Founded in 1905 as ten-bed Piedmont Sanitarium, Piedmont Atlanta Hospital now covers more than a city block in the Buckhead area. Since bringing AAA Parking onboard, the facility has enjoyed an envious level of customer service greatly appreciated by patients and visitors.
Piedmont Atlanta is a 488-bed not for profit hospital, staffed by more than 1,000 physicians and 4,000 healthcare professionals. When Gary LaClair, Director of Security and Parking, came to work there in 1990, the security dept managed and manned the facility’s parking operation.
“I didn’t feel it was an appropriate use of security time and effort,” LaClair says. “Security officers were relegated to parking and weren’t interested because they were security people, plus there was very little control over revenue. It made sense to me that freeing officers to do security work would reduce costs while maintaining our parking operation.”
Parking assets at Piedmont Atlanta are typical of most large, urban hospitals, and include two main visitor parking decks along with one employee deck and an employee lot. After assessing his resources, LaClair decided the operation could be run more efficiently and less expensively by people who do that job professionally.
When AAA Parking was awarded its first contract in 1994, LaClair saw immediate, positive results. AAA installed new computers and revenue software that brought much tighter financial controls under the leadership of an on-site parking manager. The company’s role was later expanded to include valet services.
While parking services at Piedmont Atlanta are revenue-neutral, in that the hospital would still have parking expenses without AAA, according to LaClair, those would be greater than AAA’s expenses because the hospital’s pay structure and benefit package are not geared toward parking industry standards.
“Revenue controls were much tighter, money was more accurately accounted for, and our costs went down,” LaClair says. “Equally important, the people in the booths were parking people and wanted to be there, so the perception of friendliness of the people dealing with our customers improved.
“There was a break in service with AAA for three years when we were required to put out an RFP. We interviewed some of the major parking operators, and wound up awarding to a huge international company. After three years, we came into budget realignment again and needed to reduce costs. We again put out a bid which brought AAA back. We replaced the exact same operation the big company was running and saved $400,000 in the first year.”
Another realignment temporarily eliminated the valet program. In less than 90 days, LaClair was instructed to restart the program “because it had become such a cornerstone of parking here.”
For LaClair, the financial aspects of the hospital’s parking services are only a part of their experience with AAA. Piedmont Atlanta’s Promise 360 program, created for hospital employees only, recognizes above and beyond service.
“AAA is so well integrated that everybody thinks of them as hospital employees,” he says. “One lady who was both a visitor and a patient nominated the valet guys, saying, ‘I can’t imagine helping my parents with their medical needs without the valets helping with wheelchairs, canes, and tears…they are the unsung heroes.’ I never could have internally created a valet program that would be at the level that AAA has built here.”
Now, after almost two decades of service to the Hospital, LaClair talks about how the AAA Parking experience continues to satisfy patient’s and visitor’s needs.
“AAA does good job of balancing technology and human touch, because they have a good footprint in healthcare and hospitality,” LaClair commented. “They understand that the personal touch will never go away in venues such as those.”