The Hertz display at the 2018 Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) convention in San Diego featured a Topgolf driving simulator.   - Photo courtesy of Hertz.

The Hertz display at the 2018 Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) convention in San Diego featured a Topgolf driving simulator. 

 

Photo courtesy of Hertz.

Amidst the splashier headlines of carsharing startups, mobility partnerships, and autonomous vehicle deployments, Hertz is focused on targeted, customer-first initiatives that deliver acquisition and retention benefits and a definable ROI.

This message came across to Auto Rental News when sitting down with Hertz executives Bob Stuart, executive vice president of global sales, and Jodi Allen, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, at the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) convention last week in San Diego.

“If you understand your customer’s pain points and you innovate around them, that’s when you get to real breakthrough innovation,” Allen said.

For example, Allen references the stress of parking a rental car in an unfamiliar city. With Hertz’s recent partnership with SpotHero, a parking reservations service, Hertz customers can access SpotHero parking locations in more than 70 U.S. cities through the Hertz app.

For business travelers, “The three most critical benefits are speed, service, and convenience,” she said. “That’s the focus of our innovation plan.”

Hertz continues to expand its Ultimate Choice program, now available in 59 markets. Rolled out 18 months ago, Ultimate Choice allows members of Hertz’s Gold Plus Rewards loyalty program to bypass the rental counter line and go directly to the lot where they can choose, depending on membership level, a specific vehicle from various car classes on the spot.

“We know by virtue of offering that choice in those locations, our NPS (Net Promoter Scores) go up significantly,” Allen said.

With new carsharing and on-demand startups making headlines, Hertz is taking a more targeted approach with its technology with specific traveler types. A partnership with Lufthansa Airlines allows employees to rent from a pool of cars — about 850 vehicles at this point — in the German airports they fly into using an RFID token or Hertz 24/7 app to open the car.

In the U.K., Hertz’s partnership with B&Q, a home improvement retailer, allows customers on-demand access to a Hertz van to bring home larger purchased items and return the vehicle to the store.

Hertz has installed customer experience teams in its top 25 airport locations. “We strive for great experiences 100% of the time, but for the times we don’t take care of the customer, we realize we need to take care of the problem at the point of transaction,” Stuart says. “We’re starting to see positive feedback (with this initiative).”

Other initiatives represent more traditional branding opportunities that put Hertz top of mind among diverse demographic groups, such as partnerships with Topgolf, the high-concept driving range chain, and sponsorship of William Byron, the 20-year-old NASCAR driver and rookie of the year contender.

But how do you move the needle in North America, perhaps the most mature car rental market in the world?

A mature market doesn’t necessarily preclude growth, according to Stuart. “Fewer than 7% of the Fortune 500 companies are exclusive to one car rental brand,” he said, “and Hertz is doing business with 70% of them.”

Thus improving the experience can be a motivator. “These recent enhancements to the customer experience are delivering share gains within our portfolio,” he continued. “It is a mature market, but we’re finding ways to expand the customer base.”

In fact, the overall rental pie is actually growing, considering the exponential expansion of ride hailing and the need of Uber and Lyft drivers to find reliable wheels. While it took a while to find the sweet spot of vehicle type, depreciation, and terms and conditions, Hertz now has 29,000 rental cars on the road in this segment.

In light of these specific rollouts, Hertz is also putting resources to the big picture. “We have a technology team looking into new initiatives and mobility trends,” Stuart said. 

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