First Car Rental is proving to be one the most technologically advanced car rental companies in South Africa creating world-class solutions in the car hire industry with an impressive handful of ‘first-in-industry’ solutions created specifically to save customers time and effort whilst also creating completely paperless transactions.
The latest in a string of technologically-advanced solutions, and set to launch at Cape Town International Airport branch on Friday 16 September 2011, is what is believed to be the world’s first mobile checkout facility for First Car Rental’s corporate customer base. First Car Rental’s corporate tier is aptly called Show & Go as this is literally what their corporate customer’s do – present their loyalty card and go.
The handheld mobile checkout devices allow First Car Rental’s corporate customers to checkout in less than 1 minute without going into a branch thereby ensuring no queues, no waiting and definitely no paperwork. The entire transaction from online booking to rental to contract opening to vehicle movement logging to closing off the contract after the rental period has ended, is completely paperless.
Says Melissa Storey, Executive Head: Strategy, Development & Marketing at First Car Rental, “We are very proud of this achievement as ultimately our business is incredibly customer-centric. This mobile checkout application is designed to save our corporate customers effort and time, which as we all know, when you travel a lot, as this market sector does, is invaluable.”
How it works
The renter walks out of airport arrivals using the shortest pre-defined route to the First Car Rental Show & Go collection and termination zone where their car is parked, bypassing the branch completely. A staff member is waiting within this dedicated area with a mobile checkout device to check the renter out by tending to a simple verification process - does this photo look like the renter. First Car Rental staff pre-prepares a check-sheet and walks around the vehicle with the renter to ensure they agree on the vehicle condition. The renter’s Show & Go card is ‘snapped’ by the device and the renter is voice-recorded agreeing with the check-sheet. There is no signature required. The renter is ready to go in less than 1 minute. At Cape Town International Airport the total time taken from Arrivals to checkout is approximately 3.5mins. This could take longer should a customer query specifics of the vehicle but on average this is the approximate time taken.
When the renter returns the vehicle, they park the car exactly where they picked it up from, which is the closest parking available to the airport and branch. They drop their keys into the Show & Go key drop safe and off they go back to the airport.
Comments Storey, “We have timed it so that our renters don’t have to. For business travellers, waiting around to be attended to is extremely frustrating, especially in peak periods. We want to completely remove this element from the car rental experience and get them moving to their destination as quickly as possible.”
The Technical Side
On the technical side, Firestring, First Car Rental’s loyalty platform provider, modified its MobiSnap 2D Bar Code Reader software to in conjunction with their own software solutions enable quick mobile checkouts for First Car Rental’s existing Show & Go 2D Bar Code Card Holders. The software, written in J2ME, runs on BlackBerry Torch 9800 mobile phones and provides our car handlers with mobile technology to seamlessly recall customer- reservation- and vehicle information directly from First Car Rental’s online reservation and fleet planning solutions as well as its operational system.
A secure VPN is established between the device and the server using the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES). First Car Rental’s Service Orientated Architecture allows modules to be added securely with ease, enhancing the customers’ experience through innovative technologies and unique First Car Rental business processes.
First Car Rental Show & Go Mobile Checkout will be available at the 3 major airports - Cape Town International in September 2011 with King Shaka International and OR Tambo International from October 2011.
How it all started
In 2010 First Car Rental began applying speed to the car rental experience with its customer recognition software rolled out at all 43 branches nationwide. The technology was designed to capture electronic customer profiles with photographs and the relevant legal documentation. This system allows staff to access customer profiles quickly from a central database to complete the car rental process without time-consuming repeat paperwork.
Storey said: “The new software dramatically speeds up the rental process for customers and forms part of a phased approach to a fully paperless rental agreement, fulfilling our vision of being the first car rental company in South Africa to offer a truly ‘green’ check-out procedure, which we have now achieved.”
The technology, coupled with First Car Rental’s loyalty card programme, means that customers provide their personal details just once. Their photos and details are captured and saved on First Car Rental’s central and secure database, and in future, clients simply produce their loyalty card, speeding up the rental process while they earn loyalty points.
Storey explains that the software was initially developed to drive First Car Rental’s loyalty programme in order to identify and reward frequent customers. Over and above flagging frequent renters in the system for additional benefits, the loyalty software also records rental activity so that customers can view their rental history and rewards online.
Says Storey: “We have now taken this a step further and designed the Mobile Checkout Device using this advanced technology, which we believe, is a world-first in the car rental industry and thereby living up to our name and payoff line ‘First Car Rental - First in Car Hire, First in Service’.”