Before being hit with the COVID-19 crisis, rapid growth in the vehicle rental industry was being powered by a megatrend towards mobility, spearheaded by millennials’ changing attitudes to vehicle ownership.
While it’s difficult to predict the long-range impact of the pandemic, what is certain is that in recent years, consumers have shifted from seeing cars as something they own, to seeing cars-as-a-service (CaaS). And they are increasingly searching for flexible, on-demand convenience whether renting a car or truck short-term or long-term – something that traditional rental companies struggle to offer.
For example, precious time spent waiting at a facility, clutching various documents and waiting for paperwork is increasingly frustrating for consumers who, as well as expecting on-demand convenience, are now likely to prefer safer contactless collection/drop-off as the norm too. Similarly, when contacting a rental company for support, or to make a claim, customers become irritated by the cumbersome, manual processes used to access their customer and contract information. Digital technologies, such as mobile computer vision, are helping to bridge this gap and solve customer pain points.
Aside from frustrations with time-consuming processes, consumers are increasingly disillusioned with services that don’t fit with their hectic lives. For example, when air travel rebounds, delays in flights or changes to plans can mean facilities that aren’t accessible 24/7 cause them friction-fuelled disruption.
Safety and convenience have replaced the need for face-to-face contact. And as the industry adapts to COVID-19, there is greater urgency for car and truck rental businesses to turn to technology solutions to reduce face-to-face interactions as a way to future-proof their business.
The future must be digital
A 2018 US car rental report by Phocuswright concluded that:
“In the past decade, car rental brands may have been too preoccupied with fending off new entrants to the space to invest as heavily in their mobile programs as they should have. This oversight left room for nimble car-sharing and ride-hailing companies to innovate and compete on technology and convenience, especially in the mobile channel,”
Industry disruptors like Uber, Lyft, Turo in the US and BlaBlaCar in Europe, have indeed taken advantage of the industry’s lapse in digital focus across the world. And the recent COVID-19 crisis has only served to highlight that digital alternatives to physical interactions are key to future-proofing their business against any similar situations.
The challenge now for existing car rental companies is to match the mobility and flexibility of newer tech-smart, ride-hailing and car-sharing services. And savvy companies are already embracing mobile technology to put customers firmly in the driving seat of their experience.
Statista forecasts that 69% of total revenue will be generated through online sales by 2024. To stay on the road, existing rental companies must find innovative and cost-efficient ways to digitally transform their businesses.
The road to better customer experience
Adapting existing processes through digitalization goes a long way to enhancing the customer experience and safety. The everyday smartphone, empowered by computer vision software, has a crucial part to play in helping car and truck rental businesses streamline and automate workflows to increase customer convenience, while minimizing the need for face-to-face interactions.
This can be done either via a scan-enabled Scandit-powered enterprise app or, depending on data processing requirements, using our SDK for the Web. With the SDK for the Web, users can scan directly from any web or mobile browser with no need to download an app, making it a handy option for last minute or infrequent rental customers. See how simple it is in the video below.
There are several ways companies can easily make use of this technology to delight customers and compete in an increasingly digital marketplace. Here are our top three:
1. Faster, automated online booking
Manual car rental processes that take time and are naturally prone to errors, such as mistyping personal details, negatively influence customer satisfaction.
Using Scandit’s scanning technology on everyday mobile devices, customers can simply scan their driving license or ID to confirm their identity while making a booking online. Done either using a company app, or by following a link to the company’s webpage, customer data – personal details and vehicle registration – is captured through optical character recognition (OCR) automatically and more accurately. This speeds up the booking process and makes it much easier to find a customer’s booking details in the future. No need for time-sapping manual data entry or risk of errors.
For US or Canadian customers, it’s also simple to scan the machine-readable data from the PDF 417 barcode on their driving licenses, and Scandit’s parsing solution, integrated with the scanning engine, automatically translates code into relevant details in the rental companies systems. However, scan quality is critical to get it right, first time, everytime. Some US car and truck rental firms have reported only a 50% scan success rate on capturing driving license information, due to glare, shadow or a blurry picture obscuring the barcode. Scandit’s software ensures that whether a customer is scanning through a mobile app or a website, high performance is assured. Watch below to see how it works.
2. Simply support on the move
The last thing a customer needs when they call for assistance out on the road, is to be kept waiting while their identity and rental details are retrieved.
The same technology used for scanning customer driving licenses during booking can be reliably used to speed up the process of customer data retrieval. By using the company app on the user’s mobile, customers can easily scan the front of their EU or UK driving license to capture the details contained in the text or the VIN (vehicle identification number) barcode present on the car. The rental company can then quickly, and securely verify the user’s identity and access all their contract information. This is particularly useful to overcome any language barriers where customers are travelling abroad or are non-native speakers.
The same process also allows companies to quickly locate customer information if they call for any other customer service need, e.g. to log a claim.
3. Hands free pick-up and drop-off
In a world where convenience and safety are now paramount, offering a flexible and contactless way for rental customers to access and drop off vehicles is a must-have.
By turning everyday smart devices into hand-held scanners, rental firms can give customers 24/7 vehicle access simply by using their mobile phones.
While the exact process would depend on the company’s processes and infrastructure, scanning a customer’s ID or vehicle VIN number can trigger automatic responses which can be linked up to the booking details. For example, when collecting a vehicle, the customer scans their driving licence (either in an app or via a web link) to gain access to keys and other vehicle information. This could be done anywhere – in a locker, secure facility etc. And if necessary, a code can be sent to the user’s mobile device.
Once the customer has located and accessed the vehicle, the user could scan the vehicle’s VIN number, or another element (e.g. driving license again), perform a contactless signature and complete checkout – all without the need for company personnel to be present.
Talk to us about your digital transformation
These are just a few examples of where scanning-enabled mobile devices can help to automate and adapt car and van rental processes.