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13 Jul, 2016

Enterprise Wins Top Honors at WAVE Awards

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Enterprise Rent-A-Car earned top honors for Best Travel Agent Support and Highest Client Satisfaction at the 2016 TravelAge West WAVE (Western Agents’ Votes of Excellence) Awards.

Honorees were recognized in 68 categories that spanned the cruise, tour operator, airline, rail, car rental, travel insurance, GDS, hotel and resort, and destination travel fields. The awards gave travel agents in the western U.S. the opportunity to recognize qualities and services of their travel supplier partners, according to the company.

“Creating strong relationships with our travel agent partners continues to be a high priority for Enterprise,” said Jeff Coggin, Enterprise’s assistant vice president of travel agency sales. “That’s why the WAVE awards are particularly meaningful. Earning such positive feedback from our travel agent partners confirms that our efforts to provide outstanding client service are being well received.”

Travel agents throughout the 15 Western states — and readers alike — were invited to vote on a list of award finalists chosen by TravelAge West. The editorial staff made their initial selections based on product analysis, on-site visits, a survey of a select group of travel agents, and online research.

“The WAVE Awards are a great gauge of how travel companies are perceived by agents,” said Ken Shapiro, editor-in chief of TravelAge West. “Our readers are always enthusiastic about supporting the companies that are great to work with and that consistently deliver for travelers.”

Source: Auto Rental News

13 Jul, 2016

Anatomy of a Customer Call

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In today’s rental process, a customer’s experience still often starts with the initial phone call. It can set the tone for a car rental company’s customer service, the revenue for the rental, and whether the customer will return.

What are the components of good (and bad) calls?

A panel seminar at the 2016 International Car Rental Show shed light on the answer by analyzing actual rental agent calls with customers, with the goal of giving attendees and their staffs the tools to improve their phone skills — to book the reservation and win a repeat customer.

The calls were evaluated by Jason Manelli, vice president of marketing forInternational Franchise Systems (IFS), the franchisor and corporate parent of the Rent-A-Wreck, Priceless, and Nextcar rental brands; Jon Dill, contact center director of IFS; Ian Kusinitz, owner of Empire Rent A Car; and Doris Morningstar, senior media consultant at Hibu, an online marketing agency.

Here is a compendium of their assessments and recommendations.

Good Calls

  • A positive tone sets the stage.

A rental agent’s tone can make or break a call. A pleasant and enthusiastic tone communicates a positive attitude to customers, fosters engagement, and builds a relationship. This should go without saying, but its importance is often overlooked. Based on tone, a customer can tell whether an agent is willing to help, the panelists said.

After listening to a call, Dill pointed out how the agent kept the conversation on a positive note with wording like “How does that sound to you?”

“She wanted to be talking to the customer, and you could hear it in the tone of her voice,” said Dill.

Remember, a customer can hear a smile over the phone. “Tone is an underappreciated and a nuanced thing to manage and train,” said Manelli.

  • Identifying repeat customers enables higher sales.

Asking if the caller is a repeat customer can help make the sale easier. According to Kusinitz, identifying repeat customers allows agents to pull up their rental history to gauge how much they’d be willing to spend for the next rental. If the customer upgraded previously, remember to present upgrade opportunities this time, said Kusinitz.

After asking if the caller is a repeat customer, it’s important to acknowledge his or her loyalty to the company. In one of the calls, the panelists praised the agent who said “welcome back” when the caller indicated that she had rented there before.

Morningstar recommends thanking repeat customers for their business. “It’s hard to get a new client, so make sure you keep your previous clients loyal to you,” she said.

  • Mentioning specials incentivizes immediate (and possibly longer) bookings.

Bringing up discounts or specials encourages the renter to book now. If the caller wants the vehicle for more than a few days, mentioning a weekly special could incentivize a longer rental. “With that class, we have a weekly special with unlimited mileage. How does that sound?”

“She mentioned the weekly special and had the total added up instead of giving the daily rate,” said Morningstar.

When the agent gives a total price for the week instead of breaking it down by the day, it helps to put the customer in those terms.

  • Inquiring about new reservations leads to new business.

