Fleet News

Daily rental: tackling damage head-on

IF companies were asked to name the problems they encounter most with daily rental firms, administration and costing problems would be high on the list.

But the biggest problem rental companies face when dealing with businesses is something on a practical, rather than bureaucratic, level: vehicle damage.

Damage to rental vehicles costs the industry millions of pounds every year and has spurred one rental group to launch a two-pronged attack on the problem.

Backed by a 'no brand' policy and the success of its 'pick and drop' scheme, Enterprise Rent-A-Car is slashing the number of vehicles returned with damage.

By simply offering fleets unbranded vehicles to hire, Enterprise believes customers pay more attention to the cars and are less likely to damage them. The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) recommends rental vehicles are not branded, but there are instances of rental companies, such as EasyCar, putting names on vehicles.

Don Moore, Enterprise head of corporate sales UK, explained the thinking behind a low-key approach: 'Offering unbranded vehicles boils down to customers taking care of them. If vehicles are branded, customers don't tend to treat them as their own.

Unbranded vehicles are more likely to be treated with care and it also makes the customer feel more comfortable behind the wheel.'

Enterprise has a worldwide policy which stipulates vehicles remain unbranded except for a small 'e' logo. Not only do customers treat the vehicles with more respect, but it also helps Enterprise improve the safety of its customers.

Moore said: 'It is safer for our customers driving unbranded vehicles. When you see a rental car, it often means the people are travelling in a strange place, which makes them a target.

'We took this stance as a company when adopting unbranded vehicles. We work with fleets and corporate customers and see ourselves as an extension of their service and branding is not the right thing to do.'

In many cases, arguments over responsibility for damage occur because the customer returns the vehicle, fails to mention the knock on the rear wing and saunters back to work. This is where Enterprise's second prong of attack comes in.

Two years ago, the group introduced its 'pick-up and drop-off' service, which it claims has not only slashed instances of damage, but also cuts hire times and costs, provides a more convenient service and halves the manpower needed by Enterprise to deliver vehicles.

Enterprise says it can pick up a driver either at home or work within 15 minutes from most cities. Moore explained: 'We introduced our pick-up and drop-off service to minimise damages.

'We pick up customers and bring them to the office, where they choose a car. We walk around the vehicle, check for damage and the customer drives away. When they return to the location, we re-check the vehicle with the customer, noting any damage, and provide a receipt. The customer is then driven back to their office or home and there is no dispute.'

The pick-up service not only prevents costly damage being left unreported but also reduces the number of staff Enterprise has to use for vehicle delivery.

'The service is a benefit for us as it usually takes two people to drop off a vehicle whereas with the pick-up service we only need one of our drivers,' Moore said.

Additional benefits of the pick-up service to both fleets and rental companies includes cost-cutting. Costs are reduced on both sides as it cuts down the amount of time a car is left dormant, which reduces the hire time for the customer.

The service also avoids the congestion charge for fleets operating in the London area. 'We pick up customers so it means they do not have to drive into the congestion zone, another cost-saver,' Moore said.

Fleets are able to choose either the pick-and-drop service or the traditional method of vehicle hire but Moore said fleet executives needed to weigh up the options and choose the best for their individual businesses.

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