I’ve written before about the importance of relationship and how it builds loyalty, and now I’d like to consider the timeframes we use in the rental car business and how focusing on relationship and loyalty may go against traditional industry thinking.
Cars that sit are not making any money, but empty lots aren’t making any money either. It’s a balance, one that can sometimes be challenging, but being able to have corporate support is key to your success.
My experience in the industry tells me that corporate focuses on the minute. A report drawn at a certain time on a certain day is the basis for many decisions. A profitable day, week, or month will usually go unnoticed, but underperforming numbers in those same timeframes will likely get you highlighted on some report.
It’s important to advocate for your location and not get discouraged when you get a less-than warm, fuzzy response from corporate. Remember, they have responsibilities as well and they are doing a similar balance to the one you are doing.
Let me share an example to hopefully make it clearer what I’m talking about:
My location is 85 miles from my corporate parent’s nearest fleet of any size and 200 miles from the nearest large fleet location. Transportation of vehicles between locations is thus a huge issue. Sometimes I will get a request for a specialty vehicle and the question corporate always asked is “How long is the rent?” If the answer is one day or a weekend, the likely answer is that it’s not cost effective to hike the vehicle(s) 85 miles for a short rental.
Sound familiar? Now add that the Customer requesting the vehicle has spent $8,000 in rentals this year (that’s a lot for one Customer at my location) and has $3,000 more rentals scheduled. I’m a huge advocate that all Customers be treated equal, but in a case like this you need to look at the larger picture and lifetime value. There is a potential here to lose a very good account because we’re only looking at a very small window.
Companies focus on metrics and I get that and respect that. Metrics will not bring you loyal Customers. Along with all the other things you balance, you need to balance this as well. Perhaps it’s an uncomfortable conversation with a manager as you advocate for your location in a professional manner. Perhaps it’s pushing for certain rates to certain locations.
Whatever it is, look at the big picture and make your decisions based on lifetime value, not a single rental. My location sees an astronomical burst in business in the summer. I love those folks to death. If I’m forced to choose, the person that I know will rent a week every month in the winter will get priority over the wonderful people that I will only see once in my lifetime.
Balance and lifetime value. That’s what it’s all about.
Bill Packard is an Avis Budget Agency Operator with a long history of entrepreneurship focused on customer service. Packard also coaches small businesses on the significant value of increasing their retention rate. He can be reached at can be reached here.