Sometimes it's clear when a business implements a solution based on cost at the expense of user experience. Fairview Southdale Hospital installed a parking garage payment system that completely fails for the customer.
There are many parking payment systems out there, so the choices may be overwhelming. In the end, though, a priority must be to select one that allows customers to be out quickly to prevent a long line from forming inside the garage. Cost is also a major determining factor as most businesses do not have an unlimited budget. But balance is crucial. Saving money on a system that confuses customers means increased costs in time for hospital staff in assisting the customer, the time it takes to haphazardly label a machine in the hopes of solving problems, and time and frustration for customers who do have other options in where they receive medical care.
Let's take a closer look at why this payment machine fails.
1. There are multiple steps indicated but for most customers, step two doesn't apply. Cash carrying customers are fewer and fewer but there isn't a clear indication that step one can also be step two. Step two only applies to cash customers.
2. The ticket taker is also the credit card reader. Novel to consolidate and reduce inputs but also confusing because customers have been observed looking for a credit card slot and trying to insert a card in the cash slot.
3. There is a receipt button. Very unnecessary for a machine that prints a receipt regardless of whether the button is pressed. Wastes paper and reduces privacy for those customers whose receipts are left behind.
4. The receipt prints much lower than many car windows. If the customer is high and close enough for the credit card slot, he is probably not low enough for the receipt slot. I've observed several customers attempt to get out of the car to get the receipt but if the customer is close enough to use the machine, he is too close to open the car door. This means the car moves forward so the customer can get out of the car and get it. A major risk here - fender bender. The car behind expects the car in front to keep going.
5. The machine is a blabber mouth. A loud message greets each customer, "Please insert your parking ticket. Please insert your parking ticket." Yes, twice. The customer is then instructed to insert a payment method that includes "bank notes" and "points". Okay, bank notes is cash, I get that, but points? What the heck are points? I'm sure no one knows.
6. A dim screen must communicate something to the customer but I couldn't tell you. It's really impossible to see from the car. The screen should be bright and used to communicate the cost to hearing impaired customers. It doesn't need to be large, dim, or communicate anything else.
7. Generally speaking, when I see so many aftermarket, taped-on notes about how to use a machine, I assume it stinks. Clearly something is wrong here. I also often overhear patients asking nurses and other staff how to use the parking system. It should be drive-up-and-use but it isn't. At a hospital, design must accomodate a wide range of ages and technology experiences. Keep it simple and clean.
8. On many occasions (I'm usually there 2-3 times a week), I wait several minutes for a confused customer to figure out how to exit the garage. Whether I'm second in line or tenth, I wait and I wait and I wait. I'm tired of waiting. I want to go home. Paying for parking shouldn't take more than 30 seconds.
Conversely, the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport truly considered their customers when installing a new parking payment system. When driving in, the customer can insert a credit card (thus avoiding the need to store a paper ticket), which saves a little money off the parking fee. Upon leaving, simply insert the card, see the total, agree to pay, and if you want, get a receipt. One slot. That's it. It's easy, it's simple, it's good design.
I searched in vain for someone at the hospital who manages the parking garage technology but haven't a clue who that would be or how to find the person on their website. If anyone knows, I would love to talk about better ways to communicate how the system works and discuss what it would take to install a better system that meets the needs of the patients rather than the bottom line.