Enterprise Ranks Highest in Customer Satisfaction with Rental Car Companies
According to the latest J.D. Power and Associates 2012 North America Rental Car Satisfaction Study,SM consumers who rent cars are more satisfied with the experience than at any time in the past 7 years. Enterprise ranks highest in the study, and is followed in the rankings by National and Alamo.*
"The rental car industry continues to step up its game, building on improvements in the rental car customer experience made over the past several years," said Stuart Greif, vice president of the travel practice at J.D. Power and Associates. "However, there still are tremendous opportunities to leverage technology to address customer pain points in the rental car experience. There is also an opportunity to make the most out of staff interactions with customers and raise customer satisfaction levels even higher."
The study measures overall customer satisfaction with the rental car experience at airport locations, and examines six factors (listed in order of importance): costs and fees; pick-up process; return process; rental car; shuttle bus/van; and reservation process. The largest year-over-year improvements across the industry are in the shuttle bus/van and cost and fees factors.
Improving satisfaction, however, might be as simple as greeting a customer with a smile. According to the study, customer satisfaction dramatically improves when rental agency staff members greet customers with a smile when they're picking up their vehicle and when they're returning their vehicle, 801 vs. 652, respectively (on a 1,000-point scale).
"While the investment in the vehicles and running rental car operations is significant, how much does it cost to provide a genuine warm smile?" said Greif. "A friendly greeting and attitude toward helping customers goes a long way, and it doesn't cost millions of dollars."
The study also demonstrates that while business customers tend to be more critical of their rental car experience, they also tend to be more loyal. "Business customers tend to rent more frequently, so they are more aware of what to expect and they are often pressed for time, thus speed and efficiency are critical to their satisfaction," said Ramez Faza, senior manager of the travel practice at J.D. Power and Associates. "Leisure/personal customers tend to shop around more and search for the best value and are often more satisfied with cost and fees than are business customers." According to the study, 41 percent of leisure/personal customers selected their rental car company based on price.
Another factor impacting satisfaction with renting cars is whether the customer waits in line to speak to an agent at a counter, or uses a counter bypass program or kiosk. Satisfaction with the pick-up process is higher among customers using counter bypass programs or kiosks than among customers using counter pick-up, even at dedicated loyalty member counters.
"Rental car companies must continue to balance the need to serve their customers more quickly with the need to improve service," said Faza. "There are benefits to reducing wait times, as customer satisfaction tends to decrease after 5 minutes at any given stage of the process."
J.D. Power and Associates provides the following tips to consumers when renting a car:
- Before renting a car and accepting the rental company's insurance rider, know what your own auto insurance policy or credit card personal liability coverage covers. Also, remember that your insurance deductible will apply to any incident with the rental car.
- Consider joining a rental car company's loyalty/membership program. Benefits may include discount pricing, check-in counter bypass service, free airline miles, and more.
- If you plan to use your mobile phone in the rented vehicle, check in advance to see if it offers Bluetooth hands-free connectivity. If not, pack your own Bluetooth or other headset, as some states have laws against using a hand-held mobile phone while driving.
- When renting a car for long trips, consider a hybrid model to reduce fuel expenses, but be sure to weigh the possible daily or weekly premium against projected fuel savings.
- Keep in mind that car rental prices at airports may be higher than car rental prices at off-site locations. If you can take a shuttle bus to your hotel or another location and rent a car from there, you could save money.