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Despite the growth of ridesharing and other mobility options for business travelers, car rental remains a core pillar of the sector.
Avis Budget Group has launched a dashboard for corporate travel managers tracking spending, reservations, and environmental impact among other data categories. Travel managers can design custom reports based on their needs and schedule reports for delivery when they need them.
“Data is a huge pain point for our customers, especially travel managers,” said Beth Kinerk, Avis Budget Group’s senior vice president of sales. “We wanted to create a tool to give them the opportunity to have all that data at their fingertips. We had versions of this data before but it was all manual. This is more automated, helps them drive compliance, makes sure all travelers are in policy, and answers a duty of care issue as well.”
Ridesharing companies began offering similar tools in an effort to break into corporate travel a few years ago. Avis’ tool is available now in North America and will be rolled out to clients in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa soon.
The goal for Avis is to give greater visibility into ground transportation regardless of whether a large corporation or small business is using Avis for business travel. In the past, this information has been available but travel managers had to manually request the insights they wanted to look at. The new tool lets them dial down into the behavior of specific travelers or teams and the type of vehicles their travelers are using.
“It goes deep; we took a look at historical requests and we triaged them to see the most popular ones and we automated that,” said Kinerk. “The transparency is key. Often times the data [you see] may not be the most beneficial. You can see if someone is a daily use case guy, weekly, monthly, or hourly. That data will help you tailor your travel program better.”
Kinerk gives the example of eight employees dispatched for a two-week project. Instead of eight people expensing multiple Uber or Lyft rides each day, a travel manager armed with the right insights can assign them two rental cars to share for huge potential cost savings. Zipcar, which Avis acquired in 2013, would be another option.
A sticking point for travel managers is that many new employees will think twice about joining a company that won’t allow them to use ridesharing services, but as Avis adds to its mobility platform this will likely become less of an issue in the future.
Avis also knows that many business travelers extend their trips for leisure activities, for which a car rental may be most affordable.
“It’s beyond car rental, that’s why when we talk about innovation it’s not just getting in your Ford Focus in Detroit,” said Kinerk. “It’s an enhanced experience. When I’m out talking to customers, I say don’t just think of us as a car rental provider. We need the road warriors but it is beyond that, we talk about extending trips, doing something for leisure.”
Down the line, Avis plans to add integrations with third-party services to the corporate travel dashboard. It also dovetails with Avis’ ambitions to become a mobility platform no matter what kind of service a customer needs in either business travel or her personal life.
Contrary to the popular narrative, the car rental giants are actually well-positioned as individual mobility options become bundled into digital platforms. Imagine car rental, car share, rideshare, scooters, e-bikes, and everything available in one place. Oh, and they already have millions of customers around the world using their services.
Corporate travel is a huge chunk of the overall car rental business, and tools like Avis’ new dashboard will help them remain relevant to travel managers delving into the world of data-backed insights.