There is no better evidence of implementing a DIY approach within the car rental industry than Noah Lehmann-Haupt, founder and president of Gotham Dream Cars, and Sharky Laguana, CEO and founder of Bandago Van Rental. These self-declared nerds built and hand-coded their own reservations and management systems.
While you’re most likely not in a position to build your own systems from the ground up, you can benefit from their implementation of new technology that can be applied to your car rental operations. They presented their findings during a seminar at the 2015 International Car Rental Show in Las Vegas.
Lehmann-Haupt and Laguana shared information and use-case scenarios regarding the latest in payment processing, payroll and health insurance management and analytics software. A hallmark of these systems is their ease of use and relatively low costs.
Streamlining Payment Processing
Stripe, an all-in-one payment processing service, is rising in popularity. Laguana’s Bandago Van Rental uses this payment processing system.
Laguana pointed out that Stripe is user and developer friendly, has strong customer support service and has low fees. Other benefits include data portability, integrated mobile payments via Apple Pay, Android Pay and Bitcoin and earnings that are transferred on a two-day rolling basis.
Lehmann-Haupt described key aspects of Stripe that make it outshine its competitors. Stripe performs conversion optimization on its checkout interface by running tests on the type of checkout form that makes someone more likely to input his or her credit card number and complete it. Then, Stripe applies the results of its tests across the whole network, he said.
“Merchants running Stripe get the benefit of data from millions of transactions happening around the world and that service is free of charge,” Lehmann-Haupt said.
Payment processing is done strictly online; there is no need to purchase devices to facilitate transactions. Customers input their information directly through an online form, or employees can enter the information into the company’s internal reservation system or through Stripe’s online website.
“I found Stripe really easy to integrate, and it’s made a lot of things easier for us,” Laguana said.
Stripe also helps in processing customers’ old parking violations or tickets. If the violation happened months before and the credit card information has expired or changed, Stripe automatically updates with the new information and will notify you when a card is updated. This service is also free of charge.
Utilizing the Backend
Lehmann-Haupt and Laguana mentioned payroll, accounting and health insurance solutions like ZenPayroll, Zenefits, Zane Benefits and Xero. These services are part of what is known as Backend as a Service or BaaS for short.
ZenPayroll is targeted toward small businesses by reducing the headache of payroll processes that are cumbersome for owners while it solidifies the connection between owners and their employees.
The program guides employees through the onboarding process, providing paystubs both through email and a web portal. It also handles filing and paying payroll taxes on behalf of the employer. The base price is $25 plus $4 per person employed.
Zenefits handles various human resources aspects including payroll, benefits and insurance coverage. The service is free of charge, as the company turns a profit by taking a commission as the insurance broker — if the business changes its health care plans once it signs with Zenefits.
Employees can log on to a custom portal and see all of their information in one place. They can e-sign offer letters and employee manuals, submit payroll information, sign up for benefits, and employers can even run background checks on them.
Zane Benefits also focuses on small businesses, and assisting with health insurance queries and more. Specifically, Zane Benefits provides small businesses with a solution for individual health insurance plans. Employees are able to choose coverage from government exchanges, pay for their health plan directly, and receive reimbursement up to a defined amount by submitting proof of payment to Zane.
Laguana stated that Bandago has been experimenting with Zane Benefits, but he also noted that there is some controversy with the service. He suggested operators determine their level of comfort with Zane’s approach before signing up.
QuickBooks Online is a popular cloud-based accounting service that Laguana has used for many years. The program’s payroll service is similar to what ZenPayroll offers. However, Laguana is not enthusiastic about it.
“The software is very slow, and it’s difficult to get them to respond to customer issues,” said Laguana. “If I were starting over, I would take a long look at some of the competition.”
Xero is a rising competitor to QuickBooks that has attracted many customers through its cloud-based accounting software for small businesses. Xero allows applications like Stripe, PayPal and Expensify to be integrated smoothly.
“Xero was built from the ground up with an open-platform, so it’s easier for other services to interact with it,” said Laguana. “And it’s a lot cheaper if you have lots of employees generating invoices, because they do not charge per user the way QuickBooks does.”
“The advantage [to these services] is that they are cloud-based and people can log on to them from anywhere,” said Laguana.
Analyzing Web Traffic
An important way to monitor web activity is through analytics software. Lehmann-Haupt and Laguana outlined web analytics services that are all fast, easy-to-use and free or of low cost.
Google Analytics tracks and reports your website’s traffic. “It shows you how many unique visitors are on your website and lets you generate traffic reports,” said Lehmann-Haupt.
Google offers free online training on how to use and understand Google Analytics. “Google Analytics is free because Google uses the analytics data from customers around the world to help them improve their search results and understand what’s going on across the Internet in real-time,” said Lehmann-Haupt.
Segment.com is a customer analytics data program that Lehmann-Haupt uses for Gotham Dream Cars.
Segment gathers data on who your users are, what they are doing on your site and where they are when they are visiting your site.
“It [Segment] acts almost like a router to get that data easily to other services, like Google Analytics, without having to add code for each new service,” said Lehmann-Haupt.
Optimizely serves as an easy way to measure and improve your website through A/B testing. In conducting A/B testing, you would compare two versions of a web page to see which one performs better. You would show each version to similar visitors at the same time.
“Software like Optimizely lets you analyze button usage, monitor click-throughs, and lets you generate heat maps on your website,” said Lehmann-Haupt.
Lehmann-Haupt stated that heat maps allow you to see where people are actually clicking and where their mouse is hovering over for an extended amount of time. Heat maps give you a better sense of where people are interacting with your software.
There are two versions: Starter, which is free, and Enterprise.