New train of thought for Enterprise
07 August 2014
Author: Jack Carfrae
Rental company Enterprise has acquired Burnt Tree
"There's more to it than that," says Enterprise's head of business rental Adrian Bewley, when asked if it's the size and branding of the firm that bagged it the daily rental category in the 2014 BusinessCar Awards.
"Locations are key, but our relationships with our customers, and understanding what they need and delivering what they need, is probably more prevalent, and the size and the scale of our organisation allows us to fulfil a lot of those needs. The size of the brand is something we don't really talk about too much - we like to be the local car rental company and nimble in our approach."
The firm, which has its roots in the US, is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary of operating in Britain and has recently expanded in Europe, something Bewley says has changed the way it approaches its UK business.
"We're probably at the most exciting period of time in the corporate side of the business, especially with European expansion. Previously, we could really only deal with big corporates in the UK; now we're dealing with organisations with a European and a US footprint, [which are] soon to be hopefully globally as well."
Locating sites at London train stations has also made the company think differently about business from overseas: "I think [London train stations are] a huge insight into the European traveller. In the UK, those locations certainly weren't in our thought process until we'd acquired Spain and France. We realised that the European traveller is a lot more adept at using the train as well as well as hiring a car - using car hire as part of a cycle of decision making to actually get somebody to a destination.
"And I think that's changed our approach quite considerably. The UK traveller had certainly never given us the impression that the train station was particularly important, but I think the way certain train stations had remodelled themselves had made it easier for us to become part of the decision making, so that's made us think about it differently and the way the European traveller is thinking about their travel arrangements.
"That all comes through the magic of taking on more coverage in Europe because you learn more about the markets you're in place to serve."
Another recent measure includes expanding seven-day opening, which was traditionally confined to airport sites but has now been rolled out to non-airport branches. Bewley claims it has helped to field orders from corporate customers for Monday morning rentals.
"What we'd find is there'd be a huge amount of demand over the weekend for an early morning start," he says. "The customer can arrange pick up and return [the company's free delivery and drop-off service] on a Sunday if they want to. It just gives us a lot more flexibility to get that car sorted out for first thing Monday. And the long-term plan is to expand that from the branches we started with to 80 or 90 [it currently has more than 70, including airport sites, open seven days a week], and that's all [to do with] customers asking us to be open in those areas. So if there's a peak of demand we'll adjust our opening times. This doesn't really focus on our airport locations, which are already open 24/7 - these are all free-standing home city locations."
Electric vehicles are also on the firm's agenda and it announced the addition of 20 plug-in Chevrolet Volts to its fleet at the start of the year, all of which are operating across London.
"They're all out on rent," says Bewley, when asked how they're doing. "We figured the best way to go on that particular product was in central London and they needed to be on long-term rent - and that's pretty much where they've gone. At the early stage they could still be a challenge renting on a day-to-day basis, so by doing it on a monthly basis, customers who were taking it knew what they had in terms of charging points nearby."
He adds that the business community is always first port of call for new ventures such as the Volts: "We never do retail first - we always try to test the water with businesses. The idea behind that is just, can we create the demand first because, to offer them to retail, you've got to have a lot available. A finite number of vehicles suits the business community much better. You're trying to get to that tipping point of supply against demand. By putting our toe in the water it makes us feel there is a market and feel good about that market as well. If you had a lot of them then the credibility of that product may well recede because people won't look at it as an early adopter product, and the infrastructure is still too challenging to make it widely available."