October 10, 2008

Changes, upgrades in store for booming valet parking service

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Valet staff member Shaunika Lewis greets a customer outside Vanderbilt University Hospital. (photo by Susan Urmy)

Changes, upgrades in store for booming valet parking service

Valet staff member Mike Scott jogs to get a customer’s vehicle. (photo by Susan Urmy)

Valet staff member Mike Scott jogs to get a customer’s vehicle. (photo by Susan Urmy)

Vanderbilt Medical Center's valet service parks more than 350,000 cars per year in what is considered one of the largest valet parking operations in the country. By Nov. 1, many measures will be in place to improve this widely-used service.

“The overall emphasis is on improving the customer's experience. Valet staff is often the first and last Vanderbilt face that people see,” said Ken Browning, director of Plant Services.

First, East Garage Level 2 and Ground Level valet services will be consolidated to Level 1, and a new entrance from 21st Avenue South near the Medical Arts Building will open.

“This is the first area specifically designed for valet parking. We started with a clean slate and designed it to maximize flow and improve the customer's experience,” Browning said.

The wider lanes and more direct route in and out of the garage are expected to make valet parking more efficient.

“The new entrance also isolates visitors using valet parking from those self-parking and eliminates delays caused by choice and confusion,” said Gary Streaty, director of Medical Center Parking and Transportation Services.

Moving valet services allows visitors who self-park on Level 2 and the Ground Level to park closer to lobby elevators.

The move also clears the way for construction to begin on a new second-floor lobby expansion project.

Along with the new entrance comes an expanded lobby for people waiting for their cars, with larger windows and more lighting.

Second, the 85 full-time valet staff members have undergone elevate training and coaching sessions in an effort to improve customer service skills.

In order to evaluate the training's success, “Secret Shopper” exercises were organized in which undercover evaluators posed as valet customers to report on how fast and courteous staff members were.

“All of the staff are here to assist our patients and visitors and serve them, in more ways than just parking their car. They are the first welcoming and reassuring voice most people will hear when they arrive,” Streaty said.

“This is a great opportunity to deliver better customer service. We want it to be a really great, hassle-free and efficient experience.”

Valet staff has already been outfitted with new uniforms of red shirts with the Vanderbilt hearts and minds logo and khaki pants.

“It's a departure from the old uniforms in an effort to look more like Vanderbilt employees. It's a more collegial look, sharper and brighter,” Streaty said.

Finally, Browning and Streaty hope to implement an advance car return. The goal of this project is to have cars waiting at the curb when customers are ready to leave the Medical Center.

“Our biggest challenge is that there is not a lot of room to stack cars and have them waiting. It is also hard to know when someone has had their last appointment for the day,” Browning said.

Valet tickets will probably include a phone number so customers can call ahead when they are ready to leave. A pilot project will be tested at the Vanderbilt Eye Institute in October.

Spaces available for motorcycles

Vanderbilt Medical Center Parking and Transportation Services asks that motorcycles be parked in designated motorcycle spaces.

“Motorcycles park all over campus, but by definition they are motor vehicles and need to park in parking structures, rather than commingling with pedestrians,” said Ken Browning, director of Plant Services.

New spaces have been designated for motorcycles, tripling the number of available spaces.

There are eight motorcycle parking areas throughout the South, Central and East Garages, and no decal is necessary to use these spaces. For a map, visit http://www.mc.vanderbilt.edu/root/pdfs/parking/motorcycleparkingmap3_061708.pdf.