Overall Satisfaction With Rental Cars Rebounds to Pre-recession Levels

Overall customer satisfaction with rental cars has returned to pre-recession levels after declining to lower levels during the past two years, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2010 North America Rental Car Satisfaction Study released Tuesday.

Now in its 15th year, the study measures overall customer satisfaction with renting cars at airports by examining six factors (listed in order of importance): costs and fees, pick-up process, rental car, return process, reservation process and shuttle bus/van.

Overall satisfaction averages 750 on a 1,000-point scale in 2010, improving from 733 in 2009 and 734 in 2008. Satisfaction with the reservation process, pick-up process, shuttle bus/van and costs and fees have achieved three-year highs. Each of the rental car companies included in the study has improved in 2010, compared with 2009.

"Improvement in the rental car industry occurs across all aspects of the customer experience," said Stuart Greif, vice president of the travel practice at J.D. Power and Associates. "By quickly improving their operations as the market started coming back, rental car companies started reversing the negative impact on satisfaction that cuts and deferred investments had during the downturn. Satisfaction snapping back in 2010 is a testament to the industry doing its best to balance the tension between customer satisfaction and hard economic realities during this period."

Enterprise ranks highest in customer satisfaction among rental car companies for a seventh consecutive year and performs particularly well in all six factors. Enterprise is followed in the rankings by National and Hertz, respectively.

Incidence of reported problems has decreased to 9 percent in 2010, compared with 11 percent in 2009. Vehicle pick-up and billing are the areas with the highest rates of reported problems.

"While it's possible to exceed expectations when resolving a customer problem, which could elevate satisfaction levels even above those of a problem-free experience, this situation is a rare exception," said Greif. "It's important to note that 22 percent of problems experienced by customers go unreported, which means there was never an opportunity to resolve them. The bottom line is that prevention of problems is a far better strategy than service recovery for achieving high satisfaction levels."

In addition to increased satisfaction with rental car companies in 2010, customer loyalty and advocacy have also improved from 2009. In 2010, one-third of business travelers and 28 percent of leisure travelers indicated they "definitely will" rent from the same brand again-marking increases of 2 percent and 5 percent, respectively, from 2009. Advocacy rates have increased by 3 percent among business travelers and 6 percent among leisure travelers from 2009. In 2010, 30 percent of travelers in both groups said they "definitely will" recommend their rental car company.

The 2010 North America Rental Car Satisfaction Study is based on more than 11,500 evaluations from business and leisure travelers who rented a vehicle at an airport location within the previous 30 days. The study was fielded between October 2009 and September 2010.

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