Information technology is becoming a key differentiator that is helping South African car-rental companies meet customer expectations and improve their profit margins.

Thrifty’s Leslie Matthews says: “If you’re not in the game, check-out. It’s as simple as that. Technology has forced companies to become innovative.” He says that Thrifty has rejuvenated its Blue Chip Club product for a growing corporate market, offering customers a free express rental programme.

Melissa Nortje from First, agrees: “Technology is no longer a nice-to-have, it’s a must have. Mediocre solutions have no place in a cut-throat industry as dynamic as transportation.” She says that First is installing South Africa’s first self-service car-hire checkout throughout its branches, and offers a Show & Go mobile check-out facility for frequent corporate customers.

Mobile applications are fundamentally changing the way customers interact with both the car-rental company and the rental vehicle, says Lance Smith from Avis Budget; with Hertz’s Fiona Angelico adding that digital transformation is a key component for Hertz to remain in the forefront of car rental in Southern Africa.

“In the next few months, a few exciting projects will be launched. These apps will improve our business performance – and more importantly, our customers’ experience.” Hertz already offers a damages app that enables the company to reduce its returns process and instantly supply the renter with a damages invoice, says Hans Manke. Another innovation is Bidvest’s Snappdrive keyless app, which allows renters to avoid queues and speeds up their check-out time, says Gaynor von Loggenburg.

Meanwhile, the impact of market disruptor, Uber, appears to be limited to same-day rentals, whereas the impact on multi-day rentals is negligible, executives agree. “In fact, there is a massive Uber market that rents their vehicles from car-rental companies,” says Matthews. “Car rental is also really cheap when comparing what you pay for more than a 24-hour period compared with Uber for transport.” Hertz’s Karen Schwartz says Uber has its place in the market as a taxi service, whereas chauffeur-drive/transfer services offer a more exclusive, professional service.

Snappy service with Snappdrive

Bidvest Car Rental’s Snappdrive app is to be rolled-out to the leisure market following its successful introduction to the corporate market. With Snappdrive, customers can head straight from the aircraft to their car, saving them time. The Snappdrive app helps them find their car and their phone acts as the key to unlock, lock and start the vehicle.  A Snappdrive RFID card acts as back-up when a phone is unavailable.

Faster with First

First Car Rental’s self-service technology is an industry-first check-out solution that allows clients to hit the road in seconds. Using touch-screens, customers can upgrade vehicles, add windscreen and tyre waivers, sign on screen and check out in 15 seconds if they are corporates, and 40 seconds for pre-authorised, pre-paid credit card bookings. Average check-out time is four minutes, 25 seconds –less than a third of the worldwide average.

Hertz’s Mobile Assist takes away the hassles

Hertz’s Mobile Assist app offers roadside, medical and legal assistance and advice on accommodation and road directions. At the press of a button, a Hertz central reservations agent contacts your clients immediately to offer advice.

Firefly Car Rental – Hertz’s no-frills car rental brand – offers highly competitive rates because of its no-frills policy, high-volume approach and limited car group availability. The company is represented at all Hertz locations in South Africa.