“Do you have any additional questions or any other future reservations for me?” asked an agent in one of the calls.

Morningstar liked that the agent was thinking ahead to try to get another sale. “I don’t hear this in many calls,” she said, adding that this gets the caller thinking about upcoming plans. “The agent might as well book the reservation then and there and plan ahead.”

During the seminar, panelists (l to r) Doris Morningstar of Hibu, Ian Kusinitz of Empire Rent A Car, and Jon Dill of International Franchise Systems rated several recorded sales calls. Photo by Amy Winter-Hercher.
During the seminar, panelists (l to r) Doris Morningstar of Hibu, Ian Kusinitz of Empire Rent A Car, and Jon Dill of International Franchise Systems rated several recorded sales calls. Photo by Amy Winter-Hercher.

Phone Call Don’ts

  • Rushing the customer erodes established goodwill.

At the beginning of a call, an agent laughed at the caller when she mentioned that she needed a car within an hour or two.

“That’s not a good way to develop a relationship with the customer,” said Dill. “The agent was rude by laughing at the customer.”

In the same call, the agent rushed the caller when she was trying to look up her insurance information, peppering her with questions while she looked for her insurance policy.

Once the caller found her insurance policy number, the agent interrupted her and told her to just bring the information when she came into the office.

  • Waiting on getting the caller’s number risks losing the reservation.

During one of the recorded calls, the agent not only didn’t book a reservation over the phone but he also never asked for the caller’s name or number. He just told the caller to come into the office.
Caller: “I’ll be there in about 40 minutes.”

Agent: “OK. See you in a bit.”

What if the customer never showed up? If the agent doesn’t have a contact number, he or she can’t call to confirm that the potential customer is going to come in and book the reservation.

Additionally, if an agent gets the caller’s name at the beginning, he or she can use the name throughout the conversation.

“From the research that I’ve done, using someone’s name three times in a conversation really helps to build rapport,” said Morningstar.

  • Handling the phone sale and the counter customer is a disservice to both.

Answering phone calls while helping customers at the counter is too distracting, our panelists said, because agents can’t give their full attention to both customers at the same time.

“It becomes problematic,” said Kusinitz, explaining that the customer at the counter is today’s business, while the person on the phone represents future business. “You can’t be doing both at the same time.”

During a call, the agent was preoccupied with helping a person at the counter when she answered the phone. She ended up losing the sale on the phone.

This reinforces the need for the agent to get the caller’s number. If it gets busy at the counter, “The agent then says, ‘I have a customer at the counter right now and I would love to give both of you 100% of my attention. Can I give you a call back?’” said an audience member during the seminar.

“That way, both customers hear that they are important to the company. The agents end up getting the sale because they called the customer back.”

  • Don’t muddy the sales pitch by giving too much information.

During a call, the agent overly explained the deposit requirements. “The agent gave the customer too much information,” said Dill. “The deposit requirement is your company’s policy and you don’t have to explain every detail.”

Dill also commented on how an agent provided too much qualifying information before discussing the rate. The agent wasn’t selling the customer; the customer only wanted to know specific details like the price, the number of miles included, and the benefits and features of the vehicle.

“The agent needs to paint the experience for the customer,” said Dill. “The customer only knows what we tell them. When they call the next company and they explain it better, the customer will probably book with them.”

Source: Auto Rental News

13 Jul, 2016

Make a Game of It: Strategies to Improve Employee Engagement

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We all have been engaged at some level of gamification throughout our lives. In business, big brand companies have been using gamification techniques for decades to improve sales and brand loyalty as well as increase customer retention.

Today, the name of the game is retaining employees and increasing their level of engagement. Engagement is paramount to create a better ambassador for your brand and increase the loyalty of your most important customer — your employee.

Making priorities like financial target achievement, skills development, and team cohesiveness a focus for your team members — as it is for your organizational leaders — is at the crux of achieving peak performance.
“Gamification” is proving to be one of the most effective ways to bridge this gap.

The stats are staggering as to why gamification should be one of your top initiatives. Recent employee surveys have detailed the issues in the current workforce: $11 billion is lost annually in the United States due to employee turnover, while only 16% of the U.S. workforce is “fully engaged.”

