard of. As for our operation, the Uni-

ation is to have a good RFP process. While this topic could be an entire article by itself, it is important for your RFP to contain the tools to allow the relationship to flourish.

Expertise In many cases, an experienced contractor will bring an array

versity has 7 garages along with a few small lots, in total it comes to over 7,000 spaces. What makes us somewhat unique is that our 7 garages have 38 lanes each with revenue control equipment installed. I’ve calculated that this means that over 90 percent of our operations involve a possible human interaction. Based on statistics our department has kept in the past, we believe there are over 15 million human interac- tions with our personnel. Asuccessful aspect of our arrangement here at the Universi-

ty between the contractor and the parking management is that we treat the overall operation as a joint partnership. By partner- ship I mean we support them and we make them a big part of our team. If there is a problem or issue, it is dealt with by all of us; nobody is ‘thrown under the bus’. In a partnership both parties are motivated to find the best solutions and to assist the other in ways not typical in the parking industry. First and foremost in utilizing a contractor to run your oper-


Robert Milner will be speaking at P.I.E. March 18-21, 2012 on this topic. Get more details at

of knowledge to your operation. This knowledge can be in the form of ‘lessons learned’ from other operations they manage. Typical improvements include streamlining your operation with rate increases/decreases/early-bird specials for financial improvement as well as implementing valet oper- ations to improve both space uti- lization and customer service. The contractor can also assist

in other job duties usually out- sourced as well, i.e. maintenance and garage layout.

Customer Service Many contractors are well versed in the importance of cus-

tomer service; but since I truly believe this is the key to any suc- cessfully run operation, we have worked together with our con- tractor to design additional customer service classes for their staff to attend.We have also sent our contractor staff to off-site service training at our cost to improve the operation. As additional rein- forcement, our contractor provides its staff with ‘in house’ train- ing curriculum.

Ease of hiring In many cases, contractors are able to bring aboard new

employees in a much quicker timeframe than in the public sector, i.e. Universities and airports operations. An additional plus in this area is if the contractor operates other locations in the area he

Parking Today

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