LAZ Parking manages parking properties on behalf of lot and garage owners in more than 3,400 locations in 38 US states. No two properties are alike — different equipment, different practices, different policies. In some, people pay a machine; in others, they pay an attendant; elsewhere, they pay a valet.
Drivers, though, don’t care about practices and policies. People just want an open parking space that’s convenient to where they’re going.
Patrick Ryan, vice president of innovation at LAZ (rhymes with “jazz”), says, It turns out, nothing is as familiar and easy as text messaging.
“We had developed an online reservation system for garages, where you could buy your parking ahead of time, and we had an app for regular customers, but we didn’t have a solution for surface lots, where you can’t reserve ahead and hold a space. We wanted to provide an on-demand payment system, so that you could show up at the location and pay with your phone. People who are parking with us once are not interested in downloading an app, so we had to have customers access our ecommerce platform some other way. We needed a familiar, easy solution for a customer who just shows up and looks around.”
Text to park
LAZ’s solution is simple. LAZ leases a single short code number from Plivo and uses it across the country. “Each lot has a sign with a unique code. Customers text us the code, and we send the customer back a link they can use for that location. We can also include a custom message for any location to the customer — ’first two hours free’ or whatever the lot owner wants.”
Once they settled on a texting strategy, LAZ needed to partner with a communications platform to provide the APIs they’d use to integrate texting into their application. Ryan says LAZ looked at another platform that one of their tech development partners was familiar with, but it didn’t make it easy to do what they wanted. Plivo, though, “has a very good set of APIs and could do the things we wanted to do quite easily.” The price, Ryan says, was better too.
For mission-critical texting, reliability is key
Reliability was another key consideration. “Reliability is really important because this is our revenue — this isn’t marketing. One of the things that got us comfortable with Plivo was the fact that you have a status page on your site that shows us the history of any glitches or downtime. It’s transparent, so I could see there was not one red dot in the last 30 days.” And that reliability carried over after implementation.
Implementing Plivo went well. “The APIs were simple and clean and the documentation was good. We had some questions back and forth with the support team. People actually got back to us very quickly and continued a chain back and forth — if it takes 10 back-and-forth steps, they follow you all the way. A couple of times when we didn’t have any more questions they even reached out to check on us, which is pretty cool.”
Plivo has had a measurable impact on LAZ Parking’s business. “We had our app when we started offering texting, and about half of our surface lots across the country have moved to text. We now have texting running at around 600 locations, which is up from zero three years ago. A lot of the sites now do about 50% of their transactions by text in a month” and the other half by machine.
A simple, cost-effective solution
Parking lot managers tell LAZ that customers love the simplicity of texting. Ryan says, “We’ve had smaller locations that had pay stations, which take money and time and effort to support. Because we offer texting we’ve been able to remove the machine and go to 100% text and app.”
“This is a simple way to give customers access to mission-critical systems and get them to interact with them via their phone. Giving customers a link via text is far less technically complex than having to build your own app — an Android version, an Apple version — and distribute them in the app store. We can build our system how we want it, put a sign in a location, and get it up and running. It’s much more direct and simple.”
Making it easy for customers
“Within our company, the mentality used to be ‘always get your customer to download an app.’ But I have a sign above my door that says Think Like a Customer, and to me that means don’t tell them they have to sign up for something to use us. Customers started using texting from day one. All I have to do is text? Done! If it’s raining or snowing, no one wants to walk to a machine to pay. Now they can look at a sign, text, and run.
“Texting ramped up more during COVID — people didn’t want to touch a machine that other people were touching. Now you could do it from your car, in the safety of your bubble. In fact we changed our signs: Originally they said ‘text to park’; we changed them to say ‘touchless.’”
Transparent to customers
Plivo was a key enabler for LAZ — but customers wouldn’t know that. Ryan says, “From the customers’ point of view, they don’t realize that’s what they’re using, they just see an interaction with us, which is exactly what we want. Working with Plivo is a transparent experience to us and our customers, and that’s the highest praise I can give any service.”