Here are the steps to creating and implementing a gamification plan.

Step 1: Create the Environment

Creating an environment of healthy competition where stakes are measured, rewards are earned, and everyone is driven toward a common goal move the needle more quickly than simply creating a stick- and-carrot environment where rewards can quickly lose their luster.

Healthy competition also has the added element of creating a buzz around strategic initiatives that can have your teams thinking and talking (positively) about work, even when they are off the clock. That’s a sign of an engaged workforce and the signature of an organization, not just a place where people work.

Step 2: Gain Buy In

The most effective gamification strategies come from soliciting the people who will be playing the game.

A recent survey by TalentLMS found that the great majority of respondents were in favor of point systems, multiple difficulty levels, real-time performance feedback, online learning, and leaderboards that allowed them to compete with colleagues.

Step 3: Establish the Rules

Gamification is not only about contests, it’s also about applying game-design elements and principles in non-game contexts. These techniques will turn a temporary pop in numbers into sustainable success:

Keep it simple: The strategy should be easily explained as to the concept, the actual game, and the goal of the game.

Focus on both the individual and the team: To get every level of your team involved, you should incorporate not only individual achievements but also a team-focused element. This helps build a team environment; everyone has a stake in the outcome — individually and collectively.

Solicit game ideas from the group: If your team is part of the process of creating a gamification strategy, ask for ideas to create a higher level of engagement. It also promotes ownership on their part to improve the sustainability and success of that particular strategy.

Make it voluntary: Participants should have the option to participate. Forcing someone to participate will only increase his or her level of disengagement. A proper strategy — with employees assisting on the development of the strategy — will help reduce the number of team members not willing to participate. Be patient, they will come around.

Keep an eye on the prize: There should be a goal to each of the strategies. This goal should be able to be measured, attained, and easily explained to all of those participating.

Step 4: Keep a Scoreboard

As outlined in “The 4 Disciplines of Execution” by Chris McChesney and Sean Covey, keeping a compelling scoreboard engages your team by reporting if the team is winning or losing. The keys to an effective scoreboard include:

Use an engaging method: Remember, you are motivating your frontline; these are people-focused workers who are not always numbers-focused. Thus, printing up sales reports and tacking them to a cork board is not an effective way to motivate. After the first few days of the report being on the board, even if you post an updated report daily, people stop taking notice.

Make it visible to the team: Does your team have access to the program and then sign on and log in to see the score? If not, it’s not visible to the team. The team is the organization — from the C suite to middle managers to the frontline. Not all will have quick access. You want your scoreboard to be quickly accessible, easily viewed, and able to be updated daily.

Highlight the right metrics: If your organization is like many others, there is a constant threat of analysis paralysis. Many metrics often change depending on which report you use or who you are asking. Focus on the base metrics that impact the overall numbers.

For example, if you are measuring revenue, is there a volume component that your frontline cannot control? If so, move to a more accurate measurement, such as revenue divided by transaction or revenue divided by rental days. It evens the playing field — an agent who works a busier shift may generate more revenue but be far less effective in your sales process.

Demonstrate the leaders: You should be able to tell at a glance whether the team is achieving its goal or how far it has to go to meet its goal. The use of a thermometer measurement is a fast way to do this.

Photo via iStockPhoto.com/RawPixel Ltd
Photo via iStockPhoto.com/RawPixel Ltd

Step 5: Maintain Engagement

Mary is a top performer and wins every contest. She’s at the top of every scoreboard, and the rest of the team members know they are playing for second place. Remember, the goal of gamification is to keep everyone engaged and to move the numbers by generating higher productivity levels from mid and lower performers.

Avoid the pitfall of creating contests where people are knocked out of the game; it doesn’t do well for achieving real-life results.

To keep everyone involved, try implementing a raffle. Team members earn chances to be in the raffle through effective offers, generating sales, or achieving key metrics. Obviously, the more chances you have the better your chances of winning, but even your low performers have a chance to win right up through the end of the game.

