When people think about their travel experience and who provided them a service during their vacation or business trip, the car rental company often gets forgotten. The majority of car rental customers view the activity of renting a car as something to be endured rather than enjoyed.

I am certain there are people reading this and saying, “Tell me something I don’t know.” My question for the industry is, “Does it have to be that way?”

The reality is that the rental provider gets forgotten. It’s not because the car rental industry lacks technology, speed, or creative ways for a customer to choose a vehicle. It gets forgotten because the industry has forgotten that the rental process — and product — is an experience.

Over the last four years, Frontline Performance Group has expanded our services into the hotel industry. Seeing the operating similarities between the hotel and car rental world has been an eye-opening experience.

Based on our hotel experience, we developed a list of tactics that the car rental industry can implement to provide a greater human touch.

Impressions Matter

The impression you make on your guests begins even before they see the main product. Oftentimes, rental car customers approach their respective rental counter or express area and are bombarded with product information, selling tools, and outdated copies of coverage options.

Having too many visuals for a customer is a distraction. It signals to your customer that “You are going to be sold.” The last time you checked into a nice hotel or a mid-level hotel, did you see anything on the desk?

If you feel compelled to use sales tools, invest in doing it properly and place your content on a tablet. This is a common practice within the hotel world; it enhances the guest experience and improves the sales of suites and amenities.

Lobby Presence

In the hotel industry, having a manager present at the front desk during high check-in and checkout periods is common practice.

Good hotel operators schedule every manager and supervisor to a three-hour “visibility post” at least once a month. This means every manager from every operating area — whether it is front or back of the house — must fill a time slot. Not only does it provide the front desk team an extra resource, it also keeps everyone in tune with the guest experience.

Why can’t we commit to this practice within car rental? Car rental managers face challenges and operate under many constraints, but if a management team makes a collective effort to strategically spread its presence at the front counter during select time periods, service will improve and many problems will be avoided.

Connected Concierges

People like experts and trust service providers who can speak from a positon of authority. Hotel concierges advise, comfort, and point the way for customers.

In car rental, especially in mid-size to large locations, I believe having a concierge situated away from the counter can enhance the guest experience, improve sales of supporting products, and help move the line along.

Having a concierge post on your schedule will also provide agents — who have a good attitude and knowledge of your city but lack the desire or skill set to sell — an opportunity to serve customers and the operation.

Staff Engagement Matters

“Ladies and Gentlemen, Serving Ladies and Gentlemen” is the legendary operating philosophy of the Ritz-Carlton, and it helps guide many decisions made by its hotel management team.

Car rental operators love their team members and want to see them succeed, but in many cases, the rental industry falls short in the areas of quantifying team engagement, individual agent customer service scores, staff attrition, and internal associate recruitment referrals.

If you disagree with this, ask yourself, “Do we look at associate engagement and customer experience as much as we look at incremental sales yield, utilization, and claims recovery?” If you regard them as the same, then you are on the correct track.

When it comes to the product, strategic pricing, brand positioning, rewards, speed of service, booking channels, product accessibility, and technology, the car rental industry holds its own with other industries. It is critical that we ask ourselves if the innovations we have put in place benefit the human experience as much as the speed of process. I believe that starting with these four simple “human” tactics can help raise the customer’s impression of the rental process.


Ken Stellon is a partner with Frontline Performance Group (fpg). Stellon can be reached at kstellon@frontlinepg.com or via Twitter @KenStellon.