First, congratulations to the entire auto rental industry. Go ahead; take a moment to congratulate yourselves, as dangerous as that may be. Scores increased across the board in all six measures — the largest overall gains coming from Rental Car (+17), Shuttle Bus/Van (+17) and Costs & Fees (+17).
Jessica McGregor, manager of the travel practice at J.D. Power and Associates, writes: “Dealing from a position of greater financial strength and sounder footing, the industry continues to build upon and extend satisfaction gains achieved last year, and not only is bouncing back from lower levels of satisfaction reported in 2008 and 2009, but is also returning to levels of satisfaction last experienced in 2006.”
The business segment had a larger increase than leisure, improving 15 points overall from 2010, compared to a 3 point increase in the leisure segment. Business customers had the biggest gains in Costs & Fees (+28), Shuttle Bus/Van (+27) and Rental Car (+25).
“Business saw really large jumps on Costs & Fees, the Rental Car, and the Shuttle Bus/Van areas and this really drove their improvement this year,” McGregor writes. “It seems the satisfaction gap between the two types of travelers is lessening in this year’s study.”
In terms of technology leveling the playing field between small and big players, it hasn’t happened yet in a few key areas — namely mobile phone reservations and kiosks — to be statistically relevant. Only 1% of survey respondents reported booking on a mobile phone, while 3% report using an automated check-in kiosk machine. Interestingly, however, those that pick up using a kiosk have the highest level of satisfaction of any pickup method, J.D. Power reports. (For the survey, 10% of Alamo customers used a kiosk, followed by 7% of Ace customers and 4% of Hertz customers.)
For those pondering if the impacts of the tsunami (i.e. over-fleeting keeping rates competitive and upping scores) had any effect on survey results, no conclusions could be made based on the data. You might think this summer’s competitive rates (and over fleeting) may have produced a better Costs & Fees score, though we can’t make this conclusion based on the data.
Now, onto congratulating Ace Rent A Car for winning the 2011 J.D. Power and Associates 2011 North America Rental Car Satisfaction Study! But how did little ol’ Ace beat out the likes of the majors and their considerable infrastructure and resources? Read on.
This is the first year Ace has been ranked, as sample sizes were too small in previous years. (J.D. Power requires a sample size of 100 usable returns to be ranked in the rental car study.) This makes one wonder about methodology: If Ace only has enough returns to be over the threshold, can you really trust the numbers? J.D. Power says yes:
“The larger the sample, the greater the statistical power given a good research design and correct sampling techniques. However, research methodology demonstrates that at a certain point, the greatest accuracy is achieved, and thus any sample beyond that will have little, if any, influence on the overall accuracy and results. For our studies, we have determined that the accuracy – and confidence interval and confidence levels – is best achieved with a minimum sample of 100 usable returns, and anything beyond 100 usable returns will not have a significant impact on the overall results.”