In the long run, growing your vehicle rental business doesn’t depend on the big bucks you spend on branding or the size of your audience or fleet. When it comes to attracting that coveted repeat business, building customer trust through transparency in communication is key.
First impressions count, now more than ever. In an environment where the dual-pressures of a pro-environment customer and the pandemic have created a new mindset around renting vehicles, companies have more responsibility while trying to actively communicate with their customers.
Change leaders within communications are taking stock of the position vehicle rental companies and their fleets now hold in the culture of travel. People are more price-competitive and conscious but demand an immediate, customisable rental service in keeping with the rapid digitisation of parallel industries like delivery companies, taxis, and public transport.
The way you communicate your business, offers, contracts and rental stipulations to your customers is vital in building trust: but your customer is more savvy and (at times) can be more cynical than ever.
There is a way to build a much more engaged and trusted customer base, and that’s by being completely transparent about your business, fleet management, customer expectations, charges and deductibles.
Hence the focus on communication; communication is how you build this transparency. You have to factor in almost every arm of your business — marketing, sales, website content and copy, agents, in-car merchandise, and post-rental feedback. In short, build a transparent communication strategy that translates smoothly across every part of your business that potential and existing customers will engage with.
Here is our 5-point plan to make your vehicle rental business more transparent.
1) Bring your hidden costs out in the open
Nothing is more alienating and off-putting for any customer than coming across hidden costs that were not clearly and fairly communicated. In fact, hidden costs or poorly communicated payment terms are so expected that 73% of car hire customers are worried about being ripped off by their rental company.
Customers do expect some extra fee built into rental cost. Go ahead, continue to build a cost/fee structure that fairly remunerates your rental firm for time, ware, damage and maintenance, and other costs such as young driver fees, special cleaning charges, smoking charges, and administration fees. But do NOT hide the costs in small print.
More than 80% of car hire customers in the UK experiences unexpected fees when they collect their car. And, 31% of respondents to this poll by Consumer Reports in the USA have experienced hidden costs on top of their car rental fees. As a vehicle rental company, the onus is on you to meet and beat the expectation through open communication.
By clearly communicating your fee structure, you’re setting a professional standard that not only treats your customers with respect, but also meets one of the most important parts of the BVRLA Code of Conduct: promoting ethical trading.
This also includes making customers aware of your insurance policy, if they choose to accept your coverage for the rental duration. This includes the customers’ maximum (not average or median) financial responsibility if the vehicle is damaged or stolen, and the cost of any waivers or excess reduction products and costs.
2) Avoid supplying inferior cars as an alternative to customers’ first choice
In the BVRLA Principles guide, the 5th point speaks about “providing customers with the advice they need to make an informed choice”. Point 7 is “not to use any advertising material containing misleading or inaccurate statements”. These two points alone advertise the need for you to be completely clear about your fleet numbers, rental options and what customers can expect when their chosen vehicle is unavailable.
Providing something a customer does not want is not ideal, but unforeseen problems do occur and mistakes can and will happen. What you must do is clearly communicate the countermeasures your business has put in place in response to such situations, at the beginning of the booking process. This includes information on choosing an alternative vehicle, the period of advance notice, any other discounts or deals you can offer, and the reason for unavailability.
3) Remember the best upgrade isn’t necessarily the next best vehicle
Nearly every customer will expect some form of upgrade if they haven’t received their chosen car or van. As a responsible rental firm, you should engage with your customer directly; instead of offering “the next best car or van”, speak to them about choosing the optimal vehicle for their upcoming trip.
Discuss the potential extra cost of fuel for a larger vehicle and factor in the probable inefficiency. For example, city trips or shorter journey times are not ideal for larger vehicles. At the same time, you can point out the substantial increase in insurance costs. Work with them on finding the right solution, not just any solution.
4) Provide hygienic vehicles at all costs
Now that the world has adjusted to a hyper-safety mode, the idea of sharing rides has become passé. Needless to say, rental companies must continue to communicate their COVID guidelines and fleet cleanliness steps. They should also develop a communication strategy that addresses the benefits of flexible rental deals, long-term rental structures and a more personalised, socially-distanced rental service for customers looking for an alternative to ride-sharing.
5) Have straightforward dispute management procedures
Avoid making the process of customer complaints opaque.
It’s always better to be an honest, up-front rental company that is happy to share the process of resolution management – either via an ombudsman or by providing relevant information about compensation eligibility to their customers on the BVRLA.
Trust is implicit in a transaction between any buyer and seller. Reassuring the consumer through transparent communication is of paramount importance to the reputation of any business, big or small. Subsequently, it’s also an effective tool for growth, both through repeat business and that incomparable mode of advertisement, word of mouth!
Want to make your vehicle rental business more transparent?