Focusing on operational standards, safety, and customer experience isn’t just for retailers. Too often parking operators neglect reviewing standards and best practices until there is a problem (e.g. broken gate, slip and fall, theft). Regular parking lot inspections/audits help you be proactive (not reactive) and solve problems before they are liabilities.
By 2019, revenues from parking management are expected to increase to just over $9 billion! Building owners and managers can lose up to 28% of parking lot revenue due to maintenance lapses, poor contracts, inefficient operations and financial irregularities.
“Periodic audits, which should be included in all contracts with private
operators, are designed to reveal irregularities and inefficiencies in operations
and financial management,” – Barbara Chance, President and CEO, Chance Management Advisors, Inc., and Clyde Wilson, Owner, The Parking Network, Inc.
See below for 3 types of site audits parking operators should conduct.
Parking Lot Inspection Audits
Site audits (also called visits or inspections) are conducted to ensure that the lot is in good repair, site management is following head office operational best practices, staff training is up to date, and to identify areas of non-compliance. For some inspiration as to what to include on your checklist see our Parking Lot Inspection Checklist.
Best practices for Parking Lot Inspection Audits:
Perform a perimeter walk during the day and at night
Start from the outside and work your way in from the point of view of your customer. Is signage clear, entrances and exits clearly marked, pavement in good condition and free from debris? At night, are all areas well lit? Make note of any burnt out or flickering bulbs and any areas that need additional lighting.
View the lot/garage interior from your customer’s perspective
Move through your garage/lot section by section. Is the area clean? Can you easily identify entrance and exit pathways? Is signage easy to see and in good repair? Do you feel safe? Taking the customer’s point of view is essential to delivering a quality experience.
Training is necessary but not sufficient. Treat the audit as a “continuous learning” exercise and an opportunity to apply corrective actions to problem areas. Coach each team to achieve the success it deserves.
Loss Prevention Audits
Loss prevention is a set of policies and procedures designed to minimize theft, fraud, vandalism and waste. According to Retail Expert Francesca Nicasio, your employees are the best line of defense against loss.
Nicasico encourages companies to ensure employees have easy access to loss prevention standards. She recommends empowering employees by educating them on suspicious behavior they should watch out for as well as how to handle the situation. When on-site, review training standards with staff so that they understand best practices for implementation.
Last, if you are using a retail audit software, you may want to assign all employees a task to review loss prevention policy before peak seasons.
Safety and Security Audits
Parking structures/lots can encompass large land areas but have relatively low activity levels. Because of this low activity, these facilities are at risk for both “opportunity crime” and unnoticed facilities breakdowns causing safety hazards for customers and staff. Safety audits protect you from lawsuits, claims, and other headaches, observes Nicasio.
A safety and security audit, “[C]an really change employee behavior. Everyone knows what’s expected. It supports operational excellence and training, which in turn leads to the right behaviors,” – Gary Johnson, Senior Consultant, Prevention Advisors.
Make sure your checklist has adequate coverage. Be specific, descriptive and visual. If you are using retail audit software, consider attaching best practice photos and documents. Individual situations vary, but you should consider addressing some or all of the areas below. For more inspiration see the International Parking Institute Emergency Preparedness Manual.
- Fire safety
- Equipment maintenance
- Lighting and signage
- CCTV and emergency call boxes
- Emergency contacts
- Insurance is up to date
- Protocols for extreme cold or heat
- Protocols for power failure
- Employee first response and safety training
- Adherence to the Americans with Disabilities Act