How car rentals can take advantage of chatbots

Dec 11, 2019

How can car rental companies reduce friction and gain more direct control of the customers? We look at how chatbots and AI can help.



Car rentals are an extremely competitive business where the customer acquisition process is often tied to OTAs or integrators that package up the service and charge commissions. It is also a business where a lot of things happen at the last minute and can change even after the customer has picked up the car.

As a consequence car rental companies end up spending a lot of money acquiring customers and dealing with customer service issues. To help them we have identified two key areas of opportunity that could be exploited by using custom-built chatbots and artificial intelligence.

Reducing friction matters

The first one has to do with the concept of friction. Studies commissioned by tech companies like Facebook are pointing towards the rise of convenience as a key decision factor in purchases. They argue that as mobile phones and technology make it easier and easier to find information and buy things, consumers are becoming less tolerant towards friction in the purchase process and that a single positive low-friction experience with a brand can often raise a consumer’s expectation forever.

This means that the company that can offer the lowest friction purchase system has a significant advantage, especially when the purchase is relatively last minute. Companies like Domino’s Pizza have taken full advantage of this concept and used chatbots to make ordering pizza as easy as sending a single pizza emoji via WhatsApp.

We believe that in the car-rental world, there is a significant opportunity to bypass at least some of the integrators, OTAs, and their commissions by allowing users to book their cars via messaging apps like WhatsApp. Of course, the transaction wouldn’t be as simple as Domino’s and its Pizza emoji but a well-designed custom-built chatbot could easily complete the transaction and payment with just a few messages.

Better experiences lead to more business

This would create an experience with far less friction than a dedicated app or a search on a comparison site. In fact, for some business people, it would take the same amount of effort as messaging their own personal assistant, with the significant advantage that the transaction would be immediate. Moreover, the car rental company could easily become the customer’s default option by being present on their WhatsApp constant list and therefore easily accessible and constantly on the top of mind.

The same channel and bot could also be used by the car rental company to provide customer service, help users navigate their way through an airport to find the company’s desk, make last-minute changes or even inform users of problems like strikes or road closures that could affect the timely return or pick up of the car.

Using the chatbot in this way would allow the company to unlock the second area of opportunity: improved customer experience, and the associated increase in brand loyalty and likelihood of purchase. Of course, for this to work the solution cannot be an off-the-shelf one. Each company is unique and a good chatbot is designed to fit its unique brand, competitive environment, local user preferences, and interface well with the company’s ERP and CRMs.

To help you discover the right solution for your company, we have decided to make our team of experts available to you for free. You can reach out to them by using the link below.