How I would optimize the Turo valet lot

The current state of the LAX Turo Waiting Lot and how we can improve it!

If you’ve been there during peak demand hours, you will understand why the current processes should be improved. The team at the lot work very hard, but due to uncontrollable circumstances, guest experience sometimes sees a hit due to long wait times.

A host’s perspective

Today I will go over an overview of my experience as a Turo host that visits the lot nearly every day and how I would optimize the operation.

Let’s begin with a look at the present Turo lot. In a few quick years (2012) Turo has gone from a fresh startup to a company that seriously poses a threat to the longstanding car rental industry with over 170,000 listed cars on the platform. It’s understandable that the company did not expect such growth when they first contracted the Turo valet lot. While expansion is a great problem to have, a once optimal property is now struggling with capacity due to the dramatic increase in the number of reservations.

This brings us to the issue that most hosts and guests have experienced at the valet lot – wait times and customer comfort. As Turo is effectively a hospitality company, it is of paramount importance to address these to ensure the app’s continued growth.

Observations:

  1. Oscillating traffic – when it’s slow it’s dead. When it’s busy it there’s a line all the way down the stairs.
  2. Lack of customer waiting area. Customers spending hundreds of dollars per day on a rental have to stand out in the sun while waiting for their turn.
  3. Hard to find location – Uber/Lyft rarely will know where the valet lot is. People get dropped off before they reach the valet lot, causing stress for customers
  4. In-efficient key storage – employees have to search multiple keys in order to find the correct one. Possible risk taking the wrong batch of keys to the car or another employee carrying the batch with the requested key.
  5. Inaccurate condition reporting – during the night the condition of the vehicle is difficult to accurately document. This not only leads to claim denial for hosts but also customer dissatisfaction when they are unable to identify damage during pick up and realize it later assuming they caused it.

While it’s easy to identify flaws in any business operation, I feel like these can be easily addressed with a few low-cost additions and would yield an immediate return. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s address each point below.

Recommendations:

Maximum capacity is something that cannot be changed (unless you can defy the laws of physics). Assuming we are to keep using the current property, we will need to find a way to make preexisting operations more efficient. This would only be a temporary solution as a new location would the number 1 priority Yet, is still important to address as customer experience should always be satisfactory. Each of the following recommendations will impact efficiency and will, in turn, satisfy our maximum capacity issue.

  1. Analyze historical data to determine periods of low valet lot activity. Compare these with flight activity or other data. If we have a trend we can then roughly forecast future demand. Have valet attendants post on a webpage “short-wait” indications to identify periods for quick host drop off and pick up (or just post on host guides when short-wait period usually occurs). By having hosts come at a low demand period, customers will likely experience a shorter wait time which will, in turn, enhance customer experience. It’s also a win for hosts since hosts are generally flexible when it comes to pick up/drop off and dislike waiting just to hand off a key.
    1. Can lead to lower employee coverage requirements by reducing the overall number of labor hours required (employees won’t be given unnecessary hours to achieve minimum shift length)
    2. Lower risk of collision in the valet lot; during current peak demand periods cars are forced through tight spots to find a spot to park. When the demand curve is smoothened, it will yield more consistent average vehicles on the lot. Less cars, less crashes.

Providing guests with the last reservation number (provided the previous reservation indicated valet lot use) will help employees quickly identify which key they need. Employees have stated that short notice bookings result in difficulty finding the correct vehicle.

  1. Increasing customer comfort during wait times will immediately have an impact on guest satisfaction. The current set up is simply inadequate to accommodate multiple parties (and their bags). Perhaps we can add a canopy with benches alongside basic refreshments for guests. Implementing a ticket system for guests to use during busy periods. This system will ensure guests are served in the order they checked in (perceived fairness). Addition of WIFI! The reception from the area is terrible – hosts and guests alike have trouble looking up reservation numbers and pertinent trip information. Guests who have internet access during their wait will be less likely to experienced decreased customer satisfaction.

  1. A simple creation of a Google My Business listing will solve this issue. Input the actual GPS coordinates into the listing address field so online maps will take guests right to the steps. Reach out to Custom Hotel to see if a sign can be posted that points guests to the lot.
    1. No more lost customers! Instead of typing 8601 Lincoln they would be able to just search “Turo Valet” and navigate to the entrance.

google listing for turo valet

  1. Implementation of a key storage system. Since the capacity of the lot is only around 200 vehicles, most automobile dealership key machines will be sufficient for the valet lot. The cost of this machine is around $2,000 with a $500 annual update fee. The addition of a key vault will improve recordkeeping, accountability, and efficiency.
    1. Employees profiles can be created to access the machine. An activity log will be stored in the vault with access times and keys checked out. This will prevent duplicate keys from being created as well as identify the employee responsible for the key. Fingerprint scanning system/passcode will ensure the vault’s security.
    2. Vault software will enable Turo to attach notes to a key’s identifier. This means employees will be able to find the keys without issue as the key’s location will be determined by a unique factor (VIN/License plate). This would eliminate employee trouble with locating trips booked with short notice or at least help in identifying the vehicle. Additionally, notes such as parking lot location can reduce mistakes made by employee (split the lot into sections to help employees reduce walk time)
    3. The vault wouldn’t change nighttime closing procedures. As the end of the business day, the remaining keys would still have their identifying sticks (I do not know the proper term). Employees would simply pull each one out and place them in the transport vessel for storage. If the drawer can be removed that would be easier!
    4. When a key is requested from the vault, it will be clearly identified for easy retrieval (the requested key’s slot will light up). This alone would save countless hours over the course of a year! It will also not require an organized return of the keys. Employees will no longer have to identify a correct area to place a key. They can simply insert it into the machine and the key’s location will be updated in the system.
    5. Because the vault would identify the individual key needed, employee conflict due to inaccessibility would fall dramatically. This means fewer labor hours are wasted walking back and forth.

  1. In order to accurately record the condition of the vehicle better lighting is necessary. Turo should install a check-in/out station that has ample lighting and contrast. The current solution of handheld lighting is not sufficient for accurate reporting. The station should have spotlights to provide overhead light and white background and flooring to improve condition reporting.
    1. Hosts would miss fewer damage claims = lower expenses = lower prices for customers 😊
    2. Guests would know without a doubt if they are responsible for damage on vehicles. Guests would also be more comfortable accepting a car with damage that is clearly documented in pre-trip photos.
    3. Reducing employee error risk from poor light positioning.

Better phone cameras! Provide latest model phones for employees to take pictures. The current pictures they take are lackluster in quality.

Do the pros outweigh the cons?

One suggestion that I’m not entirely sure on is introducing a line system. One line is designated for guests that have a reservation within 30 minutes and hosts looking to pick up/drop off a car. The other line will be for guests who fall outside of the 30-minute period. This ensures that customers who arrive on time will not be dissatisfied if they have to wait significantly longer than expected. Customers without appointments will simply be required to wait longer.

Management should perhaps impose a system where the appointment line will call out a no-appointment guest for every 2 appointment guests served to obfuscate the appearance of an appointment system.

I hope that Turo can implement some of the recommendations I have listed in here. I truly believe it’ll improve both host and guest experience at little cost. It’d be awesome to see any of my recommendations implemented.

If you want to start your own fleet, check out my articles for helpful information. I also provide consulting for hosts that have specific questions!

 

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