30 years' young – White Clarke Automotive Solutions celebrates RentMan anniversary
Q: Take us back to the beginning. Thirty years ago, nothing like RentMan existed. Can you sum up how you identified the market need and opportunity, brought it to life, and have kept it on top of its game for so long?
Iain McLean: Back then, everything was paper based – there was absolutely no alternative – and we were an IT function within a group of companies who provided services to the vehicle rental industry in the independent market place. Things like insurance, stationery, rental agreements, vehicle checkout forms, everything you need to run a rental operation, but purely on a manual basis. We took that manual process, computerised it, and RentMan was born.
Pamela Halliday: It continues to be successful because we regularly update and refresh the system, to keep ahead of the market and to set trends. We have customers who’ve been with us for the whole 30 years, and renew every year because the system is simple to use, and easy to implement. There’s no kit. All you need is a computer.
Q: You refer to RentMan as “Driving vehicle rental together”. Does that mean it literally works and evolves as a two-way thing?
PH: If one customer wants a bespoke piece of development, or a function that could benefit all users and customers, we would roll out this benefit to the entire customer base. We get lots of external input from a variety of individuals, which we integrate. So yes, it’s the interaction between our customers and ourselves that drives the shape and content of RentMan, and we all enjoy the continuous improvement.
Q: RentMan isn’t alone in the marketplace anymore – are you still the one to beat?
IM: Of course we have competition from people who will try to provide a similar product at a knock down price, but may not be able to actually deliver what the industry expects. We’ve lost customers who have gone to the competition and come back to us six months later, because the other product simply couldn’t do what they wanted it to do.
PH: There is always someone out there in the market who will try to do the same for less or more for the same. The good thing for us is that with our reputation and our ability to be nimble, we can offer some kind of flexible benefit to the customer to keep them, as most customers of ours would prefer the RentMan solution.
IM: And quite a few others too! On one occasion at a trade show, one of our competitors set up a stand close to us, but a little nearer the entrance. People were visiting the other stand before us, then coming on to ours to compare the two products, and going for RentMan. At that show, we generated more new sales than usual, which we put down to that simple side-by-side comparison.
Q: Another important step was the introduction of RentMan Light in 2004…
IM: It was first introduced as an add-on to the manufacture dealer-based rental programmes, installed in dealerships for the service receptionist to use for booking out courtesy vehicles, or a replacement vehicle for when a customer’s car was in for warranty work.
PH: Prior to RentMan, rental operators had large paper-driven spreadsheets, or a card system, without real traceability of a transaction. Today, RentMan and RentMan Light are an integral part of a dealer-based rental programme. A fully automated and auditable process, with bookings driven straight to our central reservation and billing team. With dealer-based rental programmes we aim to fulfil 90% a same-brand replacement vehicle to the customer, which helps OEMs to drive registrations.
Q: How do you see the future? Where does RentMan go from here?
IM: It’s always going to be at the leading edge technologically, because we deliver it using Cloud-based infrastructure.
One thing we’d be keen to develop is an interface to the DVLA, so RentMan could look up driving licence information. That would be of greater benefit to a small rental operator than having it on a mobile phone.
Q: Are you able to do that?
PH: At the moment, we’re not able to provide this interface, but we hope that forthcoming changes within the DVLA will make it possible. We are also rolling out vehicle checks on an iPad, instead of having the paper document. You can have your rental agreement checked on the iPad, and then sent directly to your email address. This is a key development that has been warmly received.
Q: RentMan’s human face seems to be very important.
PH: It’s definitely one of the keys to our success. The word from our customers is that whilst leading-edge technology and competitive pricing are important, a voice at the end of the phone, particularly based here in the UK on the help desk Monday to Friday, and Saturday morning is still a requirement, not a “nice to have”. Whilst automation gives speed and reduces cost to the customer, not every situation lends itself to this. A distressed driver, who has broken down or is involved in an accident, wants to speak to a real person who can help to take their pain away. It’s a good illustration of the culture we’ve created within White Clarke Automotive Solutions of always trying to do our best and be the best, in as many different ways as we can. Now, more than ever, that’s what keeps the volume share and market numbers growing. We passionately believe that good service can enhance a very good product and make it great.
Q: Is RentMan for everyone and anyone?
PH: Any vehicle rental operation can use it. From single operator, a rental location operating perhaps 10 vehicles, to a multi-site national running 1,000 or more. Over the years, it’s been installed in over 500 locations, for companies such as Vauxhall, BMW, Toyota, Ford and Peugeot, Hertz, Budget, Avis, Europcar and Green Motion franchisees. And of course, a number of international hire companies.
IM: We’ve very recently rolled out RentMan for Green Motion in Hungary, Iceland, Italy, and Jordan will be following soon. Green Motion have been with us as franchisees for seven years, providing RentMan as a key part of their standard package. We also operate 19 locations in Australia on behalf of Holden rental from our UK offices in Milton Keynes. So we’re not just UK, we’re global. But just as accessible and supportive if you run a much smaller, local business too.
Q: Can you imagine RentMan clocking up another 30 years?
PH: I don’t see why it can’t. There’s nothing else out there to beat it.
It will always come back to this simple fact: with car rental someone can walk in to a dealership or a rental company, pay a relatively small deposit and drive off with an asset, car or van, perhaps worth £30,000 returning it after the hire in good condition – fingers crossed!
Rental is simple, quick and without termination costs. We are moving towards a rental lifestyle… homes, cars, Boris Bikes… the desire to own our assets has shifted. We want to be able to change our mind or change direction, without fear of penalty. Rental will always give drivers the ability to do this. Whether it’s a weekend house move or a three-month mini rental during a probationary period in a new job.
That’s where RentMan came in, and where it will continue to thrive.
Q: Finally, are you planning any 30th birthday celebrations?
PH: We have a small celebration planned involving the little fella who’s sitting proudly at the top of this interview…
IM: The first 50 readers who go to the website (http://www.rentman.co.uk/contact.htm) and enter their name and address will receive a RentMan 4GB USB stick – all decked up and ready to go.
PH: OK, it’s not as indulgent as a slice of birthday cake, but much more useful! I’m pretty sure RentMan would approve…