Brian Lauducci said the idea is a basic one: to actually treat people like people.
It doesn’t sound revolutionary, but for Paylock, it was a whole new approach to help people comply with their accruing parking penalties, according to its executive vice president.
“In reality, people who don’t pay their parking tickets are Regular Joes who just forgot to take care of something and need a reminder,” Lauducci said. “If you treat them as such, not as criminals but customers, you’ve started to make a dent in the way that people perceive their government.”
That understanding was what drove the company to implement its self-release parking boot system in Hoboken in 2003.
The boot mechanism incorporates a keypad that can be unlocked with a code. That code can be obtained over the phone after the car owner makes their payment.
“With five minutes, a phone and a credit card,” Lauducci said, “they can be on their way.”
Biz in brief
One last thing: Executive Vice President Brian Lauducci said his own story with the company is exemplary of the way it treats its workers and made it possible for him to work his way up from a developer to senior management.
Removal of the boot is so simple the aforementioned Average Joe can do it, place it in his trunk and return it to a local parking authority location. Or, for the less enterprising (and more patient), representatives will come to remove and take away the boot themselves.
By 2012, Paylock had signed a contract with New York City, which Lauducci said amounts to roughly 600 transactions a day.
Prior to incorporating the Paylock boots, Lauducci said the city would tow anyone who owed more than $350 in unpaid parking tickets.
That policy resulted in 120,000 tows in a year, Lauducci said.
“They walked outside, thought their car was stolen or gone with no clue what happened to it and had to start calling 911 or 311 to try and figure out what happened to their car,” he said.
Once they obtained that information, the process of retrieving the vehicle is arduous at best and can leave a person without transportation for days, potentially.
“They have to figure out how to get your car and find the money all at once,” he said.
Furthermore, Lauducci said, simplifying the process for motorists makes compliance easier. And while it increases the rate of compliance, he also said it’s all-around cheaper for the city.
“They’re doing this at a lower cost because they don’t have to store the cars,” he said.
And, because of the pricing structure, Lauducci said there is little financial risk for the city.
“We are only compensated if and when we’re successful,” he said. “All they have to do is have the courage to do something for people rather than for administrators or because it’s the way they’ve always done it.”
Lauducci said the majority that will comply if given the chance should be the focus of a business plan, not the inverse.
“The regular person who follows the rules, that’s who your business process should be defined around,” he said, “not the exception, the 2 to 3 percent who will do it anyway.”
A new venture
Brian Lauducci, executive vice president at Paylock, said the company is beginning to expand its business from parking compliance practices into parking permissions.
Its new program, which replaces placards or bumper stickers, links the car’s license plate to the parking permits in New Brunswick’s residential neighborhoods.
“Instead of having a hang tag or a sticker that you apply to your vehicle, your license plate is your permission, and you have the ability to update or change the license plate,” he said. “If your car has a sticker and it’s in the shop, how do you handle your permission parking?”
The idea, Lauducci said, is to increase compliance before anyone ever got ticketed.
“If we could put ourselves out of business on the booting side by instituting a culture of compliance where people were able to follow the rules and not even get parking tickets, we would gladly do so,” he said. “It’s not likely we’d succeed, but we’d love it if we could.”
That mindset not only informs the company’s business model, but its internal practices as well. The company, which started as a lean startup with only three employees, has grown to include more than 100 workers.
Of those employees, 35 work out of the company’s Somerville headquarters, while another 50 operate in New York City.
The rest work remotely as the company establishes its national operations with a presence in Oakland and Berkeley, California, and Seattle, Washington.
“We have a lot of people that are able to telecommute and work from where they live,” Lauducci said. “It’s out of the mindset that if you give people the opportunity to do their job easily and freely, they’re likely to want to steal from you or be lazy.
“Treat people well, assume the best of intentions, and that pays dividends in regard to how they treat you.
“In our industry, the world of parking and compliance, very little attention is spent on customer service, friendliness and making it easy for people to resolve what they have to resolve,” he said. “There’s just no reason it has to be that way.”
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