Rental Cars & Millennials: Enterprise Leads Recent Study

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I travel often for my work in the automotive industry, sometimes hitting several cites a week at my busiest. I noticed, this past year especially, more Millennials when I pick up my rental cars from the airport.

Probably not surprising then are the results of the J.D. Power 2015 North America Rental Car Satisfaction Study. It finds Millennials are the majority of satisfied customers when renting a car. The study tracked overall satisfaction at airport locations by analyzing 6 common elements (by order of importance): cost/fees, pick-up, returning instructions, the rental car itself, shuttle bus/van accommodations, and reservation process.

The study has a 1,000 point scale.

Enterprise ranks highest for the second consecutive year, with a score of 831, a 26-point improvement from 2014. National follows at 818, with Alamo at 807, reflecting 21 and 31-point improvements, respectively, from 2014.

Millennials, or those born 1982 to 2004, (although exact years are sometimes disputed) have earned a reputation for being fickle and demanding. Despite this, Millennials hold the highest amount of satisfaction among generational groups for both business travel (834) and leisure/personal travel (809). Millennials are the second largest group of renters (34%), behind Boomers (40%), and the second largest proportion of business travelers (39%), behind Gen X (43%).

“Conventional wisdom says that Millennials are perpetually dissatisfied, but that clearly is not the case,” said Rick Garlick, Global Travel and Hospitality Practice Lead at J.D. Power.

Keeping Millennials happy is top priority for rental car companies, since 47% of this demographic post reviews vs. 27% of Gen Xers and only 10% of Boomers. Millennials seem more likely share their experiences on social media too. In 2010, the Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research indicated social media is so powerful to younger generations, those who dropped it showed similar withdrawal habits as a drug addict.

Knowing this, rental car companies, and Enterprise especially, seem to be keeping pace, setting the framework for lifelong customers.

“Younger consumers are often more difficult to please, but as they get older – whether it’s because of maturity, experience, more income or all three – their satisfaction across many studies improves, said Garlick. “We definitely see differences in the satisfaction of Gen Y consumers now that many are in their mid to late 20s and 30s, compared with when they were in their late teens and early 20s.”

Rental Car Study

Key Findings:

  • Record High Customer Satisfaction Scores: Despite slowing in 2014, overall customer satisfaction reaches the highest level (798) since J.D. Power began its current methodology in 2006.
  • Millennials Make Big Impact: In addition to being the most satisfied in this study, Millennial customers are the most likely to document their experiences via the Internet. Millennials delighted by their experience (a rating of 10 on a 10-point scale) make an average of 5.83 positive recommendations, in contrast to when they’re disappointed (5 or lower), with an average of only 1.46 negative comments.
  • Shuttle Bus Vital: The greatest gain in satisfaction regarded the shuttle bus/van (+37 points), followed by cost & fees (+29) and pick-up process (+26).
  • Business Travelers Getting Happier: Business customer satisfaction is 802, seeing a 30-point increase from 2014. It’s the first time, under the current methodology, business customer satisfaction exceeds leisure customer satisfaction. Leisure/personal customer satisfaction is up 22 points, to 796, however.
  • Navigation & Heated Seats Help: Most customers do not expect rental cars to have navigation or heated/cooled seats but these add value.
  • Charting Problems: The study finds 14% of customers have a problem during their rental car experience, up 1 percentage point from 2014. Most frequently it’s vehicle upkeep and maintenance. Rental cars with mechanical malfunctions of some kind would fall into this category. The next most common stem from a disconnect in either the pick-up process, staff service, and/or billing. Overall satisfaction dropped 93 points to 717 when customers experience a problem, compared with 810 when things go smooth.

The 2015 North America Rental Car Satisfaction Study is based on responses gathered from September 2014 through August 2015, from 12,101 business and leisure customers who rented at an airport from August 2014 through August 2015.

2015 marked the 20th year of the study.

How did it go the last time you rented a car?

*Carl Anthony is Managing Editor of Automoblog.net and resides in Detroit, Michigan.  

Rental Car Study #2

About The Author

Carl represents automakers in their marketing and product development arms as a Vehicle Coach, Product Specialist, and Facilitator. He has worked with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Volvo, and Local Motors. Carl is the Immediate Past President of Detroit Working Writers and on the Board of Directors for the Ally Jolie Baldwin Foundation. He enjoys a multitude of health and fitness activities and is a loyal Detroit Lions fan.

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