At any point in their busy day, good car and truck rental operators are able to track market share, fleet utilization, claims recovery, fleet holding costs, incremental sales yield, reservation builds, revenue per unit and, of course, operating revenue.
Yet along with these measurable performance items are “immeasurable intuitions” that can equally impact the customer’s experience, the job satisfaction of your team and your operation’s profit margin.
Your top managers down to your frontline sales team may have at one time or another fallen into one or more of the mindsets discussed here. While these “immeasurable intuitions” may not be as easily quantifiable by the same performance metrics, there are methods to manage the immeasurable.
“My team’s attitude says ‘it’s just a rental car.’”
Has the phrase “it’s just a rental car” made your blood boil?
How your team feels about your rental cars determines how well the cars will be treated. Rental cars that leave the lot with smudged windows, forgotten garbage underneath the seats, sticky cup holders and blaring radios will be driven in a tougher fashion.
Think about it—when staying at a nice hotel with a nice lobby and a warm and hospitable staff, don’t you feel compelled to keep your room a little tidier prior to housekeeping coming in? Why do the Disney theme parks encounter a lower occurrence of shoplifting and littering than other parks? It is because you are not a customer but a guest—and cast members are there to enhance your experience.
The same beliefs governing customer care, the customer’s experience and delivering a top-shelf product can be conveyed in car rental regardless of your brand, your market share or location.
Examine the days in the week or month when your operation has the highest rate of unallocated damage, then research which team members were responsible for servicing those cars.
Keep accurate records of your service team. Conduct frequent spot checks for cleanliness. Motivate your team through accountability and recognition by having them sign a “Welcome” or “Presented by” note left on the dashboard.
“Some frontline representatives seem to be getting a higher percentage of negative customers.”
Every operation has a representative who will always see the glass as being half empty. No matter how hard a manager works, these negative people will be a hindrance to the atmosphere. You can pull every report under the sun to measure their performance but you cannot pull a report to monitor the “mirror effect.”
Ask yourself if 80 percent of your “problem rental customers” come from 20 percent of your frontline staff. In most cases the answer is yes. The same problems happen with all team members, yet it is the negative 10 to 20 percent who dwell on the challenging customers and feel compelled to tell everyone around them about the unique circumstances.
Every time those types of representatives come to you to complain about their customers, challenge them to put it into perspective. If they rent 400 cars a month, how many challenging customers do they really get? In most cases the answer is 5 percent of their customer base. Ask them about the other 380 customers a month.
Avoid scheduling negative team members for 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. shifts, as they can have too much influence on the message of the day. Avoid scheduling them for 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. shifts because they can negatively affect both shifts’ attitude.
If those team members’ contagious negativity continues, avoid scheduling them altogether. Are they really bringing value to your organization and your customers’ experience? Find a fair, legal and documented way to end the business relationship.
“My new hires are being influenced by the negative old timers.”
If your recruiting efforts are yielding the right fit of sales professionals and your new hire training/orientation stresses the value of their role, new hires will enter the working group on top of the world.
They come to the role with few preconceived notions of “why” it cannot be done. The same is true of a new manager to a new assignment. What happens to results when a new branch manager is placed in a location?
Around the 90-day mark your precious new hire may not be feeling so new. In the blink of an eye they go from being a new Cadillac CTS to a 55,000-mile risk unit. [PAGEBREAK] STRATEGIES
Make new hire probationary periods as long as possible. Set increasing sales and service goals in 30-day increments. At the 90-day point of their employment, conduct a formal review. Frequently discuss their strengths and ask them to share with you their service and sales challenges.
Listen to their concerns, show empathy but never accept the reasons why “it” cannot be done. Always assume the role of a positive advocate; provide tips and techniques to help them break through to the next plateau.
Always look for your next Rookie of the Year or All Star. When a new top performer enters a team, everyone raises their game!
“My frontline sales team doesn’t believe in the value of our product.”
Your competitors are over fleeted. The Internet has created a lower rate expectation for your customer base. Your airport has allowed another operator on site and a new competitor has moved into town. These are all valid reasons why maintaining a high rate per day can be a challenge.
But one reason that does not make the list is one that you as an operator have direct control over. Your frontline sales team does not believe in charging a fair price for your vehicles. You may feel comfortable charging $99 per day for a premium vehicle, but would a member of your frontline team feel as comfortable? Would they present the price to the customer with the same level of confidence that you would?
The challenge many operators have is their frontline teams do not place enough emphasis on obtaining a fair price from the consumer on a walk-up rate or an upsell price into a higher-end vehicle.
Car rental is the single best value in the travel industry. Where else can you rent a $30,000 asset for a 24-hour period for an average of $35 per day?
Remind your frontline team that low rates are available to customers at that price not because that’s what the car is worth per day; the rates are low because of everyday marketplace competition.
Ask your frontline team to research the cost to rent a lawnmower for a day or a flip chart at a hotel conference center. In all example comparisons the rate per day is higher than your rental car rate, yet the item being rented costs a fraction of what the rental car costs to buy.
Coach your frontline team to use service-based sales dialogues on all up-sells. These dialogues should include two features and two benefits of the highest-end vehicle available.
When your frontline sales reps focus their up-sell presentation on the highest car selection, it will lead most customers to inquire about the price. Your reps will feel more comfortable quoting a higher price for your vehicle if it is preceded by your customer asking, “How much?”
“I feel my skill growth is stagnating.”
Can you find a better industry to develop your professional skills? Customer service, risk management, revenue management, service-based sales management and human resources management are just a few of the specialties a manager can develop.
Yet because of the chaotic nature of the business, many frontline managers become entangled with the day-to-day aspects of the operation and do not take the time to ask themselves, “What professional skill can I develop this month, quarter or year?”
This constant repetition of service can lull managers into a personal developmental path of least resistance.
If you are falling into this category, ask yourself, “do I really have eight years of experience or have I just repeated my second year six times over?” If you are in a senior leadership role and you have managers that are falling into this category, look for new challenges or roles that your less experienced leadership team can move into.
Develop a business mentorship with a senior leader of another non-car rental business. Look for common denominators within the two businesses and creative strategies to make your leadership style more effective.
“My competitor is too big. We can’t win!”
Every Goliath needs a David, and every Achilles has a heel. Small steps can be taken to win market share, whether your Goliath resides at an airport or in a local market. The companies that don’t even try to establish business contacts or do not make sales presentations really have no reason to complain.
The most unfortunate aspect of this immeasurable intuition is that if you or your managers take this path of least resistance, so will your staff.
Centering your sales message around, “rent from us because they are bad,” is not effective. If you have a captive audience in a sales pitch and you are sitting across from the decision maker, don’t waste your precious time on a negative infomercial about your competition. Focus your energies and message on your points of differentiation.
Securing two more rentals per day, whether through a reservation or walk up, on a length of keep of four days at $35 per day will add over $100,000 of top line revenue to your location. Challenge your team to take a “never say no” mindset and look for little wins.
Perception becomes reality, and the little things add up quickly.
Having a balanced focus on a location’s measurable statistics and addressing these immeasurable intuitions will help any operator post top-performing results.
Ken Stellon (630-788-2879) is vice president of consulting services for the Khoury Group. The Khoury Group’s mission is to increase profit by assisting car and truck rental businesses in creating service-based sales cultures.