VPN Services Case Study
At Hertz, Customer Service Drives Innovation (Cont'd)
Customers using ExpressRent comment on the ease of the system and how happy they are with the speed. A majority of users say they will use it for future rentals."
Mike Francis, Innovation Architect Director, Hertz
Better customer service without requiring customers to make reservations or wait in line, through a technology-centric, yet personalized, customer service approach
Highly secure, scalable MPLS-enabled VPN provides high-quality voice and video connections for Hertz ExpressRentTM Kiosks; project managed by AT&T
Capture customer business in busy airport locations while expanding cost-effectively into new local, neighborhood markets
Annual car rental revenue of $8.2 billion in 2011
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Moving Rentals to the Fast Lane
See how Hertz uses the network to help enhance customer service.
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Headquartered in Park Ridge, New Jersey, Hertz is the largest worldwide airport general use car rental brand, operating from approximately 8,650 corporate and licensee locations in approximately 150 countries. Whether traveling, waiting for a car repair, or just running errands for the day, customers around the globe rely on Hertz for long- and short-term car rental. From no-wait membership programs to online reservations, Hertz services make renting a car faster and easier. The company has expanded its business to include car sharing through Hertz on Demand®, as well as equipment rental and car sales, and is the parent Company of fleet leasing company, Donlen
Dedicated to creating best practices and utilizing technology, Hertz is always looking for ways to improve and evolve service. Six years ago, the company installed traditional self-service kiosks to help fill in customer service gaps at busy locations. But the machines fell short on both customer service and key business objectives. The kiosks were impersonal and lacked helpful explanations. Customers passed over value-added services and did not utilize the machines effectively. It wasn’t the solution Hertz had envisioned so the company went back to the drawing board to find a more innovative approach.
Hertz created the Hertz ExpressRent Kiosk™, a two-screen kiosk that uses real-time video to put customers face-to-face with off-site agents. To carry the high-quality voice and video at the heart of the kiosk technology, Hertz needed robust, global network connections and chose AT&T to provide an MPLS-enabled VPN and manage the deployment process. The network reliably connects the kiosks to agents and back-end systems. Whether at busy airports, hotels, local neighborhood locations like auto repair shops or partner locations, the kiosks extend the company’s reach and create new opportunities for customers to access Hertz services.
Keys to Innovation
Since its start more than 90 years ago, Hertz has achieved a number of “Hertz Firsts.” In 1925, the company created the first coast-to-coast car rental network. Soon after, Hertz opened the nation’s first airport rent-a-car facility at Chicago’s Midway Airport. Hertz was also the first car rental company to offer, on a nationwide basis, in-car GPS systems with NeverLost, and the first car rental company to offer electric vehicles for rent. Today, Hertz continues to push the envelope, diversifying its product portfolio into car sharing and fleet leasing services.
Up time is critical to Hertz operations and we believe the infrastructure we have put in place, utilizing the AT&T network, is 'Best in Class'."
Teresa Sellers, Manager Unified Communications, Hertz
At Hertz, innovation is a priority. In Chairman and CEO Mark Frissora’s annual report letter he emphasizes, “As part of our innovation revolution, we are putting the power of Hertz in the hands of our customers 24/7. We will achieve this by utilizing technology consumers are comfortable using today to increase the speed, ease and transparency of the rental process.”
“Technology makes us operationally efficient and it helps us provide unique customer service opportunities that set us apart from our competitors,” said Mike Francis, Hertz Innovation Architect Director. From creating an active online and mobile presence to evolving every step of the rental experience for heightened efficiency and ease, Hertz uses technology to improve its business and better meet customer needs.
Something Was Missing
Putting customer service first, Hertz is constantly improving and expanding services. The Company was looking for a way to reduce customer wait times and better manage fluctuating demands in service during busy periods like post-flight rushes. It also wanted to move beyond the industry’s traditional airport locations, while expanding its hours of service at neighborhood locations, and needed a flexible, cost-effective way to extend its reach.
In 2007, Hertz implemented touch screen self-service kiosks like those airlines use for flight check-in. While kiosks work well for the simple task of printing out a boarding pass, it soon became evident that the transaction of a car rental is more complex. “There are several additional decision points such as using a different credit card than the one in a customer profile or wanting to choose a different car,” said Francis. “Hertz also requires that we validate a person's driver’s license, and that was also not effective with a traditional kiosk.”
