Facing increased competition from all angles, airport-based rental car companies have doubled-down on innovation, offering more vehicle choice, personalized service and streamlined pick-up and return processes to better resonate with the needs of customers. According to the J.D. Power 2019 North America Rental Car Satisfaction Study released this month, customer satisfaction with airport-based rental car companies has climbed to a record high of 843 (on a 1,000-point scale), with just 31 points separating the top- and bottom-ranked rental car companies.
Topping the heap, Hertz ranked highest in overall customer satisfaction, with a score of 856. Enterprise (855) ranked second and Alamo (848) came in third.
“Across all of our travel-related studies, rental cars have become the most satisfying part of the overall traveler experience,” said Michael Taylor, Travel Intelligence Lead at J.D. Power. “This is due largely to companies’ continued innovation to tweak their pick-up and return processes and deliver stand-out customer experiences. Many customers can walk the lot and pick a specific car, and the pick-up process can be completed in 15 minutes or less. Adding personalization through apps and alerts to mobile devices is a big plus, too.”
Following are some of the key findings of the 2019 study:
• Record-high rental car customer satisfaction amid tight competition: Overall rental car satisfaction is at its highest level ever, reaching 843 in 2019. Moreover, the gap in performance between the top- and bottom-ranked performers has narrowed to just 31 points (down from 51 points in 2018), with just one point separating the top two companies in the study.
• Smooth pick-up is a key differentiator: Though competition is tight between rental car companies, one area showing significant variation in customer experience is the vehicle pick-up process. While overall satisfaction scores are 33 points higher when customers get their vehicle in 15 minutes or less, that happens just 64 percent of the time.
• Technology-laden vehicles present a double-edged sword: Rental car satisfaction scores are highest (902) when vehicles have 21 or more features, such as cruise control, GPS, UBS ports and premium sound systems, but those scores plummet 140 points when renters indicate that vehicle features are difficult to use.
• Mobile app users more satisfied with rental experience: Overall satisfaction among customers who use a rental car brand’s mobile app is 50 points higher than among those who do not. Currently, just 40 percent of customers say they have a rental car mobile app downloaded on their smartphone. Rental car apps are used most frequently for making reservations (52 percent); getting shuttle information (40 percent); getting general information (39 percent); check-in (39 percent); and selecting the rental car (39 percent).
The 2019 North America Rental Car Satisfaction Study is based on responses gathered from September 2018 through August 2019, from 9,382 business and leisure travelers who rented a vehicle at an airport location from August 2018 through August 2019.