Photo via iStockphoto.com/JPNunezDesigns

Photo via iStockphoto.com/JPNunezDesigns

Car rental operators want to make the rental process as quick and easy as possible — without compromising service. Whether it’s taking information ahead of time or using electronic contracts, these operators share their tips.

Gather Information in Advance

Todd Foss — owner of Grace Bay Car Rentals, a Thrifty franchise in the Turks and Caicos Islands — doesn’t want his counter agents completing data entry in front of the customer. In fact, part of his company’s slogan is “no line up.” Agents gather a new customer’s information beforehand.

“We personally contact them by email or phone to make sure we get the essential information pre-travel,” says Foss. “It eliminates the need for customers to line up in front of a computer to watch someone type.”

This process continues when the renter returns to drop off the vehicle, according to Foss.

In order to offer a service with no line but still include a relationship experience for customers, Grace Bay Car Rentals has 11 agents working at its airport location at all times. Although Foss admits this can be expensive, it helps guarantee an agent for every customer. That way, an agent can help answer all of a renter’s questions — including tips about local restaurants, activities or hotels.

For Jimmy Fitzpatrick, general manager for Leisure Car Rental in St. Martin, it’s all about having renters complete the rental agreement during the online reservation process.

“A customer’s driver’s license, credit card information and other information are entered securely online,” says Fitzpatrick. “Customers are then auto billed on their arrival date.”

When a customer arrives to pick up the vehicle, it’s just a matter of confirming the information, performing a pre-delivery inspection of the vehicle and getting the customer’s signature, says Fitzpatrick.

Similarly, Jenn Romanowski, chief financial officer of a Dollar franchise in New Jersey, says the company’s agents obtain as much information as possible about the renter over the phone before he or she arrives, including verifying the age of the driver and discussing coverage options.

Get Contracts Ready

Whether it means preprinting the paper contracts or using electronic rental agreements on e-signature pads, the rental contract should be ready for the customer upon arrival.

The Dollar franchise in New Jersey uses electronic contracts to speed up the rental process.

After going through the e-contract and signing on the e-signature pad, a renter immediately receives a confirmation email. “Upon completion of the contract, there is a ‘ding’ on the renter’s smartphone,” says Romanowski. “The response is, ‘Wow, I just got your email!’”

Although technology can be valuable, Foss has found that electronic contracts haven’t necessarily made the rental process faster or more convenient. According to Foss, the fastest way to adhere to his company’s “no line up” policy has been preprinting paper contracts. Agents preprint all documents prior to each customer’s arrival. Then the data is entered into its rental software once the customer leaves.

In another technological solution, Therese Chapdelaine-Irons of the Dollar Rent A Car licensee in Portland and Seattle reports that her company recently added driver’s license scanners. “The scanner captures the renter’s driver’s license information from the magnetic swipe and enters the information faster and certainly more accurately than we could ever do manually,” she says.

The cost per scanner is steep — about $800 — but in addition to a faster process and better accuracy, the driver’s license scanner has prevented at least one fraudulent rental, she says.

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Let the Customer Choose

To help save time and allow the customer to choose a specific vehicle, Fox Rent-A-Car has implemented the Choice System. Traditionally, a renter reserves a car class ahead of time and then is assigned a specific unit at the counter. Then the agent walks the renter out to the specific vehicle and hands over the keys.

With Fox’s Choice System, the agent completes the contract with the requested car class at the counter but doesn’t assign a specific unit, says Sean Busking, chief operating officer.

The rental agent then directs renters to the ready line but doesn’t need to accompany them outside to the vehicles. This gives renters the opportunity to choose any of the cars in a defined area by car class — but they can still return to the office to request another car class. The keys are in the car, and the car is assigned to the contract upon departure at the checkout gate, says Busking.

“This process speeds up the counter transaction while giving the customer a greater choice of vehicles,” says Busking.

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