Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Parking - Losing Even More Enrollment in C-Lot

Losing Enrollment in C-Lot
part 3 of 3 (Full article is at University Business)

It is my belief that maybe colleges should buy unused drive-in movie theaters so everyone could stay in his or her car and never have to walk. This would not only end the parking problem, it would be an economic boost for many towns while giving older professors more time for their earlier passion--teaching. The drive-in movie screens would allow for intimate, personal, small classes of up to 500 students so popular in college these days. And so well documented by TIAA-CREF ads playing the "West Side Story" tune "There's a Place for Us" in the background. Yuh, there is. The place is row RR, seat 43. ("Please use the microphone in the aisle to ask a question or send it to me by e-mail. My teaching assistant will get back to you. The TA's will be available after class.") It amazes me that someone didn't tell TIAA-CREF they were fortifying a negative impression of college.

If we used drive-in theaters, faculty and students alike could just pull up to a spot, put the speaker on the window and watch the professor's PowerPoint lecture on the big screen. This is a convenient and a potential goldmine, what with the ads for the concession stand embedded in the lecture. Maybe they can even locate the old countdown movies with the three minutes left to get a delicious hotdog ... two minutes left to get a piece of hot pizza.

The drive-in approach would be at least very democratic and customer-oriented since students would have the same service and convenience allowed for faculty and staff. By the way, TA's would drive up and down the rows in electric carts taking attendance and picking up assignments to make it easier for the faculty member.

Failing the drive-in approach, appropriate customer service says the paying client should not have to be the one most inconvenienced. That includes having to park in the furthest lot out. And then paying for the "privilege" of parking discrimination. That creates unhappy and even angry clients who, as you know, ask "Why do I have to pay to park way the hell out there? I am paying thousands of dollars. I pay your salary after all (collectively anyhow)." Students should get to park closer to the campus.

Look at it this way. You go to a restaurant, or for that matter almost any supermarket. The food there is supposed to be as good as it is at other establishments. Prices are about the same. You chose your restaurant or store because it is close to home and easiest to drive to. You get there and drive around looking for a place to park close to the entrance. As you drive down the first row of cars, by the front of the place, you see signs in front of spots closest to the entrance. They say "No parking except for Head Chef--All others will be ticketed or towed." Others are reserved for the sous-chefs, or the manager, maitre d', owner, day-time director, evening shift director, veggie buyer, meat buyer.... "So you have to go to the next row.

There the signs say, "No parking except for head bartender, assistant head bartender, afternoon bar waiter, evening bar waiter, waiters, waitresses..." and so on. The next row is reserved for busboys and kitchen cleaning staff. So now you are circling around to row four and it is full of other patrons of the restaurant. Row five just happens to also lead by the exit from the parking lot and onto the road where there is another place just down the road.

What do you do?

Most people would be aggravated and angered enough that the workers get the best spots. The patrons have to drive around looking for spots way to the back of the lot. That tells you that the place cares more about its staff than the paying guests. If you have trouble getting a parking spot and the place works harder to keep the staff happy than the clientele, will things get better once inside?

"There's that place just down the road and I could do take out for even greater convenience...."

Unless the restaurant has something on the menu that no one else has, or has the best something that you crave, or is the only place in town, you are heading for the exit. What are this place's priorities? Not the paying customer.

As I and the team walked in across the hot asphalt, I wondered how many potential students had similar thoughts about this college and other schools like it, decided to head for the exit and purchase their education somewhere else. Our studies indicate at least 12 percent might just book. Now, 12 percent isn't a big number. But 12 percent of, say, 300 students is 36 enrollments. At say $10,000 each...that's a mere $360,000. I mean what school could use an additional $360,000?

Oh, and those 36 students will tell another six each that they had a bad experience. Malthusian losses? But that's for another time. I am too tired from the long walk from the C lot right now.

Maybe even too tired to enroll.

Neal Raisman and AcademicMAPS have been hanging around parking lots for schools since 1999. If you want an audit of your lots and your campus for customer service and retention improvement, just let us know. Be glad to help you too. You canb also call Neal at 413.219.6939

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