Three car rental employees were honored as the Professional of the Year Award winners on Tuesday at an awards luncheon at the 2013 Auto Rental Summit in Hollywood, Fla. Presented by American Express, the Auto Rental News Professional of the Year Awards honor associates who demonstrate and promote outstanding customer satisfaction within the car rental process from auto rental companies worldwide.

A winner from each of the car rental business categories (independent, corporate and franchise) was chosen by a panel of five judges including Sharon Faulkner, executive director of ACRA (American Car Rental Association); Diane J. Clancy, director of ACRISS (Association of Car Rental Industry System Standards); Leslie Pujo, attorney/owner at LaPlaca Pujo, PC; Ziad Khoury, founder and president of the Frontline Performance Group (FPG) and Chris Brown, executive editor of Auto Rental News.

“Now in its second year, the awards are a forum for the auto rental industry to celebrate its champions, enhance industry morale and promote its good works,” said Chris Brown, executive editor of Auto Rental News.

Honored with trophies at the Auto Rental Summit, here are the three winners:


Due to her hard work and dedication to customer service, Jacqueline Joseph, the marketing manager at Leisure Car Rental in St. Maarten, was honored as the 2013 Professional of the Year for the independent category.

Initially hired as a marketing representative in 2009, she was soon promoted to marketing manager in 2010. In addition to her marketing duties, Joseph also helps with planning, operations and human resources.

“It is a great honor to be recognized as the company’s Professional of the Year,” says Joseph. “What makes this award even greater is that I am not the sole contributor. It’s built on a devoted team. At Leisure Car Rental, we go above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that customers have a great experience.”


Gina was unable to attend the awards ceremony.

Gina was unable to attend the awards ceremony.

Gina Bruzzichesi, senior vice president, Payless Car Rental, Avis Budget Group, has been named as the Professional of the Year winner for the corporate category. She has worked with Avis Budget Group for 12 years and has held multiple positions, starting in legal counsel.

Prior to her current position, Bruzzichesi served as senior vice president of strategic customer leadership and customer care and was in charge of the Avis Budget’s “Customer Led, Service Driven” initiative. This initiative was designed to improve the customer experience from reservations to post-rental service.

“Over the past few years, I have enjoyed the role of customer advocate at Avis Budget — and in this capacity, I have encouraged all of our employees to see the rental experience through the eyes of our customer,” says Bruzzichesi. “No one person can truly change a global organization; it takes a team. To be a truly ‘Customer Led, Service Driven’ company, Avis Budget engages in broad ongoing dialog with its customers, covering every single interaction they have with our brands, our employees, our locations and our business.”



From the Thrifty Car Rental franchise in Syracuse, N.Y., Kathy Nieves was selected as the winner of the Professional of the Year in the franchise category. Serving as the rental manager, her responsibilities include assisting the vice president in daily rental operations and working with rate management, rental agent training, scheduling and sales training.

After working with the company for nine years, Nieves has worked her way up from a rental agent. Nieves is not only recognized as a sales leader, but also for her commitment to customer service and training rental agents.

“In my opinion, customer service is about always exceeding expectations,” says Nieves. “When you love what you do, customer service is not a task, but who you are. From a corporate perspective, if you do not provide the best experience for your customer, you can rest assured another company will. Let's face it, anyone can rent a car; however, very few can provide such stellar service that they ensure loyal customers.”

Auto Rental News received more than 50 submissions from car rental operators around the world. Submissions were scored on a scale 0-10 in the following criteria: customer service, operations management, sales, leadership and industry and community involvement. Learn more about the awards and the Auto Rental Summit at

By Amy Winter