Ken McCall takes a brief second to consider his answer: “it’s about mobility – getting the right vehicle to the customer in the right place at the right time.”
The former director at logistics giants TNT and DHL was contemplating the similarities between those positions and his current role as managing director at Europcar, which he took up in November last year.
His background, from modest roots at the family haulage firm to travelling the world with TNT, is a good fit for the car and van hire company: “There are differences, but there are also many similarities. The challenge in both is to make the customer experience as easy as possible.
"My long-term vision is to make rental a pleasurable experience; to make it enjoyable again.”
Rental has faced a barrage of criticism over the past 12 months by fleets frustrated by poor service, poor condition of cars and unfair recharges.
McCall tacitly accepts some of this criticism when he reveals that Europcar’s biggest challenge is one of trust. “We will put trust back into the industry,” he states firmly.
Communication with customers is seen as a large part of the remedy.
Each week, Europcar staff speak to 500 customers. Each manager must talk to five customers at random to get their feedback and comments. This includes McCall himself.
“It’s important because it grounds people to understand the experience that people have had,” he says.
“And the customer sees it’s the actual employees of the company that are ringing them up – the feedback to this is fabulous.”
At several Fleet News roundtable discussions, fleets have complained about spiralling recharges for rental vehicles and inconvenient collection and delivery times.
McCall concedes more could be done to improve the situation but says both sides need to step up.
“There’s a shared responsibility to trust each other,” he says.
“We will trust them to look after the car and we won’t go looking for damage afterwards.
“We also need to make companies more aware of all our services, such as collection and delivery of the vehicle at a time window that is convenient to them.
"The expectation of renting a car should be that it gives people back time.”
But while most fleets would be happy simply for rental companies to get the basics right, McCall is already looking to push the boundaries of service.
He wants to provide the ‘wow’ factor. “No-one pays for bad or average service.
"You have to invest but it’s not just about money, it’s about being clever and innovative.”
He points to small details like providing ice scrapers in the cars during winter or setting up the sat-nav for the arrival of a German customer in their native tongue.
For corporate customers, the wow factor involves delivering cars on a Sunday to address the issue of a Friday drop-off for a Monday morning rental.
The initiative is on trial at four Europcar locations – Manchester, Leeds, Bristol and Birmingham.
The wow factor and attention to detail become major differentiators as rental companies look to strip out cost in the face of rising new car prices.