The model of mobility for the last 100 years had been “pay to own” – people owned a car and they drove it when and where they wanted. It was a defining possession. However, the mobility landscape is evolving, thanks in part to millennials as well as an overall change in behavior across generations as technology has ushered in an era of on-demand access.
Consumer attitudes are influencing a shift into a pay-to-use world; people are increasingly consuming transportation like they consume data on a cell phone. All are opting for flexibility and control over the kind of transportation solution they are looking for, at the time they are looking for it. And how will this happen?
Neal Sunners, Senior Vice president of Innovation at Avis Budget Group, a leading global provider of mobility solutions, has been hard at work overseeing a large-scale digital transformation programme to achieve optimal levels of customer satisfaction. In fact, he states: “We are always looking up the road at our company, investing and managing for tomorrow as we work to delight our customers today.”
In order to do this, it meant listening to, and working with, customers as never before, to understand the how’s, why’s and when’s of their ground transportation needs, and then evolving the Company’s offerings to best serve those needs. Avis Budget Group’s acquisition of Zipcar, the world’s leading car sharing network, with more than one million members, was an early outcome of that process. The next step in the process after listening closely was and continues to be ‘creating together’.
This includes enlisting customers deeply in the process of designing the very products and services they will consume and experience. To that effect, the company launched new websites for both Avis Car Rental and Budget Car Rental and a new Avis Car Rental mobile application that enhances the customer experience by giving them control of the entire rental experience from the palm of their hand.
This collaborative mentality also led the company to invest in other areas of technology.
For example, Avis Budget Group rolled out tools to further empower its employees at rental locations so as to better serve Avis and Budget Car Rental customers. Pronto, one of these solutions, provides employees with tablets so that they can assist customers when they are on shuttle buses or waiting in line at rental locations at peak times, for example, in an effort to expedite the rental pickup process.
Another tool is the company’s Maintenance and Damage Management System (MDMS), a quicker and easier way to manage maintenance and damage. “The smartphone app developed for our team provides a simple, single integrated process to capture damage images, customer signature and vehicle exchanges,” said Sunners.
The company’s commitment to innovation is also driving its business relationships and is curating new partnerships around the world. For example, the company has formed a strategic partnership with Didi Chuxing, the world’s largest mobile transportation platform. Avis Budget Group provides Didi Chuxing’s over 300 million registered users with access to Avis Car Rental and Budget Car Rental vehicles when traveling outbound from China with easy and convenient car rental service — right from Didi Chuxing’s mobile application. Registered users can book Avis and Budget rentals at airports and neighborhood locations around the globe.
It has also partnered with RocketSpace, a leading technology campus for start-ups and corporate innovators, to identify market opportunities and fuel cross-industry innovation, while investing in artificial intelligence capabilities. In North America, Avis Car Rental is now integrated with Amazon Alexa and Google Home so that travelers have another easy and convenient way to reserve a car.
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In addition, it has teamed up with Uber. Avis Budget Group is supplying Uber’s driver partners in Boston, and those who want to make money driving with Uber, with cars through Zipcar.
Avis Budget Group has also teamed up with Waymo to provide fleet support and maintenance services for their vehicles. This partnership paves the way for Avis Budget to use its existing services and expertise to expand into serving the nascent self-driving car industry. “By working with Waymo, we will gain important insights and hands-on experience in servicing self-driving cars and developing best practices,” says Sunners.
He adds: “In terms of fleet management, there are very few companies in the world that can manage mega fleets – and we are one of them. With approximately 580,000 vehicles in our fleet, we are a premier provider of fleet support and supply chain services. We know how to purchase cars, register them, maintain them, and ultimately sell them – all this at scale.
“We move our fleet to accommodate demand – business and leisure, on-airport and off-airport – so, whether it’s for a business meeting, trade show or conference, peak summer travel, disaster-relief recovery efforts, etc., we know how to get the right cars in the right places.
“We have unparalleled mobility capabilities, in terms of the customers’ journey and in the supply chain. And with Avis, Budget and Zipcar, three household name brands known the world over, we are well-positioned for this future and are already addressing the full-range of consumer needs, including that of the evolving millennial market and beyond.
“By implementing the latest in technology, having access to reliable ground transportation means simply tapping an app. The future of mobility puts the power in one’s pocket… and the experience is only enhanced by the opportunities made available with connected and autonomous cars.”