Another engagement tool is to have team members post their personal best transactions on the game board. It’s a way to have them keep striving for higher levels of service and sales, and it shows the rest of the team what is possible.

Step 6: Make Them Accountable

People will work hard not to let their boss down, but they will do almost anything not to let their peers down. Create an environment of accountability where everyone is pitching in to achieve a common goal.

Even if there is a healthy team-versus-team competition, it can be structured so the lower performers of a given team can score the highest points for their team.

Lower performers have a better chance to win this one: Most improved team members compete against a baseline that they set the previous month (or first two weeks of the month) compared to the second two weeks. But don’t announce this contest until the first day of the contest — no sandbagging!

Source: Auto Rental News

13 Jul, 2016

Singapore to Launch All-Electric Carsharing Program

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Singapore plans to launch its first all-electric carsharing program by the middle of 2017, according to a report by the Bangkok Post.

The 10-year program will be operated by BlueSG, a subsidiary of the Bollore Group. Currently, Bollore Group operates electric carsharing programs in Paris, Bordeaux, Lyon, and Indianapolis.

The carsharing program will initially begin with 125 electric vehicles and 250 charging locations in Ang Mo Kio, Jurong East, and Punggol, says the report. Available for public use on a paid subscription basis, users can book the vehicles through an online app and return the car to any station near their destination.

By 2020, the goal is to get 10,000 electric vehicles on the road and to set up 2,000 charging locations across Singapore, according to the report. Up to 20% of those charging locations will be available for public use while the remainder will be for Bollore’s commercial use, says the report.

Click here for the full Bangkok Post report.

Source: Auto Rental News

13 Jul, 2016

Europcar Australia to Offer Ski Carriers

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Europcar Australia will offer ski carrier cars this winter with the introduction of its specialized Mitsubishi Outlander fleet.

The Mitsubishi Outlander vehicles are fitted with Thule racks that can hold up to six skis or four snowboards. These vehicles are currently available through Europcar city and airport locations in Melbourne, Sydney, and Canberra, according to the company.

Ron Santiago, managing director of Europcar Australia and New Zealand, said the vehicles will help meet the needs of ski enthusiasts, families, and travelers preparing for the winter holiday season. “Europcar is committed to providing customers with peace of mind; whether it be helping to ensure their ski and snowboard equipment arrives in one piece or easing the burden of loading and unloading the car.”

The snow package also comes with a set of snow chains as well as snow coverage for accidents that occur above the snow line.

“We understand our customers’ needs and are committed to investing in safe travel solutions and continue to look at new initiatives that we can introduce to positively impact our customers’ experience,” said Santiago.

13 Jul, 2016

Global Business Travel Spending to Reach $1.3 Trillion

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Global business travel spend topped $1.2 trillion USD in 2015, growing 5% over 2014, and is forecast to reach 1.3 trillion in 2016, according to the “GBTA BTI Outlook – Annual Global Report & Forecast,” a new report released by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) Foundation and sponsored by Visa Inc.

Despite continued global uncertainty, cautious optimism rules the forecast, which predicts global business travel spend to advance 5.8% on average over the next five years reaching $1.6 trillion in 2020, according to the report.

“Global business travel remains a critical driver of the success of organizations around the globe,” said Michael W. McCormick, GBTA’s executive director and COO. “Business travel has demonstrated a tremendous resiliency as it continues slow and steady progress even in the face of global uncertainty, a weakened global economy, terrorist attacks, world health issues, and other obstacles. Companies across the globe clearly understand the return on investment business travel delivers for their bottom line.”

At $291 billion, China surpassed the United States as the largest business travel market in the world in 2015.

Sustained economic uncertainty and mixed results among the major business travel markets will drive continued moderate growth, but as GBTA looks ahead towards 2020, it expects there will be a difference in the relative performance of business travel markets around the globe, according to the company.

Both India and Indonesia will average double-digit growth in business travel spending over the next five years. China’s economic growth continues to moderate, and according to GBTA, China’s business travel market will be the fifth fastest growing major market in the world over the next five years — a vast departure from their #1 average ranking over the last 15 years.

