Photo via iStockphoto/Yuri_Arcurs

Photo via iStockphoto/Yuri_Arcurs

An extremely high percentage of car rental professionals act in a responsible fashion and keep their operation’s best interest at heart while doing the right thing to serve their customers.

However, a few rotten apples can ruin the image, atmosphere and working environment of an operation in an instant.

On-site crime can take place in the form of employees taking additional liberties with your fleet, rental agents permitting additional discounts, unchecked team members “liberating” items from the lost and found or someone blatantly stealing from the cash drawer.

The following strategies will help lower your potential employee theft risk and improve your bottom line.

A Tough Interview Process Generates Good Employees

Establishing a multi-step interview process will provide your team enough checkpoints to spot potential trouble employees.

  • Establish a stage-one interview screening call: This important stage will allow your human resources team to set expectations and gain the candidate’s consent for future background checks.
  • Utilize background, driving and credit checks: This ensures candidates know that a job offer is contingent on a clean check.
  • Check references: All too often references are just window dressing on a resume. Good operators utilize references as an avenue to learn more about the candidate and his or her potential limitations. Great operators ask for additional references not listed on the candidate’s resume.
  • Ask open-ended and behavioral questions: Ask questions that make them think of witnessing a crime or unethical activity. Ask them how they would respond to witnessing a similar activity at your operation. Have them define character, integrity and accountability.
  • Learn motivational drivers: Determine what motivates them and why they are leaving their current employer.
  • Balance interview impressions with personality profile assessments: Understanding what makes candidates tick takes more than a brief interview. Personality profiles will help your interview team understand the candidate’s sincerity level.

Define Criminal Activities

It is no secret that the margins within the industry are thin. However, to some unscrupulous staff members the sight of shiny facilities, new cars, nice employee uniforms and lines of customers awakens a Robin Hood alter ego within them.

Educating your team on the financial realities of business as well as stressing the importance of inventory and financial control will set their initial impressions in the correct manner.

Educating your staff on what is considered criminal activity is a critical element of your loss prevention program. Defining potential losses into inappropriate activities under the headings of asset, customer and financial will help communicate expectations.

Basic examples of inappropriate asset activities include: unauthorized use of fleet vehicles, fuel theft, GPS theft, unreported damage caused to fleet vehicles and driving fleet vehicles with reckless intent.

Examples of inappropriate customer-related activities include: renting vehicles for personal use without a manager’s permission, presenting ancillary products in an unethical fashion and disclosure of customers’ personal information to a third party.

Examples of inappropriate financial-related activities include: cash drawer procedure violations, rental agreement discounts or “comps” for personal gain, manipulation of personal sales stats for personal incentive gain and manipulation of time card or log-in times.

These inappropriate and criminal activities need to be communicated within a new hire’s induction period. Involving your security, operations and HR team will set the correct tone.


When the Cat’s Away the Mice Will Play

Locations that have relatively low theft and employee issues have consistent management presence on the counters and at the check-in area.

Just like good police forces, good managers understand when “hot zones” occur within their shift. They understand the stress of high-volume hours and that employees need time to decompress. Knowing these critical spikes within your day will allow for a manager to plan supporting visits or unexpected audit visits to his or her operation.

Good operators also understand that making your presence felt even when off-site will cast the perception that the operation is protected.

Good Environments, Lower Operational Risks

Protecting your team environment is just as important as protecting a luxury SUV or the cash drawer itself. Operations that have positive work environments will have fewer employee issues. These environmental elements will help lower employee theft:

  • Fair and balanced incentive plans: Sales goals are set in a fair fashion with achievable stretch targets.
  • Opportunities to advance: If your environment demonstrates a clear track record for advancement, employees have less motivation to do fraudulent activities.
  • Internal referral incentives: Great people know great people. A recent FPG/ARN study found that 41% of top performers were referred to their current rental operation by another team member.
  • Quarterly employee cultural surveys: Providing your team with an anonymous avenue to share their feedback will build employee trust and provide your senior leaders with a road map to follow.

Although the premise of this article is of a serious tone, it should not take away from the fact that you are in a vibrant and healthy industry that changes frequently.

That said, some individuals will act as their own agent when the opportunity is right. Being mindful of these concepts will allow you to stay on top of troubling situations.

5 Tactics to Lower Employee Thefts

1. Mystery shops: Incorporating team training and incentive awards will provide an additional level of accountability for your team.

2. A daily game plan: Using this will make a manager’s presence felt and will document rate and scheduling expectations.

3. A sales and service board: Peer ranking a team is a fair way of stressing accountability and creates an additional level of urgency.

4. Location cameras and counter cameras: Placing cameras at the location and utilizing them for sales training is a great way to develop the team and effectively coach the staff. It is important to check with your HR and operations team prior to implementing this tool. Each state has different consumer laws around recorded transactions.

5. Tracking software and devices: Adding GPS-enabled software not only helps with fleet management and recovery, but it also sends a strong message to the team that your operation values the fleet.

About The Author

Ken Stellon is a managing partner with the Frontline Performance Group. Since 1999, Stellon has contributed to Auto Rental News and has presented at the Car Rental Show on a wide variety of topics.