Fleet News

Daily rental: Automated rentals save fleets time and hassle

At a glance

  • Seamless proposition brings together online booking, text message alerts, key lockers, automated damage pricing and electronic billing.
  • Travellers at airports book a car online.
  • The booking is confirmed by text message.
  • On arrival at the airport, keys and rental agreements are stored in lockers. Customers swipe a credit card or enter a PIN given at the time of booking.
  • On return, any damage is automatically calculated.
  • The bill is delivered electronically within 24 hours of the end of the rental.

    If you’ve ever tried to rent a car, you’ll know just how much faff and paperwork can be involved. Wouldn’t it be great if someone could just take it all away? You could be on your way to your destination much quicker and with less hassle.

    Well, at some UK airports, now you can. National Car Rental’s Seamless Proposition system for daily rental users impressed us a lot. In fact, back in April, we gave the firm a 2007 Fleet News Best Innovation Award.

    The scheme removes the need to wait around at a counter. Keys are placed in special lockers, allowing travellers secure access to car keys and rental agreements to get straight on with their journey.

    Several separate innovations were combined together to come up with Seamless Proposition.

    Online booking through National’s Carhirebooker.com site combines with an SMS text message service that confirms the reservation as well as any extensions or invoice requests, and also helps collect mileage data for fleet operators.

    Participating National locations have a key locker system that gets rid of the need to wait around at rental counters.

    Travellers simply swipe a credit card through the locker and pick up the keys and rental agreement from inside.

    Those paying on account are texted a PIN number, which opens the locker.

    When the car is returned, any damage is costed automatically and instantly using information direct from manufacturers and parts vendors.

    E-billing means invoices are sent directly to the customer’s inbox within 24-hours of the end of the rental period.

    Using an online management system, fleet operators can get instant access to vehicle rental usage data and reports.

    Any queries can also be handled online through a customer service function.

    The system was first trialled at Stansted Airport, and has proved such a hit that it has now been rolled out at Birmingham and Luton airports as well.

    The pilot scheme was done in partnership with BT.

    “Key lockers make the whole rental process so much quicker, smarter and more efficient,” says Celia Gullen, ground transportation buyer at BT Procurement.

    “We’re always looking to improve the customer experience and National seem to be ahead of the game in terms of innovation.

    “For us it’s all about the traveller being inconvenienced as little as possible. There’s nothing worse than being on a flight and then standing in a queue, because how often is the desk empty? We thought it was an opportunity to make travelling easier.

    “All of us like the non-human touch in some circumstances, it just let’s that person get on to a meeting or home to their family.

    “I’d like to see it used as much as possible – we’ve had no issues with it at all.”

    As well as impressing BT, the scheme has also attracted the attention of the airport authority BAA, which could mean similar schemes sprouting up at more UK airports.

    Lorraine Farnon, National’s divisional vice-president and UK sales director, says: “Key lockers are part of a whole suite of online products and services designed to create a genuinely integrated and seamless rental solution.

    “We continue to set the standard when it comes to developing innovative services that improve business and traveller efficiency, while reducing business costs.”

    Innovation winners

    The Fleet News Best Innovation Award recognises a new product or service that has allowed more efficient working, made cost savings or addressed a major concern in the fleet industry.

    The judges at the 2007 awards – presented at a glitzy ceremony on London’s Park Lane – said: “The entire car rental process is streamlined by this great idea from National Car Rental.

    “It combines the innovations of the Carhirebooker.com website, SMS messaging, key lockers, automated damage pricing and billing.

    “Business customers will be spared the need to queue for a car at airports by the key locker system. Car keys and documents will be placed in lockers for drivers to access with a simple swipe of a credit card.”

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