Enterprise Tops J.D. Power Customer Study

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. -- Enterprise ranks highest in satisfying rental car customers, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2004 Rental Car Satisfaction Study released this month.

The study, now in its ninth year, measures customer satisfaction among business and leisure customers who rented a car at or near an airport. Overall satisfaction is based on performance in six areas. In order of importance, they are: pick-up process, rates/value, return process, rental car, reservation and shuttle bus/van.

Enterprise receives high ratings from customers in all factors and leads the industry in the areas of pick-up process and shuttle bus/van, according to the study. Hertz follows Enterprise in the rankings, receiving the highest ratings in reservations, rental car and return process.

"While Enterprise was not originally known for its airport presence, recently the company has been aggressively adding rental car facilities at airports," said Linda Hirneise, partner and executive director of travel industry research at J.D. Power and Associates. "Enterprise has been particularly successful in expediting the pick-up process at its airport locations, which can have a dramatic impact on overall customer satisfaction."

Wait times to pick up rental cars have increased significantly over 2003. The study finds that 43% of all rental car customers had to wait an average of 19 minutes for a shuttle bus to pick up their rental car -- up from 11 minutes in 2003.

"Overall customer satisfaction falls significantly the longer a customer has to wait to pick up the car," said Hirneise. "Speed and efficiency are critical after a long day of travel. The importance of valuing a customer's time cannot be overstated enough in this industry."

The Internet continues to have a growing impact on the way customers make reservations for their car rental. Customers book their reservations on rental car company Web sites twice as often as on independent Web sites (35% versus 17%, respectively). Satisfaction is higher for customers who book their reservation directly with the rental car company, whether through the company's toll-free number or via the brand's Web site.

The number of customers who report having a significant problem with their rental car experience is the lowest it has been in five years, which is similar to findings across other travel-related industries in 2004. On average, just 6% of customers experience a significant problem. Problems during the pick-up process are the most frequently reported.

The study also finds that fewer than one in five customers purchases any form of optional coverage when renting a car. Among the optional coverage offered, 19% purchase personal accident insurance, while 17% purchase a loss damage waiver.

The 2004 Rental Car Satisfaction Study is based on responses from 4,696 customers who rented a car at an airport location within a six-month period.

Headquartered in Westlake Village, Calif., J.D. Power and Associates specializes in market research, forecasting, consulting, training and customer satisfaction.

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