Ask the Experts - How do you train front-line parking professionals to handle difficult customers?

How do you train front-line parking professionals to handle difficult customers?


Herbert W. Anderson, Jr.
Chairman, President & CEO

We train our people to be empathic and listen first. Most people are interested in being heard. Once the customer has presented the issue, it is our responsibility to then resolve it to the customer's satisfaction.


Derek Kiley
WPS North America

This is really a practiced art and can be very difficult for many staff members, especially under busy or stressful conditions. Listen, observe and provide a sensible response to the inquiry. Basically kill them with kindness - applying a rational, calm response to an agitated person is generally the best medicine. Not in a condescending way either, but with purpose and an expression indicating that you do really care about their problem.


John Nolte, CAPP
Studies Specialist
Carl Walker, Inc.

The front line customer service position is one of the toughest in the business. In my experience, the customer interaction training for these situations has its roots in crisis intervention techniques. That is the kind of training people receive to prepare to intervene in domestic disputes or similar highly emotionally charged situation. Learning to respond but not react is critical. Acknowledging the customer and the situation while remaining calm is essential. Listening and reflecting what has been heard are also essential to the communication; then offering options for dealing with the situation.


Roamy Valera, CAPP
Vice President / Regional Manager
Standard Parking Corporation

First and foremost, training has to be continuous in order to change behavior and results. The training for front-line employees in our industry should focus on the communication's process/techniques. If we train them to understand how "communications" works, we will train them to be successful under any scenario that they face on a daily basis. I would encourage the IPI training module for front-line employees.


Lance L. Lunsway, CAPP
Director of Parking and Transportation
Georgia Institute of Technology

Make sure the individuals you are training are the individuals that can handle the situations. The training isn't about the "customer is always right" but making sure the customer feels like they are being heard. If they are in the wrong, don't scold them, give them their dignity and let them have a chance to make the right decision. Many customers want to vent even if they know they were in the wrong, attentive listening skills are very important. Another important aspect to successfully working with irate customers is to empower the employees to work through the issues with the customers, even if it means reducing or dismissing a citation or giving them a day permit.