For auto mechanics, having the Automotive Service Professional (ASE) certification demonstrates that their skills and competence have been verified by a third-party authority. Service departments take pride in their ASE-certified technicians, and customers look for the ASE Blue Seal of Excellence when choosing the repair shop to take their cars to. The Rental Car Professional (RCP) online certification program, developed by the Center for International Retail Automotive Standards (CIRAS), aims to benefit auto rental professionals in the same way.
“Ten years ago, several of us in ACTIF (Association for Car and Truck Rental Independents and Franchisees) saw the need for a standard of competency within the auto industry,” says Jim Schalberg, principal of Jim Schalberg Auto Rental Training in Rock Hill, S.C., and one of the founders of the RCP certification. “Every other operation of the retail auto industry has a set of standards, from the technician on a car to the sales manager at a dealership. Why not apply those to car rental?”
Schalberg, along with ACTIF, began putting together an auto rental accreditation program in the late 1990s, but when ACTIF dissolved, the project was put on the back burner. A few years ago, Schalberg partnered with the Automotive Dealership Institute (ADI), an accredited automotive training institute that provides training courses for finance managers and service advisors. Through their efforts, CIRAS was formed, and the RCP certification program was born. It is scheduled to officially launch on March 30, 2009, at the Car Rental Show in Las Vegas.
The implementation of a baseline qualification for providing auto rental service will improve the industry on multiple levels, maintains Schalberg and Alan Algan, CEO and executive director of the ADI.
- Improve Customer Service
Certification is a tool to measure and improve employee qualification and customer service, which will ultimately bring an auto rental operation more business. “From a customer service standpoint, we can earn the respect of the people that deal with us by bringing up the level of service,” Schalberg explains. Customers will gravitate toward operators that are accredited, says Schalberg. And having a standard level of competency will give the industry as a whole a much-needed image boost.
- Grasp the Basics
For rental car operators, RCP will help them understand the basics of the business and what it takes to succeed. Too many operators think they can easily get into the business because they know how to buy a car cheaply, Schalberg explains. But without a grasp of how the auto rental industry works, these operators are bound to fail. “We have an industry with a huge failure rate, around 80 to 95 percent in the first year,” Schalberg says. “We see franchises open and close in a heartbeat.”
Having a solid understanding of how auto rental works is even more critical in today’s economy. “We’re in really tough times right now,” Schalberg says. “To survive, you are going to need a certain skill set.”
- Secure Financing, Insurance
Accreditation will also put rental operators in a better position to secure financing. A bank that is deciding on a loan to a new car rental operation may see accreditation as a sign that the business has a good, secure foundation and will be worth financing. Similarly, after the accreditation is established across the industry, rental operators may have an easier time securing competitive insurance rates.
- Identify Training Gaps
Although the RCP certification program is not a substitute for training, it measures how well an employee has been trained in the auto rental basics. Putting employees through the certification process can help managers identify gaps in their employees’ knowledge and additional training opportunities.
The RCP certification is available to anyone working in the auto rental business, from operators to managers to frontline employees.