How a Greystar Community Simplified Parking and Improved Online Reviews
“Parking is a big problem, and we want Greystar to fix it.”
That’s what Greystar Senior Property Manager Stephanie Young heard again and again from Tivalli Apartment residents at a town hall meeting she set up when Greystar stepped in as the community’s new property management company in March 2016.
The frustration was showing up online too: Tivalli was getting unfavorable ratings. The number-one complaint on online reviews? Parking.
“Reviews are driving our market right now,” Stephanie said. So it wasn’t surprising that Greystar directed her to prioritize improving online reviews.
More pressure for the Tivalli team came from concerns about the cost of parking enforcement. Parking management was running $1,500 a month, and the results were limited. They were merely tagging cars that didn’t have permits—and there was no way to validate the permits on cars that did have them.
“Reviews are driving our market right now.” — Stephanie Young
It was too high a price to cover only a fraction of the problem.
During the annual budget planning process for 2017, Greystar decided to discontinue the relationship with the parking management company.
That left Stephanie and her team with a stack of challenges:
- Unhappy residents (not enough planned resident parking spaces, limited guest parking)
- A deteriorating online reputation directly related to parking
- Increasing pressure from Greystar administration to improve online reviews
- A need for budget-friendly parking management
Tivalli: Contemporary interiors, resort-like amenities, complicated parking.
Tivalli’s 383 apartment homes have modern lines, spacious floor plans, and designer touches. Residents love the upmarket apartment community’s amenities, including a yoga studio, an outdoor fireplace, and an indoor fitness center.
But parking woes seemed baked in.
The builders planned for 1.2 parking spaces per unit. In a suburban market with a majority of residents commuting to neighboring cities, even with a park and ride nearby, Tivalli had more cars than spaces.
The complexity of the community’s parking system added to the difficulties: confusing color-coded zones, carports and garages, unverifiable hangtags, residents with too many permits, and an unwieldy binder for tracking parking registration.
“I was in a ‘What do I do?’ state—until our new courtesy patrol company told us about Parking Boss.”
The recommendation persuaded Stephanie to contact Parking Boss to get more information and make an appointment for a consultation.
When Parking Boss co-founder Joel DuChesne came to the property to meet with her, they walked the lot and discussed ways to simplify Tivalli’s complicated parking system. Joel also showed her how decals and new signage would help, and how guest parking, one of her biggest concerns, could be accommodated.
Stephanie knew she wanted to pitch Parking Boss’s custom-tailored plan to the property owner. She explained, “Even if it’s at our cost, whether that be time or money or both, we have to manage parking so that our residents have a better experience, leave us better reviews, and we get more residents.”
The owner approved her request in the fall of 2016. Parking Boss was included in Tivalli’s 2017 budget.
“We were able to tell residents, ‘It’s going to monitor guest parking. It’s going to help identify valid or invalid permits. It’s going to help.’”
With a solution on the horizon, Stephanie could finally promise Tivalli residents their parking was going to get better—and how.
Now she just needed to alleviate some of the trepidation staff members were experiencing. They were aware that in the property management business, community-wide changes are typically difficult to implement. And they had other worries: Would the new system increase their workload? Would it be user friendly? Would residents find loopholes?
Stephanie understood they felt unsettled about the unknown, so she addressed their concerns in several ways:
- Communicated with residents about the upcoming change through a series of clear, team-vetted notices and reminders, and she built in a generous timeline for compliance
- Prepared the team with hands-on software training, step-by-step documentation they could refer to when needed, and sessions to practice answering questions residents were likely to ask
- Saved the team time by arranging for residents to register their decals using their smartphones and Parking Boss’s web-based system
- Eased the workload team-wide by hiring a part-time concierge
She set the rollout for April. “Once they started assigning decals, the response was ‘Oh, this is easy!’” Stephanie said.
“We have a system in place, and we’d do it again in a heartbeat.”
Although Tivalli has been using Parking Boss only a short time, a number of the challenges Stephanie faced last year have already been addressed.
Immediate boost in online ratings.
Within one month after the rollout, Yelp and Google reviews improved significantly. Parking is still mentioned often—and comments are positive.
Most new reviews say parking is no longer a problem, and new residents who’ve written reviews say that not only is parking not an issue, they don’t understand past complaints.
Happier residents, comfortable guests.
The new plan added more guest parking, which opened up parking for residents who used to be frustrated by too few spaces. And the online system keeps both guest and resident vehicle verification up-to-date and easy to audit.
“Residents like that we’re keeping track of exactly who is parking on the property,” said Zahraa Elzein, a Tivalli leasing agent.
84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. — BrightLocal
Easier parking enforcement.
With new signs and decals in place, residents are clear about expectations in the lot, and parking abuse has declined.
When issues do arise, all it takes is a few taps on a smartphone or a quick scan with a QR reader to verify a decal is active or to find out who owns a vehicle.
Proven integrity and accountability.
In the months between budget approval for Parking Boss and the rollout, Stephanie repeatedly assured unhappy residents a new system was coming and parking would get better.
Now that it’s implemented, “It has worked out 100 percent,” Stephanie said. “We made good on our promise.”
Affordable, accessible parking management.
Parking Boss was a good fit for Greystar’s leaner 2017 parking budget. And because it’s an online system designed to work with smartphones, Greystar won’t have to pay for installing and maintaining complex parking hardware.
Less staff stress.
Frontline staff no longer feel the strain of dealing with voicemail and email from residents unhappy about parking.
“In the past we were reactive, and it exhausted my team,” Stephanie said. “After walking the property a couple of times after the rollout, my service supervisor told me, ‘This is fun!’”
Other changes—unexpected but welcome—accompanied Tivalli’s move to the new parking management system.
The new system’s permit allocation formula translated to fewer permits per resident and more leases for carports. Tivalli saw $500 in new monthly revenue within the first few weeks the Parking Boss system was implemented.
Team members are taking more ownership of the property because they’re taking ownership of the parking.
Fair and easy parking has been transformed from a problem-solving necessity to an upmarket community amenity.
“What has surprised me most is how well handled the parking situation is...not having to worry about parking is a perk you should consider. ” — Jonathan L., Tivalli Resident (Yelp)
Now that parking is a well-managed amenity, potential renters are taking notice.
“I did have my doubts because of all the negative reviews a while back, but it is nothing like that. For parking they even added more guest parking, and parking isn’t even that bad so I don’t know what the heck people are talking about!! You won’t always find a spot near your building but THERE IS ALWAYS A SPOT! I’m so close to moving to Tivalli. :)” — Prospective Resident, Apartment Ratings
Tivalli’s New Customized Parking Plan
- Ample Designated Guest Parking
- New guest parking and signage plan
- 24-hour guest vehicle registration with the Virtual Attendant
- Automated rule enforcement with built-in time limits and electronic reminders
- Uncomplicated Resident Parking
- Resident-only spaces and new signage
- Scannable decals with software integration
- Fair decal allocation formula
- Simplified Web-Based Enforcement
- Removes the burden of guest registration from management
- Sets clear expectations for guests, residents, and enforcement
- Creates transparency between management and patrol
- Audits Smart Decals in seconds with a quick QR scan
- Identifies vehicle owner by license plate, decal, or unit number
- Allows enforcement to issue and track warnings and violations in the software
Reference: BrightLocal Consumer Review Survey 2016