ELECTRONIC billing processes can significantly boost a fleet's efficiency, argues Neil McCrossan, vice-president of sales and marketing, at National Car Rental.
'With travel costs under scrutiny like never before, fleet managers should be demanding cost savings from their rental company beyond the provision of a vehicle at the right time and in the right place.
Add to this the fact that many businesses are examining their processes to cut down on paper wastage and improve efficiency. But how often is this an aspect of service that is demanded from a rental supplier?
Car rental is no longer just a commodity – the sheer competitiveness of the marketplace combined with its maturity have made this, beyond all doubt, a service industry. This is good news for fleet managers who should be taking advantage of innovative solutions that can make their job easier and bring cost savings into the bargain.
Technology has had a huge part to play in the evolution of this sector.
E-business is touching every aspect of the rental process to make it smoother, quicker, more efficient and give the level of control the customer wants.
Forget paper, we are in an age now when every aspect of the process can and should be managed online. If a rental company isn't exploiting these technologies it isn't being efficient and is unlikely to be able to offer any worthwhile cost-savings.
So what should the fleet manager expect? A choice of reservation routes is a good start. If you choose online, make sure that the cost you pay per reservation reflects that – it's cheaper for the rental company to take your booking via this route so this should be reflected in the price you pay, particularly if you make large volumes of reservations.
If you have policies about who can rent what in your company, make sure these are implemented automatically whichever reservation route your drivers choose. We call this intelligent authorisation as it 'does what it says on the tin!'
By using a web-based authorisation system you can cut the time taken on cross-checking policy documents every time someone rents or someone calls up the fleet department and says 'what car group can I reserve?'.
And this leads nicely on to driver profiles. We have all experienced the frustration of having to repeat the same information about ourselves to the same organisation, time and time again. They might say they value our custom but they can't be bothered to remember who we are and what we like. The same applies to driver profiles – tell your rental company once and that should be it. Next time you log on, all your details should be pre-filled for rental so that all you need to do is specify time and location and the car should be there waiting.
The key to saving is knowing where you are spending. Management information is crucial. It will help you and your rental provider see where efficiencies can be made. Ensure that they sit down with you on a regular basis to review your account and if they are not suggesting cost efficiencies, ask why not.
Even look at the invoicing process. Invoicing is perhaps the one aspect of a rental contract that gets glossed over.However, this can have a huge effect on both the time and resources of the fleet managers and finance departments. Millions of invoices are issued by car rental companies annually, wasting resources from paper to postage.
So what's the answer? The process of e-billing means that invoices may be queried and corrected online with duplicate invoices produced and management data provided straight to your desktop. Any additional copies of the invoice can also be sent electronically, meaning same-day delivery anywhere in the world. This means a customer can leave a vehicle at Heathrow Airport in the evening and fly to Edinburgh, when upon arrival into the office in Edinburgh the following morning, the invoice is already there for an expense claim.
So when it comes to selecting a rental provider, ensure you look beyond delivery times and size of fleet and demand a service that helps you improve your business efficiencies. Car rental should not be a headache to manage and control. Make sure your car rental company is 'E'asing the rental process for you.'