One of the potential problems when dealing with a large company with a global presence is the risk of feeling that your business is just one of many. That transactions lack a personal touch, and that the specific requirements of your organisation have to adapt to fit in.
Enterprise Rent-A-Car argues that, despite being a large business, it does not operate in that way and has retained many clients on the basis of its ability to ‘think small’ to ensure it meets the needs of its customers.
While its service is broadly the same as other large rental companies, according to Adrian Bewley, head of business rental UK and Ireland, the key to its products and its success is striking the correct balance of both global and local thinking.
Enterprise takes the residual value risk on its entire rental fleet, a strategy, Bewley says, that has served it well over many years by giving it the flexibility to make better vehicle choices that are more in line with customer needs than perhaps accepting vehicles that a manufacturer wants to place in the daily rental market.
It has more outlets than its UK rivals – at the time of judging for the 2014 Fleet News Awards there were more than 370 corporately-owned UK branches – and Enterprise also points to independent research from Experian that shows it has a site within 10 miles of 91% of the UK population. Good news because it means lower delivery and collection costs (fixed rather than charged per mile) and also when you consider the CO2 and other emissions which are generated merely by the delivery and collection of vehicles.
Bewley adds that it also means a faster service for last-minute rentals and offers a ‘virtual’ car pool that is only minutes away.
Fleet News: How can Enterprise demonstrate it is switched on to the needs of its corporate customers?
Adrian Bewley: At peak times, such as during bad weather, we will reduce services to private individuals to ensure corporate customers will have priority on rentals. Our strategy of purchasing all our vehicles on risk also means that during high demand we can temporarily increase the fleet size by not selling on. Other rental firms, which typically lease vehicles from manufacturers for a fixed period, lack that flexibility.
FN: What initiatives would you say make Enterprise stand out?
AB: While other rental companies open their airport branches only over the weekend, in 2013 we began opening more than 50 of our non-airport branches seven days a week. This increases flexibility and choice to all our business customers, allowing vehicles to be picked up on Sunday for early-morning trips on Monday. The ability to return vehicles on a Sunday rather than waiting until Monday helps businesses control costs, while customers who need rental cars urgently for Monday can source them immediately.
Small innovations can have a huge impact. When we introduced a simple hand-held device that helps renters check whether small dents and scrapes in the bodywork are big enough to be liable for repair charges or too small to count, we didn’t anticipate the value it would bring to customers. If the damage doesn’t exceed the dimensions of the circle on the tool, it will not be considered for repair charges. There is no ambiguity – just total piece of mind.
FN: What impact has Enterprise CarShare had?
AB: We relaunched our improved car sharing programme in 2012. Unlike car clubs or similar schemes operated by other rental companies, CarShare is provided as part of an overall fleet rental package. The number of public and private sector fleets currently using CarShare has doubled since the relaunch. All have found cost savings and lower emissions as a result. For example, since Woking Borough Council introduced CarShare, its carbon footprint for employee business travel has dropped by 37% and grey fleet mileage has fallen by 14,000 miles a year. Thanks to better journey planning and more consideration over whether trips are necessary, the council has saved thousands of pounds with no reduction in its services to the local community.
FN: Enterprise has been operating Chevrolet Volt range-extenders in some of its Greater London branches. Have you experienced any specific demand for EV rentals?
AB: We get asked about EVs all the time and we have some demonstrators, but they are not in the main rental fleet. The big challenge for all of us it to make sure we stay relevant with customers. The market hasn’t changed too much but the way people use vehicles has.
In 2013, Enterprise was the first company to partner with the Energy Saving Trust to offer companies better access to products, services and consultancy to improve the sustainability of business travel.
There are four key components: a grey fleet review, a green fleet consultancy, a plugged-in fleet assessment and a fleet health check.
Bewley says tracking average vehicle CO2 emissions per rental is an integral part of management reporting by Enterprise and allows it to work with customers to see if drivers are renting bigger cars than they need.
“Our UK fleet is composed of newer, cleaner vehicles that we hold for an average of nine months, which allows us to keep up with reductions in emissions through new technology and upgrades by the manufacturers,” he says.
Enterprise advises customers on how to define a rental policy to minimise emissions, linked to its online B2B booking tool so drivers cannot hire cars with CO2 emissions stated above the maximum allowed on the fleet policy.
For example, it worked with the Met Office to introduce a two-tier authorisation for its rentals. Requests by employees for smaller vehicles go through automatically, but if a larger car is requested an email is sent to the employee’s line manager for approval.
In 2012, the Met Office’s average CO2 emissions per rental vehicle fell from 143g/km to 129g/km.
Bewley believes grey fleet use is one of the big issues affecting businesses, and he says it presents companies like Enterprise Rent-A-Car with an opportunity to “be a better partner”.