Despite declines in growth, China remains the largest single market opportunity for travel suppliers and marketers as their $291 billion market size coupled with 8.4% average growth will lead to the largest gains in spending of any major market by far, according to the report.

The annual forecast was compiled before the U.K. voted for Brexit on June 23, but the added uncertainty the vote brings will likely make its mark felt on business travel. The financial upheaval and pending changes to trade and immigration rules will raise management heartburn causing some postponement, and even outright cancellation of business trips, according to the GBTA. It may also trigger travel budget constriction as management seeks to hedge the uncertainty.

“While overall growth has remained steady despite global uncertainties, signs are good for a solid end to the decade as we approach 2020,” said David Henstock, vice president of Global Business Solutions at Visa Inc. “Business travel has continued to evolve as the world is becoming more connected, and the transition to electronic payments will help businesses reduce costs and pay for travel expenses more efficiently.”

13 Jul, 2016

Wholesale Prices Reach Four-Year High

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Wholesale used vehicle prices (on a mix-, mileage-, and seasonally adjusted basis) increased for the third consecutive month in June, resulting in aManheim Index reading of 126.2.

After rising every month in the second quarter, wholesale prices are now at their highest level in more than four years — only 1.3% from the record high reached in May 2011, according to Manheim.

A straight average of auction prices for rental risk units sold in June jumped nearly 18% from a year ago, according to Manheim.

Last June, the average mileage on rental risk units was a record-high 51,200 miles. This year, it fell to 38,500 miles — the lowest since December 2013, says Manheim. June’s mix of crossovers and vans was significantly higher, while the share of rental risk unit sales accounted for by mid-size cars was down. Rental units being sold at auction this June were also in better condition.

Rental risk auction prices — adjusted for broad changes in mix and mileage (but not condition) — were flat in June relative to a year ago. Prices were up 2.2% from May on significantly lower volume, according to Manheim.

All of the strength in wholesale pricing remains concentrated in pickups, vans, and certain sports cars — the same segments that are enjoying the strongest increases in average new vehicle transaction price. Wholesale pricing for all other market classes is flat to down.

Source: Auto Rental News

13 Jul, 2016

Quick Turn-Around Facility Opens at Bismarck Airport

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North Dakota’s Bismarck Airport has added a quick turn-around facility (QTA) to consolidate all of its on-airport rental car operations. The facility opened on June 1.

The project was led by Conrac Solutions Project Delivery, the same team who developed consolidated rent-a-car facilities (conracs) in Anchorage and Austin. The project is the first privately developed on-airport QTA in the country.

“This project has been discussed for years,” said Dan Haus, owner of Avis Rent A Car in Bismarck. “It’s always been a priority of the car rental industry and airport to meet the needs of our customers, and by utilizing private delivery to complete the QTA, we were able to achieve a solution that works for everyone.”

Conrac Solutions privately developed the facility by ground-leasing the site from the airport and then managing the design, build, finance, day-to-day operations, and long-term maintenance of the facility, according to the company. Beyond risk mitigation, privatization allows airports to use other airport funds for core projects, such as a runway expansion. A customer facility charge, paid by rental car customers over the lease term, provides debt repayment.

By consolidating car wash facilities, vacuum systems, fueling, and service bays to a single site, airports are able to maximize use of land resources, according to Conrac Solutions. Additionally, the QTA eases traffic and reduces carbon emissions.

The new Bismarck QTA serves the three rental car brands (Avis, Enterprise, and Hertz) with two fuel positions, one automatic car wash tunnel, three quick-prep and manual wash bays, and storage for 430 vehicles, according to Conrac Solutions. The 6,415-square-foot building includes insulated walls, overhead doors, and heated slabs to encompass the service area used to prepare and fuel cars. Fueling is completed from an above-ground tank and includes a usage tracking system dispenser.

Prior to the consolidated QTA operation, the car rental companies each cleaned and maintained cars at separate service centers located a few miles away. Eliminating the need to drive between the service centers and airport decreases vehicle exhaust, traffic, and wear on roadways.

Conrac Solutions will work with The Aspen Group, a local property management firm, to maintain the QTA facility.