Creating the Right Solution
Throughout the next few years, the company developed another “Hertz First”—the Hertz ExpressRent Kiosks that put customers and agents eye-to-eye through real-time, two-way video transmission. The early version of ExpressRent Kiosk contained one screen, where a small portion in the upper right hand corner displayed a live video feed of a customer service agent. Through testing and prototypes, Hertz continued to modify the credit card readers, driver’s license infrared scanning and information screens viewable to the customers.
In 2011, Hertz took another huge innovative leap with a dual-screen ExpressRent Kiosk – one screen to view the rental details and select options via touch screen, and a second full-sized screen at eye level that projects the live customer agent. The agent video screen even displays the agent’s name across the screen, so the customer knows who they are speaking with.
Real-time video is key to the new unit’s success. It creates a dynamic experience for customers, and increases security with visual verification. But quality video requires bandwidth. Hertz needed to upgrade and extend its network infrastructure. Yet the solution held great promise, and Hertz wanted to deploy the kiosks quickly.
Hertz chose longtime service provider AT&T to upgrade network infrastructure and provide project management. “AT&T has been a major partner of Hertz for many years,” said Teresa Sellers, Manager Unified Communications for Hertz. “Our primary driver for using AT&T is the availability and reliability of the network. Up time is critical to Hertz operations and we believe the infrastructure we have put in place, utilizing the AT&T network, is ‘Best in Class’.” Added Francis, “With AT&T, we know we can get the work done, they’re reliable and we have the support when we need it.”
AT&T VPN service provides connectivity supporting the voice, video and data communications between kiosk customers and specially trained off-site agents. The VPN supports Ethernet connections, which allow for higher bandwidth speeds at major airport facilities. The MPLS-enabled network provides any-to-any connectivity, allowing Hertz to route traffic where it needs it to go. Class of service (CoS) enables the company to route the kiosk’s critical voice and video applications across the MPLS network on a prioritized basis. AT&T also provides project management, identifying network needs, assessing locations, coordinating with local service providers, overseeing work completion and tracking timelines.
The kiosks have been installed at major locations like international airports and smaller sites including Hertz Local Edition neighborhood storefronts, hotel lobbies and auto repair shops. “In the local, off-airport locations, we might be limited to whatever network they have available,” said Francis. At these smaller locations, the kiosks plug into local Internet connections and are routed back to the video contact center.
Faster, More Flexible Service
The Hertz ExpressRent Kiosks smooth out peaks in business for faster service. At Los Angeles International Airport, for example, Hertz installed twelve kiosks to support existing counter agents. When it’s busy, customers can reach off-site agents through the kiosks and avoid waiting. The solution is nationwide. “In Atlanta and several other high-volume locations, a greeter stands at the line and asks people if they’d like to try the kiosks, explaining that they will be talking to an actual live agent,” Francis explained. “Customers using ExpressRent comment on the ease of the system and how happy they are with the speed. A majority of users say they will use it for future rentals.”
From start to finish, the ExpressRent kiosks bring the best in customer service technology and blend it with the human touch. The video agent and animated touch screen guide customers through the rental process. “Customers love it,” said Francis. “Even people who said they don’t like technology said they would use Hertz’s kiosk again.” In a recent survey, 89 percent of customers rated their kiosk experience positively, citing the easy, convenient and smooth process.
“Because of the personal interaction, the agent gets more information than what the previous kiosk was able to obtain, has a better feel for the customer and can better meet the needs of the customer,” Francis said. Video agents can also present pictures and graphics on screen to help customers better understand the services.
Extending the Hertz Network
With the kiosks, Hertz can establish a presence outside of airports without building new locations. ”By not having to install a counter or computer hardware, the kiosks are an effective way of extending the Hertz network,” said Francis. Hertz has already installed ExpressRent Kiosks in auto repair shops and parking garages in New York City. The kiosks expand and improve customer access to Hertz services. At repair shops, customers rent Hertz cars directly on-site through the kiosks. Instead of getting picked up by the rental company and then dropped off at an inconvenient office location, customers renting cars drive directly from where they are to where they want to be.
Hertz is continuing to expand the use of the kiosks and has introduced them into Hertz on Demand car sharing service in New York City. “You can sign up as a first-time Hertz on Demand car sharing member using an ExpressRent Kiosk. It creates on-the-spot the car sharing card and off you go,” explained Francis.
Giving simpler, easier and faster service through technology allows Hertz customers to ‘Travel at the Speed of Hertz.’