The secret to successful parking enforcement? Mind control. Just ask Gary Osner, founder of ZZPS.
Hi, Gary! Can you briefly introduce your role and company?
I’m the founder, owner and driving force behind ZZPS. We are a notice-processing debt collection business, but it’s not traditional debt collection – more like customer service with teeth. I’ve always believed that if you’re nice to people, you’ll get a better result.
One of the aspects I like very much is NLP (neuro-linguistic programming). I came to my role now through sales, but NLP in debt collection is fascinating and an important part of our approach.
Tell us some more about that…
You get the customer to imagine being debt free. ‘You owe me money; we’re here to help you solve your problem’ is simply a different way to say, ‘you need to pay me’. This positive approach produces a different result. We’ve tried to train our people so instead of saying things like ‘no worries’, two negative words which make you instinctively begin to worry, we use phrases like ‘yes, sure, safe haven, free advice’. All of those positive words mean that you’ll be in a happier and healthier place, which is the message we try to deliver in debt recovery.
Debt recovery naturally has negative connotations and so does parking. We’re trying to turn those things into something positive.
How did you get into both parking and debt collection?
My father had a family business which my brother and I took over back in 1990 – that’s how I got into debt collection. One of our clients, a mainstream lender, moved to a parking company, and we were doing such a good job for his old business that he asked us to do the same in this new industry!
I created the model of ‘admin fees’ for debt recovery because ticket value was so low that nobody would make any money. Parking is business and business is about money, after all.
There are many other enforcement and debt collection companies in the parking industry. What’s different about ZZPS?
I think NLP is a huge differentiator, and a customer-focussed approach rather than ‘pay up or I’ll kick your head in’. Not that others necessarily do that, but service is definitely our USP for both our clients and their customers. What you’re looking for ultimately is compliance in the car park, not to make anyone’s life a misery. Our approach is all about positivity.
Your fantastic young customer service staff recently won ‘Team of the Year’ at the British Parking Awards. How did you build that team?
Basically, by treating them as grown-ups. We’ve built a cloud-based business. It’s great for a young workforce who have children, based on the fact that if they have trouble they can work from home. It’s a flexible approach which gives them freedom, so we have happy staff, which is important.
We’ve tried to create an environment where it’s more about the team than about individuals. They don’t have any individual targets - it’s all about the firm.
Positivity is great, but people still really hate getting PCNs. A lot of the innovation we’re seeing in parking is aimed at getting rid of them and putting you out of business. How will ZZPS evolve to stay relevant?
You’ll never get 100% compliance. There are always going to be people who want to get something for nothing, fortunately for us! They’ll want to park in disabled bays, parent-child bays, and so on. Whilst the market might diminish in some respects, it will increase in others.
One of the interesting questions is who’s responsible in a driverless car. That’s a key technological advance that we’re going to need to find an answer to. Our business is about the driver, so if there is no driver, we’ll need to adapt.
How have you leveraged new technology in your own operations?
Debt recovery is mainly about people. We’ve shied away from some aspects of technology, because people need to deal with other people, particularly in emotionally-charged situations. If they’ve received a fine, often they want to ring up and shout at someone, or moan to a sympathetic ear before they pay. Other companies have IVR (interactive voice response) technology and we don’t, because I don’t think that’s progress in debt recovery.
Finally, we’ve got to ask – what’s your favourite motivational quote?
When you get knocked down, you’ve got to get back up again.