Steering Car-Rental Innovation

A TENURE OF NEW IDEAS Celebrating her 10th year at the Avis Budget Group, Priscilla Alvarado shows no signs of slowing down, implementing modern programs such a mobile application that allows you to pick up and return a car. “It’s self-service that puts control literally in a customer’s hands,” she says. Photos: Mat Robinson Enduring Images

Celebrating her 10-year anniversary with Avis Budget Group, a major corporation in the vehicle-rental industry, Priscilla Alvarado shares the forward-thinking programs she’s launching to keep the company moving in the right direction

It’s been a long ride, but Priscilla Alvarado doesn’t have time for a pit stop as she continues to move her company and career forward. Celebrating her 10th year with the Avis Budget Group, Inc., Alvarado is bringing all of her considerable skills to bear on developing several high-profile customer-focused programs for the company. “We’re in the midst of launching some of the most innovative programs in our company’s history,” she says. Already a seasoned car-rental pro when she joined Avis Budget, Alvarado has worked her way up through the company during her tenure, also working to obtain her MBA along the way. Now as director of customer initiatives (editor’s note: in July 2013, Alvarado was promoted to vice president of development and integration), she shares with HE the innovative programs she’s launching as she hits the 10-year mark with the company this April.

1

Select & Go
Aimed exclusively at the airport market, Select & Go gives customers more of a choice in their rental-car experience. With Select & Go, customers have the ability to view the car they have been preassigned to, and change their selection or upgrade if they wish to drive something different. The service gives customers control of which car they would like to rent from the lot—all through a quick and easy paperless transaction. “The goal of the project was to give customers something that they have asked for, which is a choice in the kind of vehicle they drive,” Alvarado says. “I was tasked with building the program and managing the rollout to 25 of the biggest airport-rental facilities.”

Select & Go uses a combination of new technology, streamlined processes, and heightened employee training to answer the desires and demands of the customer. The result is a more efficient process for the company and more selection and satisfaction for the customer. “At Avis Budget, renting a car is easier and faster than ever,” she explains. Since the project’s launch, Alvarado says that the company has seen extremely positive reactions from their customers. “It’s been an incredible customer reaction,” she says. “We’ve also seen a significant uptick in customer-service scores.”

PAlvarado HE Avis Budget HQ Lobby - Final_web
Photos: Mat Robinson Enduring Images

 

Up Close & Personal

Getting to know Priscilla Alvarado

How were you able to juggle attending graduate school with your full-time job?
The company gave me a terrific opportunity through their tuition-reimbursement program. But, of course, I still had a very demanding work schedule. So, I opted to go to school on the weekends: it took me nearly three years going to school every Saturday, all day. It was all worth it, but I’m also glad to have my weekends back.

What’s your favorite aspect of working for Avis Budget Group?
You meet employees throughout the organization that have been with Avis or Budget for 30, 40, even 50 years. People are phenomenally loyal to their brands.

What did you want to be when you grew up?  Editor-In-Chief at Cosmopolitan.

Favorite vacation spot: Martha’s Vineyard, MA. My dream is to own my own place on the Vineyard and be a true islander.

 

2

Virtual Self-Service
The next step in evolving the customer experience is by equipping customers with the ability to select vehicles and transact through virtual self-service. “Right now, I’m working on expanding our virtual locations, where customers use mobile applications to pick up a car and return it on their own, without the need for an employee to help them,” she says. “It’s self-service that puts control literally in a customer’s hands.”

The program is still in the design phase, though Alvarado promises that more people will start hearing about it before the year’s end. Her team is currently equipping thousands of the company’s vehicles with the technology needed to interface with customers’ mobile applications so they can select, access, and pay for their rental through a smart phone.

Even though programs like this reduce the need for customer-service representatives, Alvarado argues that virtual transactions actually allow for a more personalized approach. “By reducing the need for our employees to be part of the tactical transaction process, it frees them up to provide a higher degree of customer service and interact more on a one-on-one basis,” Alvarado says.

3

Strategic acquisitions
Throughout her expanding and evolving roles with the company, Alvarado has consistently played a major role in the acquisitions of several key licensees. “I have worked on several different acquisitions of territories that added to revenue growth of the company,” she says.

One of her biggest acquisitions was the Newark Liberty International Airport facility in New Jersey, just a stone’s throw from the company’s headquarters. “Newark is pretty much our backyard,” she says. “Being able to acquire that territory and being able to integrate it within our corporate fold was a really important project that required the coordination of many functional groups within this organization to make this a smooth transition.” The company saw their efficiency increase, as they were able to place both Avis and Budget facilities at the airport.

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