So just how rental are firms developing their products to help fleets in their quest for temporary car hire?
Rental firms realised many years ago that they could not rest on their laurels and wait for regular business to waltz through the door.
As a result the battle for fleets has seen rental firms take proactive attempts to introduce new ways of building relationships.
Daily rental for business use is increasing, and organisations renting vehicles have to do so at short notice. With often dozens of drivers renting at any one time, clients want the service to be quick and efficient.
To accommodate this, rental firms are taking different approaches.
The use of new technology is widespread, with ever-more sophisticated software making the exchange of information between rental firm and client smoother and easier. Other firms prefer to use manpower, setting up implants, dedicated key account managers and corporate reservation teams.
Others still make sure clients can get in touch with them at any time by keeping call centres open 24 hours a day, and some prefer to get as many branches as possible in all corners of the UK.
We take a look at some of the latest innovations being offered to the fleet industry by daily rental groups.
ADVANCES in technology have revolutionised the rental business and many firms are ensuring that they remain on the cutting edge.
Neil McCrossan, vice-president of commercial development for National Car Rental said the firm capitalised on e-business wherever possible to make transactions more efficient and cost efficient. He said: ‘The provision of online information helps fleet managers identify where efficiency gains can be made and e-billing delivers invoices direct to the desktop within hours of the rental terminating so that costs can be reconciled without delay.’
Philip Brindle, managing director of Newtown Vehicle Rentals, enthused about new technology but warned that it was not the be-all and end-all.
He said: ‘Undoubtedly new technology plays its part. But technology is just part of the story.
‘Understanding individual customer requirements and responding to them effectively is essential.
‘By knowing how each customer operates and forging a strong relationship with them, a rental company can in effect act as a ‘bolt-on’ transport division.’
Customer-specific microsites enable fleet managers to access reservation information from their own computers together with automated confirmations of reservations and enquiries.
But technological innovations are not limited to the internet. One company uses a hand-held check-in device that utilises wireless technology to speed up car returns. It records the car’s condition and generates an electronic receipt for the driver to sign in as little as 60 seconds. Avis claims the technology has reduced post-rental customer enquiries by more than 50% since it was introduced at the beginning of the year.
OPEN ALL HOURS
SEVERAL rental firms have decided that whenever the client needs something they’ll be able to get it, day or night.
Penny Stoolman, director of sales and marketing for Avis, said: ‘In today’s society convenience, efficiency and flexibility are of more and more importance to the fleet manager and his employees.
‘Avis has responded to an increase in demand from corporate renters and has extended a number of its locations’ opening hours to 24 hours a day.
‘We recognised that customers catching an early flight or landing in the twilight hours needed 24-hour access to their vehicle and this service will prove invaluable.’
Hertz has had the same idea. Ben Hall, the company’s head of public affairs, said: ‘We know what the business traveller needs, because we ask them. We know they want to be able to contact us day or night and to collect or return their car at a time convenient to them, so we have developed our 24-hour customer service centre and expanded our extensive network of 24-hour locations, including all major UK airports.’
DEDICATION IS WHAT YOU NEED
GONE are the days when business renters were just another customer. Now most firms have teams dedicated to looking after the needs of corporate clients and keeping up good relationships with them.
Going that little bit extra can single out a particular firm as one willing to do whatever it takes to provide a good service. McCrossan said: ‘At National our business is now very much geared to providing fleet and corporate clients with a consultancy-based service, using external expertise at our own cost where appropriate to provide road transport solutions that are often outside of core daily rental services. It is this partnership approach that really helps make the life of the fleet manager easier.’
Europcar business customers are allocated a dedicated national account manager, a move the firm hopes will lead to greater levels of understanding, consistent communication and ultimately a relationship akin to a partnership.
Despite the focus on technology, some rental companies are keen to emphasise the need for human contact. Dollar Thrifty has increased its reservation staff to ensure phones are answered as quickly as possible.
Spokeswoman Lesley Sadd said: ‘Customers want to talk to a person, not to an automated answering service.’
WITH duty of care a key consideration in light of increased attention from the Government, Health and Safety Executive and the police, running pool cars for fleets, and the associated maintenance and service requirements, is less tenable than it once was.
Rental firms are noticing that the prospect of hiring a car from a third party, and therefore handing responsibility for maintenance to the rental firm, is more attractive to fleets.
Don Moore, vice-president of sales for the Enterprise Rent-A-Car UK & Ireland, said: ‘Many rental firms are also looking for ways to offer a safer way of hiring cars.’ The amount of innovation in the industry means that for fleets looking to rent daily, service has never been better.