The model of customers queuing for service at a car-rental counter, then painstakingly selecting options from a checklist is on its way out, says Avis Rent a Car.
“As a company we believe that our future will be mobile driven. In many cases, apps are already the lens through which we experience the brands we deal with and in future our every business interaction will be driven through smartphone technology,” said Lance Smith of Avis southern Africa.
“For us – and our customers – this means that the entire car-rental experience will change.”
He said that today’s car-rental customer wants to select a price point, choose a make and model of car, complete with handy extras like GPS, bike racks, car seats or mobile Wi-Fi, and then make their booking.
Smith said that the new Avis app enables current and future Avis customers to search cars by size or features, locate rental locations and choose special offers. Extras can be selected, bookings can be amended or upgraded and loyalty benefits can be tracked.
He said that the Avis Now functionality within the Avis app is even more advanced and already has 500,000 subscribers in the United States alone. This functionality allows users to make and manage bookings, then skip the counter and go directly to the Avis Rent a Car lot, where they can locate their car using the app, then unlock it with their smartphone and drive off.
“With three of the largest rental locations outside the US, it’s a no-brainer that South Africa will see this functionality roll out here within the next 12 to 24 months,” Smith said.
“Almost all customer interactions can now be electronic, including invoicing. We are testing new-format, paperless rental agreements, where the customer signs on a tablet, and their agreement is in their email inbox before they leave the branch,” he said.
According to Avis, the app platform can also be used to navigate what it expects to be the next major mobility disruptor: Zipcar, a car-sharing service and part of the Avis Budget Group.
Customers join the service for a monthly fee, and are then able to reserve and drive any one of the numerous Zipcars located around major cities. The service currently offers more than 10,000 cars on fleet, across 500 cities in nine countries.
“Far from being a rival to car rental, Avis sees Zipcar as a complementary service. If we feel there is demand for Zipcar in the local market, we’ll bring it to South Africa.
“When we do, your Zipcar membership will live on your smartphone as an app. When you need a car, you’ll have a car. I can see Zipcar finding an enthusiastic uptake at universities, retirement villages, small communities and certainly in residential complexes,” said Smith.