Vendor vs. Partner Relationships

Sep 19, 2017 byJim Leida

Parking technology providers can be separated into two distinct groups: those who operate as a vendor and those who function as a partner. Although both vendors and partners offer parking solutions, they each approach their customers in a very different way. While a vendor offers you a product for sale, a partner collaborates with you and invests in your venture, thereby building a relationship with you.

The products offered by vendors appear as ready-made solutions, often one-size-fits-all. Vendors resist configuring or adapting their products to their customers’ needs, so when customers purchase a product they must find a way to make it work within their operation.

For parking operators, the problem with buying such products lies in the fact that parking operations are not static systems and not every one is managed the same. In fact, the common denominator in the parking industry is that every operation is run differently. Sure, they all sell permits, enforce their lots and streets, write citations and manage events, but the business rules and procedures that are applied vary from municipality to municipality, university to university and can change at any time. Operators need a partner who offers an adaptable solution and who will guide them in implementing that solution, one that will grow and adjust with their changing requirements.

When operators select partners who work with and for them to create the best solution for their specific setup, they no longer need to continually buy new products in order to stay up-to-date. In the parking industry, where each operation functions with entirely different challenges and objectives in mind, partners strive to help their customers create the product that works best for their unique business needs.

When working with vendors, you will notice that they don’t take a consultative approach where a partner would. With a partnership approach, the customer experience is much different. A partner listens to your needs before offering a solution, whereas vendors offer a static solution and will charge you to tailor that solution to your needs.

Partners can see the bigger picture. They invest in the operations they serve and care about the success of each system. A partner relationship offers customers consistent support and a commitment to creating custom solutions for each operation. No one can understand a parking operation like its operator, so partnering with a parking solution provider – rather than purchasing generic, ready-made solutions from a vendor – allows a parking operator to create the best possible system for their needs.

So how can you tell whether you’re working with a vendor or a partner? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does your solution provider solicit your feedback and suggestions?
  • Do they take the time to fully understand your operation and offer you solutions that are tailored to your needs?
  • Does your provider care about the success of your business more than they care about another sale?
  • Are they dedicated to continual improvement, rather than settling for stagnant solutions?
  • Does all of the above result in a system that is configured specifically for your unique requirements?

If you answered mostly yes, you likely work with a partner: a provider that asks the right questions, listens to your answers, and ultimately gives you the best solution for your parking operation.

Further Reading

man in white shirt and black pants speaking to two ladies in white and orange clothes with men in the background talking with NuPark sign in the. back
Baylor parking director giving thumbs up inside vehicle
Auburn University appreciation sign in parking office for parking staff