How our European customer research helped Hertz innovate


How can a company differentiate and win repeat business in a competitive market? We helped Hertz find out.

More than innovation

’We uncovered such rich insights,’ says Elodie Delalleau, Senior Product Manager for Hertz. ‘Insights which we are using to innovate and transform the digital and overall customer experience. Hertz isn’t innovating because it sounds good. It’s ensuring its future by developing new services that meet real customer needs.

Winning in a disrupted market

Car rental companies face an increasingly competitive market. The big brands have a lot to offer (e.g. established networks, safety and quality regulation, loyalty benefits etc.) but struggle to differentiate their offering and win customers’ repeat business.

Hertz already had access to customer rental data and customer feedback but wanted a more human insight into customer behaviours, priorities, and the emotional triggers behind them.

New players

As well as competing with the other established firms there are new players in town. These are the self-service and community networks that offer convenience, low rates and simplistic online and in-app booking.

All too often, the temptation is to pop out an app. But without really understanding from a customer’s perspective what the app is fixing, they fail. For delivery of a car rental service to be competitive, it is critical to really understand the needs, frustrations and anxieties (pain-points) of customers, as well as the things they love and like (delights). This helps to focus investment in solutions that deliver results.

Our role was to follow our customer-centric approach for uncovering opportunities for meeting and exceeding customer expectations. To achieve this, we took a closer look at the current rental experience (from pick-up to drop-off), from the customer's point of view:

  • What are the make or break issues?
  • What are the solutions that customers would prefer?
  • What would engender their loyalty?

Moments of truth

To uncover customers' moments of truth (i.e. what matters to them most, what makes or breaks the customer experience), we got deep, qualitative insights by observing, capturing and intercepting the rental experience as it unfolded.

We conducted research across the UK and France, visiting Hertz offices in city locations, airports and train stations. We observed their processes, shadowed customers, queried them about their interactions at pick-up and drop-off and extracted their underlying needs. We also made sure to listen to front line staff and what they had to say about the obstacles to delivering a great customer experience.

We asked customers to focus on what went particularly well, bad or was just unexpected. This ranged from finding the rental office to using the car and getting the invoice after returning it. Over 160 participants documented their rental experience in our diary study through the Nativeye mobile app, producing over 1,700 photos, videos or comments.

We heard from customers about how small details had a big impact on their experience. For instance, in some cases customers would get a receipt from the website, in other cases, they needed to get a receipt when they picked up their car. Inconsistencies meant that customers were left wondering if they’d been dealt with correctly and led to delays and anxiety at key moments.

cxpartners has a strong methodology in place to get an understanding of what customers go through at each stage of their journey in real-time – the pain points and the delights.
Elodie Delalleau, Senior Product Manager, Hertz

From this, we built up a customer-centric narrative that allowed Hertz to gather the resources needed to address the aspects of the service that truly matter to its customers.

An innovation roadmap

Insight is one thing. But organisations need to be able to act. With 877 insights pointing to 303 product innovations, Hertz needed to be able to narrow its focus to what really mattered, and set priorities that would be understood across the organisation.

To enable Hertz to act on the findings, we produced an Experience Map of all the relevant customer behaviours, pain points and delights across the key tasks on the rental journey (More about cxpartners Experience Maps). To generate and prioritise pilot programs, we assessed them against 3 questions:

  1. How many primary pain points do they attempt to resolve for most customers?
  2. How many delights do they aspire to standardise for all customers?
  3. How can they support any of the existing behaviours in unexpected ways?

Pilots and initiatives scoring well on the first question are helping the organisation to meet customer expectations. Those scoring well on the second and third ones enable Hertz to go a step further: in exceeding their expectations. Finally, cxpartners and the Hertz innovation team evaluated the feasibility of the ideas.

The outcome is a roadmap of innovation that gets to the heart of the problem Hertz faces. It’s a two-part solution. Removing those moments of frustration ensures Hertz’s customers don’t have cause to try a risky new alternative. Providing genuinely delightful moments generates word of mouth recommendations from customer to customer, combating the buzz of new services.

It’s an investment that continues to pay off. ‘Any new project we tackle within any part of the Hertz experience we’ve got a fly on the wall. We’re still translating that into requirements for the future Hertz experience, exciting projects we can work on, and a baseline of insights from customer,’ says Conrad Doyle, Hertz Director of Digital and Innovation for the UK.

And with a roadmap based on deep insights into its customers, Hertz is in a position to maintain the pace of change and keep its competitive edge.

Daniel Harris

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