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Moving Business to the Web

From Parking Magazine

By June Broughton

Published: October 2007

The annual online permit registration process is winding down for another year at Texas A&M and this has been another record –breaking year.
Over 36,000 parking permits have been automatically processed by Transportation Services and fulfilled by Weldon Williams and Lick (WW&L) within a 2 week period.

With over 97% of the faculty and staff and 99% of the students renewing online this year, Transportation Services is celebrating a highly successful annual online registration. To truly appreciate this new process and the high goals obtained, one must look back only 4 years:

In 2003, permits were distributed by hand at Reed Arena for 7 days, prior to the first day of class. This process required over 30 employees per day working 8 hour shifts. There was also a heavy call volume at the Customer Assistance Center regarding permit purchases. To add to the demand on personnel, the line at the Customer Assistance Center was hours long, for those who had not yet purchased a permit.

Moving processes online and the change to lot-specific permits has greatly reduced the cost of permit registration, both in labor and facilities.

In order to meet these high goals, several units came together with a master plan for technology needed, the customer assistance that may be required, and the communication tools which would be required for success.

Associate Director Peter Lange oversees the web registration process which combines PowerPark Oracle data and our own SQL Server based data warehouse with an in-house built web front end to register over 36000 permit holders. "Registration traffic peaks at 20 logins a minute during opening week” comments Lange. Registration remains open for approximately 14 weeks and permits are assigned on a priority system, after the close of registration.

Communication efforts included email messages, website, radio, print ads, and bus banners. A-frame signs posted in lots throughout the campus and parking garage entrances also played a communication role. Postcards were mailed to faculty, staff and retirees as an added reminder. "Our communication efforts are comprehensive and structured to alert various target groups in the most efficient way possible. Our goal is to effectively reach all of our customer groups”, comments Transportation Services Director, Rod Weis.

Now into our 4th year of online permit registration, marketing efforts/dollars can decrease as this has become a new "tradition" among Aggie students, faculty and staff.
While each year we will need to communicate it’s time for permit registration, we will not have the initial expenditures.

Customer Assistance, under the management of Debbie Hoffmann, has also experienced a great reduction in call volume as a result of online registration.

"Online registration has transformed the climate in our office during August. We have moved from frantically fulfilling tens of thousands of permit requests by way of hundreds of hours of overtime plus temporary staff who are unfamiliar with the process to 4 months of online registration where our involvement simply includes answering questions as they arise or assisting customers who are unable to submit the request themselves. Our customers are provided more time to complete the process, offered more options for parking, can submit multiple parking areas in a prioritized order, and receive greater service than ever before”, says Hoffmann.