By: Craig Rhinehart, June 20, 2011
The vehicle and equipment rental world is one of the most ultra-competitive business segments around. Products, prices and strategies change to keep pace, but understanding customer feedback and adapting the business accordingly will continue to drive market share and success.
But getting customer feedback can be a challenge – for Hertz and for all companies. As the world’s largest general use airport car rental company, Hertz gets an amazing amount of customer feedback daily, including thousands of comments from web surveys, emails and text messages.
The question is – how can Hertz best leverage those insights at both the strategic level and the local level to drive operational improvements?
Hertz and other companies have been using surveys to gather customer feedback for years. A well-constructed survey can provide a lot of quantifiable information on customer likes and dislikes, but it doesn’t answer “why” a customer feels a certain way. That requires written or verbal feedback.
Until recently, there was no automated way to analyze this type of information. Hertz location managers had to read each customer comment submitted and then manually categorize it for basic reporting and analysis. This approach was very labor-intensive and inconsistent, as comments were categorized based on a manager’s personal interpretation.
But help arrived. Hertz has been working with Mindshare Technologies, using its “Voice of the Customer” system to transform customers’ quantitative feedback into actionable intelligence. In the next evolution of Hertz’s system, Mindshare teamed up with IBM to also take the verbatim text comments Hertz was collecting and transform these open-ended comments into actionable information.
How? By using a series of linguistic rules to categorize comments received with descriptive terms such as Vehicle Cleanliness, Staff Courtesy and Mechanical Issues. The software also flags customers who request a callback from a manager or those who mention #1 Club Gold, Hertz’s expedited, frequent renter program.
Hertz’s analytics solution, which includes some of the same question-and-answer technology as IBM’s Watson Jeopardy! system, has improved the accuracy and speed of the tagging and analyzing process, almost doubling what had been achieved manually, setting the stage for more reliable analytics.
Free from manually tagging comments, Hertz field managers can now focus attention on performing deep-dive analysis on the information, quickly identifying trends or issues and adjusting operational service levels accordingly. Real-time identification of issues means that rapid problem solving solutions can be quickly deployed.
For example, wait times at car rental locations can be a contentious issue. The faster and more efficient the car rental/return process, the more likely the customer will become a loyal patron. Using Mindshare’s feedback software, Hertz location managers are able to effectively monitor both quantitative survey responses and open-ended customer comments to deliver top customer satisfaction scores for this critical level of service. In Philadelphia, for example, survey feedback led Hertz managers to discover that delays were occurring during certain parts of the day. They quickly adjusted staffing levels and ensured a manager was always present during these specific times.
Vehicle cleanliness is also another important value point for customer satisfaction at Hertz. With Mindshare Text Analytics, featuring IBM Content Analytics, Hertz is now able to quickly identify new and unknown issues via detailed customer feedback. By assuring greater attention to cleanliness, complaints have decreased and overall consumer satisfaction has improved.
For consumers, the good news here is that the internet and new social media technologies have made them more connected, empowered and demanding. Since the average online user is three times more likely to trust peer opinions over retailer advertising, the challenge for Hertz – and retailers in general – is to continue to tap these new technologies that pay close attention to what customers are saying.
Working with the Mindshare-IBM team, Hertz has been able to better focus on improvements that customers care about while removing a time-consuming burden from location managers. This has greatly improved the effectiveness of Hertz’s ‘Voice of the Customer’ program and has helped build on the Company’s reputation for delivering superior customer service.