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Employees are the face and voice of your business. Whether you’re an international corporation or a family-run company, your staff is the single most important part of your business that you offer the public.

If you don’t currently offer any incentives — or the incentives you do have aren’t generating the results you had hoped for — it’s time to review and implement a plan. Incentives not only improve your bottom line, but they also reward your employees for their achievements and empower them by making them realize their contributions to the company.

Gaining Buy In

Knowledge is the key to success. For this reason, training employees to fully understand the benchmarks of the car rental industry is critical to the success of the company. Too many rental agents only know how to mechanically rent a car — they don’t know the number of cars they need to rent to attain a daily utilization that will help produce a profit.

Good car rental operators live and die by statistics. You know your RPU (revenue per unit, per month), but do your employees? You alone can’t achieve your benchmarks; you need your employees’ help.

Share with them last month’s RPU, as well as your RPU from the same month last year. Then show them where your RPU needs to be in the current month.

If you meet your goal, reward your employees accordingly for their contributions to improving metrics such as utilization, daily dollar average and RPU.

Many Programs

There are many types of incentive programs, and it’s important that the incentives are built around what you already know how to measure.

One of the easiest metrics to track and incentivize is customer service, especially if you use the services of a secret shopper or a survey tracking company.

For a customer survey, you can choose the questions that will provide answers and insights into specific areas that need improvement, such as shuttle bus timeliness, the renter greeting, ease of check-in and more. The survey includes the rental agreement number and date and time of rental so the employee is easily identified.

Survey takers will rank each response from 0 to 100, and you can give employees a flat incentive of $25 to $50 for every 100 score they receive.

Don’t forget the car cleaners! Prepare a checklist of car cleaners’ responsibilities and make sure they initial the completed form. Have your managers take the completed checklists and inspect the vehicles prior to rental. This will determine that the car is rental ready to your standards.

For every properly prepared unit, set an incentive amount and include those rewards in their weekly paycheck. For any incentive program, add a separate line on the paycheck that identifies the incentive.

For any program, display the top-performing scores for everyone to see. While top scorers will beam with pride for being recognized, all employees will be motivated to strive for the incentive.

Effective Rewards

While most employees respond to cash bonuses or gift cards, there are other methods to motivate personnel. I allowed my best employees to work a 10-hour, four-day workweek, with three consecutive days off if they desired.

Educational opportunities are also great motivators that will not only benefit employees but will also produce a more skilled staff. Consider sending motivated and trusted employees to a class provided by your software company, a program offered by a customer service consulting agency or bring them to the Car Rental Show or Auto Rental Summit with you.

I rewarded my most loyal and long-standing employees with a trip that was fun, but also educational in a way that I couldn’t reproduce in the office.


Administer and Track

These incentives are only a few suggestions. Be creative and decide what needs improvement. Then find a method that will help you and your employees reach those goals.

Once you decide on the program, who will participate and who will administer and track it, you must make certain that the employees fully understand the program and what is expected of them.

Remember that you can’t use an incentive program to make up for low pay or a lack of benefits; you’re looking for a reward method to improve performance and motivation. You may ask yourself, “Why do I have to give money to employees to do the job I already pay them for?” The simple answer is that incentives work — and the results to the bottom line will be the proof you were looking for.

Use Awards to Incentivize

Recognition should be a key ingredient in your recipe to incentivize your employees.

You might consider a year-end awards ceremony that recognizes your company’s top performers based on your incentive plan. Or you can seek to nominate your employees for awards outside your company — such as local civics or business awards — or those offered by your franchise system, if you are part of one.

Another opportunity is to distinguish the customer service champions in your company by nominating them for the Auto Rental News Professional of the Year Awards, sponsored by American Express. Now in its third year, the Professional of the Year Awards recognizes associates who demonstrate and promote outstanding customer satisfaction within the car rental process from auto rental companies worldwide.

“Winning an award will make your associate feel more empowered and part of your team, and the example set by the winner will be a benchmark for others to strive for,” says Chris Brown, executive editor of Auto Rental News. “The nomination in and of itself shows your associates that you’re invested in them.”

The Professional of the Year Awards will be given to three associates, one each from a corporate, franchise and independent location, from any auto rental company around the world. The winners will be announced on Nov. 11 at a luncheon at the 2014 Auto Rental Summit, which will be held at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Fla.

For rules and eligibility and to nominate your associate, visit and click on the “Awards and Honors” link. Entries are being accepted now. The deadline for entries is Sept. 19, 2014.

About the Author

Sharon Faulkner was a previous franchise owner of Dollar and Thrifty Car Rental, Albany International Airport, and is currently executive director of the American Car Rental Association. Faulkner will co-present a seminar at the 2014 Auto Rental Summit titled “The Metrics and Management of Employee Compensation,” which will further explore incentive programs.