Fleet News

Daily rental: Superb customer service should come as standard

IF customers in the UK are given terrible service, they often mutter in muted tones and vow never to return again – usually without informing the person providing the service.

When someone does complain, other customers look on in embarrassed silence, ignoring the fact that the buyer often gets exactly what they wanted as a result. This is something fleets should consider when dealing with rental providers.

Receiving a high level of customer service is something fleets should expect as standard in such a competitive market, irrespective of price.

But to identify outstanding service, fleets need to look in the places where it matters most.

A well-designed, flashy head office is of little consequence, but the staff dealing with enquiries, the way the contract is maintained, how complaints are handled and the services offered all need to be assessed by fleets either with the current provider or when assessing a new supplier.

To help fleets look a little deeper into whether their daily rental provider is up to scratch, Fleet News takes a look at the qualities that matter when providing daily rental.

RENTAL STAFF

THE branch staff are the first point of contact for fleet managers and should be fully trained, have a good attitude and be willing to go out of their way to help. Each staff member should have been recruited for their customer service skills and their ability to deliver the goods to customers.

Sally Gregory, vice president human resources at National Car Rental, believes the firm has the key to ensuring staff meet the needs of customers.

She said: ‘Everything we do is focused around the needs of the customer. Every appointment at the company is made solely on the basis of a person’s suitability for that particular post and the recruitment process is therefore tailored around the role for which we are recruiting. Methods used include assessment centres, interviews, psychometric testing and profiles. We also use work-based trials and telephone interviews depending on the role.’

However, even though a new customer service representative could be employed because of their service record, there is more to the job than qualifications.

Gregory said: ‘Experience is important but equally so is the person’s attitude and their ability to be responsive and proactive in relation to the challenges our fleet customers face.’

Rental companies are more aware than most how quickly bad news spreads. If you receive good customer service, you tell one friend. Receive bad service and you tell everyone.

The attitude of employees to dealing with problems as soon as they occur is therefore vital. An enthusiastic attempt by a customer service agent to sort out a problem, even if it is unsuccessful, is better than bored disinterest.

Des McCann, director of UK operations at Budget Rent-a-Car, 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.’

If a complaint is logged against the company, the rental provider must be able to deal with it efficiently. Most branch staff should be able to resolve complaints without having to involve more senior management, unless it is really necessary.

If problems do arise, some rental groups will offer compensation if they are found to have fallen below acceptable service standards.

Caroline Gallagher, head of national sales at Thrifty Car Rental, said: ‘If we should fail in any of our operational standards, then we compensate our customers for any inconvenience they have suffered. For example, we pay compensation of half a day’s rental if we are 30 minutes late on delivery.’

BESPOKE SERVICE

MANY rental providers claim that customer service is their number one priority, so if you need a bespoke service tailored to your needs, that should not be a problem.

The contract that is signed between the rental group and the fleet should be flexible and focus on the fleet’s needs. Customer service begins with the contract.

McCann said: ‘Our corporate account team adopts a very tailored approach to business. Each account is handled differently according to the fleet customer’s own specific requirements.

‘We may, for example, develop dedicated customer microsites, set up dedicated central reservation numbers and provide tailored reporting.’

Some daily rental com-panies will allocate specific staff members to deal solely with fleet business. This keeps customer service levels high and means an individual approach can be offered.

Thrifty has specialists who deal with different areas within the industry and Gallagher said: ‘We have structured our sales resource into teams dedicated to specific customers. These teams are determined by how our customers use us and why they buy car rental rather than purely how much they spend with us.

‘We have market sector specialists who have designated market sectors on which they are knowledgeable, ensuring we are able to identify particular issues our customers may be facing and develop bespoke solutions.’

Having the right staff members to deal with fleets is vital, according to Don Moore, vice-president of sales at Enterprise Rent-a-Car.

He said: ‘Fleet customers tend to have a combination of structured needs and sudden, ad hoc requirements.

‘Understanding this requires an awareness of the driving forces behind their business: what are their peak periods of demand for extra vehicles, what sort of vehicles will they need, where will they need them?’

Customer service is about more than talk from head office. It exists at ground level at each individual rental branch, Moore argues, so the company’s philosophy is to have a branch as close as possible to the client’s base.

When it comes to sourcing daily rental, quality counts and only when that is guaranteed should price become part of the discussion.

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