“Through our partnership with Aspen, we are able to unite Conrac Solutions’ experience in consolidated rental car sites with a labor and vendor pool local to Bismarck,” said Matthew Fairbanks, president of Conrac Solutions. “Aspen’s regional and local expertise and relationships, backed by Conrac Solutions methodology and innovation, provides the rental car industry with the best value and most cost-effective services.”

“It was terrific to work with the Bismarck Airport to deliver this first-of-its-kind facility,” said Mark Pfeffer, president and CEO of Conrac Solutions Project Delivery. “We saw what was important to the Airport and worked hard to deliver so they could focus on other priorities. In the end, we achieved what we proposed: design, build, finance, operate and maintain an asset the City of Bismarck and rental car companies can be proud of – on schedule and within budget.”

“The airport and city of Bismarck are pleased to see the completion of the car rental quick turn-around facility,” said Greg Haug, director of Bismarck Airport. “The building looks great and fits in well with the terminal and its surroundings. We’d like to thank everyone who helped make this facility a reality and look forward to the increased customer service this facility will provide for the traveling public.”

13 Jul, 2016

Lyft Premier Launches in New York, California

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Lyft is now offering a more stylish ride for its users: Lyft Premier.

Riders will be matched with a more luxurious vehicle, including a high-end sedan or SUV, such as a BMW 5 Series, Audi A6, Lexus ES, or Cadillac Escalade, according to a Lyft report.

Lyft Premier is now available in California’s Bay Area, Los Angeles, and New York City. To celebrate its launch, Lyft is offering new users 20% off their first 10 Premier rides with the code: “LyftPremier20.”

Premier will arrive in more cities soon, according to Lyft.

Source: Auto Rental News

12 Jul, 2016

U.S. auto sales this year to fall short of 2015 record, LMC say

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U.S. sales of cars and light trucks this year will fall short of 2015’s record in the first annual decline in seven years, LMC Automotive said in a revised estimate that cites “recent plateauing” of deliveries and “growing economic and political risk.”

The research firm cut its outlook to 17.4 million vehicles from 17.7 million in a report released Tuesday. The new estimate is about 40,000 fewer than last year’s record, LMC said. The firm also reduced its annual sales projections for each year through 2023.

“The conditions out there, while they’re certainly not negative and we’re still posting good numbers overall — they’re just not going to be able to compete with those comps that we saw last year,” said Jeff Schuster, LMC’s senior vice president of forecasting. “Even if you run it at a good clip — 17.5 plus for the remainder of the year — you kind of get to where we’re at forecast-wise, which just falls short of the record in 2015.”

LMC’s revision reflects increased pessimism that U.S. deliveries this year will beat the 2015 peak. The average estimate from analysts surveyed by Bloomberg is now 17.6 million for 2016, down from a 17.8 million consensus in January. The sentiment that sales may already have peaked has contributed to falling stock prices for Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co. even as they reported record profits.

Schuster in the LMC report said that in addition to tough comparisons with 2015’s second half, the U.S. auto market will be challenged “as the global economy grapples with the impact of the Brexit result and the unknown of the upcoming U.S. election.”

S&P reduction

S&P Global Ratings last week cut its estimate to 17.5 million vehicles from 17.8 million, citing slowing demand from individual buyers and the effect on the U.S. economy from U.K. voters’ decision last month to leave the European Union.

A decline in annual sales would be the first since 2009. U.S. deliveries this year got off to a strong start, in part because of a lack of weather-related problems like those in the beginning of 2015, Schuster said in the interview. But it’s becoming “a little more clear that the growth rates just aren’t going to be there in the second half,” he said.

Automakers have been staying disciplined as growth slows, Schuster said. Leasing levels were down a little in June despite being “robust” overall, he said. Incentives are up as a percentage of suggested retail prices, but there’s no indication of a sharp escalation, Schuster said.

The U.S. economy overall isn’t contracting and stronger GDP growth is likely in the next two years, he said. The path “to get back on a growth track in 2017, I think, is still there,” Schuster said. “And that’s what our forecast reflects.”

Source: Automotive News