Ryan Kern is the Director of Operations at ParkWhiz, a Chicago-based startup whose mission is to free you from the hassles of everyday travel by making it faster and easier to get where you need to go, so you can focus on the destination.
Read on for a transcript of his presentation from our November 15, 2018, Here’s How Startup Marketing Conference, where he describes how he used CX data to get fans raving about their parking experience.
Hey, good morning, everyone. I'm the Director of Ops at ParkWhiz. So for those of you who may not be familiar with ParkWhiz, our mission is to free you from the hassles of everyday travel by making it faster and easier for you to get where you're going, so that you can focus on your destination.
Our business has really evolved over the past couple of years from being just a mere consumer-focused website and app to really building a presence on the B2B side as well. We're now proud to say that we are the leading transactional platform and marketplace that allows drivers, fleets, and connected cars to find, reserve, and pay for parking.
We actually had some really exciting news come out earlier this week as well, and that was that Amazon decided to lead part of our Series B round of funding because they too believe in our vision and our innovation that we're bringing to the mobility space.
I've been at ParkWhiz a little over two years now and in that time, we've experienced some immense growth. I think that a lot of that growth is attributable to our focus on one, staying true to our mission, but two, finding ways to truly be customer-centric. The theme of my presentation is how we used customer experience data to create raving fans.
I'm sure as everyone here knows, when you're working at a startup, there's a lot of aggressive growth goals that we're expected to meet each quarter and each year.
When we sat down as a leadership team at ParkWhiz to figure out how we were not only going to meet these goals but exceed them, we thought through how we could expand our strategy for customer acquisition and retention growth, outside of our traditional and typical marketing channels.
We really believed that if we were truly customer-centric and we truly understood who our customers were, what they wanted, what they liked about ParkWhiz, what their pain points were, and once we had that understanding of what their expectations were, we could consistently try to exceed those expectations in a variety of ways to turn a average user into a promoter or raving fan of ParkWhiz.
So that would be someone who loves ParkWhiz so much that they interact with us more than the average user and are so excited about what we're doing that they tell their friends and family members to try us out as well.
We believed if we could build a solid base of these promoters or raving fans, it would be much easier for us to attain those goals.
In order for us to really get to that point – it's definitely easier said than done – to say that you truly understand your customer base. But for us, it was about getting our hands on all of that data. Now, we tried customer surveys, we tried focus groups, user testing. We got some good insights there, but the insights really weren't indicative of our entire user base because the sample sizes were so small.
What we needed was a much larger data set and a much more diverse data set. And luckily for us, we had a team at ParkWhiz that had over 5,000 conversations with customers every week, and that was our customer support team. We knew that the key to this was harnessing that opportunity with those conversations that our support team had every week.
So what we did is we sat down with our support team, we just wanted to get a baseline understanding of the data that we were currently collecting, how valuable it was, how accurate it was, and what insights could currently be pulled out from that.
- I assessed the current state of customer data collection
We sat down, listened to some phone calls, watched as our agents went through the process of resolving issues and answering questions, and we took note of the data that we're currently collecting, and the tools that they were using, and the features they were using within those tools to actually record that data.
We found two areas of opportunity here:
When we were recording the reason why customers were contacting us, we found that that information was very high level, and it wasn't granular enough to really pull out the insights that we wanted.
The second opportunity was that our data from our customer service side was siloed away from other data such as purchase history and user profiles. We knew we needed to combine everything into one place to really get an understanding of each customer's journey and their experiences with ParkWhiz.
- I determined the ideal state of customer data collection
So once we had that baseline understanding, the next step for us was to figure out what that ideal state looked like. We wanted to know how customer preferences and their issues, how they changed across markets or across their preferred purchase platforms or cohorts.
- I developed new standards and processes to reach our ideal state
Once we had that understanding, then we could also see what type of issues customers would have that would really negatively affect retention, because we would want to mitigate those type of issues or at least be proactive about the service that we would provide, so that those customers didn't turn into detractors.
- I implemented, analyzed, and iterated
Once we understood where we were, where we wanted to go, the next step was to actually fill in those gaps. We adjusted some of the procedures and policies within our support team to ensure that we were collecting more granular data.
We leveraged help from the engineering side to tie all of our data together in the back end. And then over the next couple of weeks we just checked in to make sure everything was running the way we thought it was.
Now, the key here was to ensure that we weren't disrupting any of the work that our support agents were doing, because at the end of the day, the most important thing for them was to resolve issues, and it wasn't to collect data. We definitely took their feedback into consideration when we made these changes.
After about a month of collecting all the data that we wanted, we started to really pull out some insights that challenged a lot of the assumptions that we had about our customers.
To give you a couple examples: One, we believed that the two most important factors for customers when they were finding a parking space were the price and the distance away from the destination. Now while that was still true, it actually changed based on market or by weather, for example.
- I communicated insights to key stakeholders
So if you think about parking in Chicago this morning [when it’s snowing], people will pay a little bit more to park in a covered or a heated garage versus an open surface lot. So we took insights like these to stakeholders within our product and marketing teams.
Using that same example about other amenities that customers cared about, our product team stayed true to our mission of making parking faster and easier for customers. They implemented a feature within our app that allowed customers to filter down by the amenities that they cared about most.
Whether that was covered parking or that was electric charging or having a valet, it'd be much easier for customers to get the results that were tailored to them.
For our marketing team, they were able to promote this feature that we knew a lot of customers cared about, but then we were also able to customize the content for each market based on what we knew they cared about.
One more example along those lines is we started to understand that if customers had any type of issue the first time they used ParkWhiz, there was a high probability that they would not only not use ParkWhiz again, but they would become a detractor. What we needed to do was to ensure that these customers always felt supported the first time that they were using ParkWhiz.
Working with our marketing and product teams, we introduced the service to where if we know someone is a first time user, a few minutes after they're set to arrive at their parking space, we'll send them a text message and just ask them how things are going, if they need any help, if they have any questions.
Most of the time people don't have questions, but it's just an unexpected outreach that customers really appreciated.
We got definitely a lot of positive results from these changes. A few of the steps that we looked to, to ensure that we're building that base of promoters like we expected, one, our net promoter score has increased over 13 percent since we started this. And that's a combination of fewer detractors, more promoters.
Secondly, our average retention across our user base has increased by three percent, or three percentage points, and that obviously has made a significant impact on our revenue numbers.
One of my favorite stats here is our App Store rating increased from a 4.4 to a 4.9. Just to give you a little context here, when we were at a 4.4 rating, we had around 18,000 or 19,000 reviews, so it took a lot of five stars to move the needle up to a 4.9.
Just to bring everything together here, I think there's a lot of opportunity to leverage other areas of your business to get more insight on the direction of your marketing and growth strategies, and if you truly understand who your customers are and what they expect, you can find ways to consistently exceed those expectations and create raving fans yourself. Thank you.