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“The business of parking has not always been customer-friendly,” he said. “Everyone has a story of feeding coins into a machine and no one cares, you don’t even know who to call.”
In 2013, Back enlisted a team of software engineers to develop a mobile app and e-commerce website for parking. The resulting company, Toronto-based Honk Mobile Inc., uses a cloud-based technology that allows drivers to search out, reserve, pay for and top up parking fees from a smartphone, tablet or internet-connected device.
Since Honk’s launch in 2014, Back said it has become one of North America’s largest companies for on-demand mobile payments and advance reservations for parking based on parking locations listed, users and transaction volume. It makes its money on the free consumer app by charging parking lot owners and operators a fee for each transaction that it delivers.
There are, of course, many competing apps, but Back said they are often designed for specific parking lots so consumers have to download several apps to cover all their needs, while Honk is interoperable.
He said another advantage Honk has is its habit of analyzing customer behaviour and paying careful attention to feedback for keeping it a car’s length ahead of the competition.
It can be tempting for a small or mid-sized business to get caught up in the race to acquire new customers rather than listening to the ones it already has, but “it is vitally important to keep your ear to the ground, because if you’re not customer-focused, you’ll be out of business,” Back said. “We’re in this kind of immediate feedback loop where you’re only as good as your last review.”