Weary travelers don’t like waiting in line to rent a car. In 2011, Hertz became the first car rental agency to let customers at airports and neighborhood locations rent cars through a video kiosk featuring face-to-face chat.
The project: At ExpressRent kiosks, customers can complete an entire rental transaction while seeing and hearing a live rental agent located in one of three U.S. customer service centers. With interactive video kiosks now operating in 48 American markets, Hertz reports reduced wait times and improved ancillary sales.
The business case : In 2010, Hertz installed traditional kiosks similar to those airlines use at major U.S. airports. But CIO Joseph Eckroth quickly learned that car-rental transactions are much more complex than checking baggage and choosing a plane seat. Car renters must consider upgrades, insurance plans, gas fill-up programs and car accessories–to name just a few options. And the rental agency requires a driver’s license or verified passport.
Eckroth says a traditional kiosk is still good technology, “but it needs something else that keeps transactions customer-friendly and simple, and that never fails.” With an interactive kiosk where agents can provide what customers need, Hertz could improve customer service, increase sales of upgrades and additional services, and ultimately allow Hertz to expand into auto-repair shops, hotels and parking garages without the cost of building and staffing a new rental counter.
First steps: Hertz enlisted its longtime kiosk partner NCR and added video technology from ClairVista, developer of a Live Expert platform for browser-based video chat, interactive sharing and co-browsing. “We liked what we saw in their technology. It’s always risky to go with a small guy, but it was also extraordinarily beneficial to go in fast” and help them think through their software road map, Eckroth says.
The three companies embarked on what Eckroth calls an “extraordinarily difficult” integration process where the kiosk screens and touch technology had to sync with the video content. The team also added technologies such as key safes (which hold keys for cars at the kiosk’s location) and readers for passports, driver’s licenses and credit cards.
Today, 76 ExpressRent kiosks have been installed nationwide, with another 169 installations in process. In a Hertz survey of video kiosk customers, 82 percent rated their experience with the interactive video kiosks positively. More than two-thirds of airport renters said they would use ExpressRent again, citing faster service, convenience, ease of use and no waiting in line.
What to watch out for : Video kiosks required a lot more network bandwidth than Eckroth’s team had anticipated. The Hertz team assumed it could share the bandwidth at major airports, but video quality suffered, so Hertz had to get airport approval to upgrade the network. “It was quite a learning process for all of us,” Eckroth says.
“The smaller software company quickly got overwhelmed by our needs and desire to scale,” Eckroth says. “The big hardware provider was also so large that we sometimes had problems getting the right attention or priority to do what we uniquely needed to accomplish. We continually have to balance and manage this carefully to ensure we can meet our business needs.”
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