Closing the Customer/Associate Perception Gap

Through an industry survey, more than 600 customers and car rental associates share their perceptions of the car rental experience. Do your frontline team members’ views match what your customers are thinking?

Earlier this quarter, Frontline Performance Group (FPG) — a Khoury Group Company — finished its first round of customer and associate impression surveys with the help of Auto Rental News. The results were presented in an FPG webinar hosted by Auto Rental News on Oct. 6.

The field team from FPG conducted more than 600 surveys of customers and car rental associates. The surveys took place in more than 35 markets in the United States, Canada and Latin America. Customers and car rental associates were interviewed at airport counters, consolidated facilities, and local market and dealership settings.

Survey questions and the interview process were designed so the final results would provide new insights on the importance of frontline associate belief, how to more effectively incorporate empathy into the rental process, how to stay consistent with an established sales process and how an operation team can better understand how its customer feels about the industry.

Customers identified the car class upsell as the most appealing product at 32 percent. While associates gave upsell a similar percentage (31 percent), they thought coverage (CDW, SLI, etc.) was their most appealing product offering at 41 percent. Customers chose GPS rental as their second most appealing product, while that was much further down the list for associates.
Customers identified the car class upsell as the most appealing product at 32 percent. While associates gave upsell a similar percentage (31 percent), they thought coverage (CDW, SLI, etc.) was their most appealing product offering at 41 percent. Customers chose GPS rental as their second most appealing product, while that was much further down the list for associates.

Survey Highlights – Customers’ Perspective
● When asked, “What do you want from a car rental?” customers named vehicle quality (23 percent) as their No. 1 choice, followed by price/value (21 percent), speed (19 percent) and then customer service competence (16 percent).

Associates believe they present more products (two or more, 71 percent) to customers than customers say they were actually offered (two or more, 62 percent). Some 25 percent of customers say they had zero products presented to them. Interestingly, 21 percent of associates admit to offering zero products.
Associates believe they present more products (two or more, 71 percent) to customers than customers say they were actually offered (two or more, 62 percent). Some 25 percent of customers say they had zero products presented to them. Interestingly, 21 percent of associates admit to offering zero products.

● 53 percent of customers who have a bad experience will tell six or more associates, relatives or friends about the experience and company; however, for a good experience, only 28 percent of customers will tell six or more associates, relatives or friends.

■ Supporting statistic: According to the 2010 J.D. Power Car Rental Survey, 22 percent of problems go unreported by a customer. Reported problems for customers remain at 9 percent, with vehicle pick-up and billing being the areas with the highest rates of reported problems.

● More than 60 percent of customers have been awake for at least eight hours prior to arriving at your location’s counter.

● 68 percent of customers prefer to book the vehicle on their own.

■ Supporting statistic: Of customers’ preferred booking channels, 44 percent use an online travel provider, 43 percent use the car rental website, 9 percent call the rental call center and 4 percent walk in.

When it comes to brand choice, both customers and associates chose price as the top deciding factor. However, compared to the customer’s impression, associates overvalue the customer’s brand loyalty by 9 percentage points and underestimate the importance of booking ease for the customer by 6 percentage points. In a supporting statistic, 51 percent of customers say they do not have a preferred brand.
When it comes to brand choice, both customers and associates chose price as the top deciding factor. However, compared to the customer’s impression, associates overvalue the customer’s brand loyalty by 9 percentage points and underestimate the importance of booking ease for the customer by 6 percentage points. In a supporting statistic, 51 percent of customers say they do not have a preferred brand.

Survey Highlights – Associates’ Perspective
● Associates were asked to identify their motivational drivers when it comes to work: 44 percent of associates said money, 28 percent said recognition and 28 percent named accountability.

● Only 51 percent of associates monitor their sales performance on a daily basis.

● 37 percent of associates believe that customers wait in line prior to being called up to rent on an average of six to 10 minutes.

● 7-10 percent of the time associates claim that customers leave the counter upset.

● 10 percent of customers ask and request a nicer vehicle.

● 76 percent of associates feel the daily rate charged per day is a fair price.

Customers overwhelmingly believe their hotel stays offer the best experience. Associates value the car rental experience a mere percentage point higher. 
Customers overwhelmingly believe their hotel stays offer the best experience. Associates value the car rental experience a mere percentage point higher.

More Research Coming
In 2012, Frontline Performance Group and Auto Rental News will continue to conduct surveys and customer experience research. The results will be presented with advanced sales management techniques throughout the 2012 Profit Boost Webinar Series.

To continue learning more about how to boost front-counter profits and sales, sign up for one of our newsletters by clicking here.

Ken Stellon is a managing partner for the Frontline Performance Group – a Khoury Group company. Stellon and his team have been contributing to Auto Rental News since 1993. For specific questions regarding the research conducted and for further details regarding the Frontline Performance Group please contact Stellon at (630) 788-2879 or email him at [email protected].

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