A poor customer service record could be enough to put off a prospective fleet customer even if the rental company is offering the best price.
Don Moore, vice-president of sales at Enterprise rent-a-car, believes having the right people and the right attitude is key to the rental industry and for fleets.
He said: ‘Winning tenders is about communicating the right messages about areas that can be hard to prove until you have experienced them. It is important to say the right things about customer care, technology advances and other areas of perceived added value.
‘This is crucial for winning new business. The problem is that it is just as easy to lose a client if the experience does not match promises made at the contract stage.’
Before agreeing a new contract, fleets need to be aware of how a rental company tackles customer service. The branch is usually a good place to start because if the employees working in the branch are not customer focused then there could be problems acquiring vehicles at a later date.
Moore said: ‘Customers tendering for a new supplier should aim to get underneath the skin of an organisation. Find out whether customer service is just something head office talks about or whether it is enacted in the day-to-day working life of every employee.
‘No matter what has been promised, if the employees in the branches are not up to it then the customers will not get the cars they need when they need them. Technology is a major part of this equation, but the end relationship is ultimately about the individual branch location and the customer.’
New daily rental employees should be drilled about the importance of customer service at the start of a new appointment.
‘The best approach is to teach employees, from the minute they join the branches, that fundamentally they are in the customer service business. The fact they rent cars is in many ways almost incidental,’ Moore said.
To achieve high standards of customer service, daily rental companies need to assess every fleet individually. Fleet needs can vary from the needs of retail customers and employees need to be aware of the differences.
This may require additional training, says Moore.
He said: ‘The only way to find out what firms want is to listen to them and get that front-end knowledge of their needs at both the corporate and employee level. Training employees to recognise and appreciate the requirements of business is vital.’
One of the main differences between fleet and retail needs is that fleets often need vehicles on a last-minute basis.
Retail customers usually pre-book in advance but a fleet may need five vehicles in a very short space of time, another reason for having properly trained staff.
However, staff training can only work if the employees have the right attitude.
Morale must be high and offering rewards to staff which in turn improve work ethos and customer service can help achieve this.
Enterprise operates a scheme where employees are only eligible for promotion if their ESQi scores (a measure of customer satisfaction for their branch or region) are at or higher than the average for the company as a whole.
Moore said: ‘Just as important as the training and development of employees is their attitude. People who have high morale and genuine enthusiasm will spark similar levels of eagerness in their customers, which is the best way to generate repeat business.
‘The right attitude means speedier work and better efficiency. My advice to fleets is check on the ground before you buy. The best supplier is not necessarily the biggest company, or the one with the highest brand awareness. It is the one where every employee is focused on looking after your needs above all else.’