Innovation and Infrastructure

By Eileen Feretic  |  Posted 2009-09-09 Print this article Print

The Avis Budget Group believes that customer satisfaction and business success are built on a foundation of technology innovation.

Innovation and Infrastructure

But these technologies are only the tip of the iceberg. “We have gone through multiple iterations of automation and innovation,” Turato says. “We’ve upgraded our technology infrastructure and brought it into the 21st century. Our objective is not only to create new areas to innovate, but also to continue innovating on our existing products.”

Though Avis’ data center has been outsourced to IBM for several years, Turato’s group has its own lab and systems to test new technologies and work on projects. “Our lab is where we do applied research and try out new technologies,” he explains. “We do our brainstorming there, and we have vendors come in and demonstrate their products for us.

“We take our existing technologies and components and innovate by using wireless technologies. When new applications arise, we’re already experienced in those wireless technologies and are able to introduce them quickly into the various platforms.”

The lab also looks for ways to do cross-channel consistency so that the customer experience on avis.com and budget.com will be similar to what they experience at the two companies’ rental counters and other touch points. “That’s a work in progress and is based on our OMEGA SOA,” Turato says. “We’re also working on new projects. Some haven’t been introduced yet, but we’ve started rolling out others, such as thin clients and the software that drives them. We’re also replacing the user interface for our customer service agents.

“Today’s interface is basically a green screen, and we want to provide more of a GUI-based system. That will enable us to deliver more tools to help the customer service agents do their jobs more effectively. These tools will help them get to know our customers better by providing more CRM capability. It will also help our agents sell additional ancillary products, such as rentals of GPS devices.”

Currently, the Hewlett-Packard thin clients are being installed in new Avis and Budget locations, but ultimately, the thin clients will be at all company locations, including airports and suburban offices. “Seven or eight large airports have already been converted, and we’ll continue adding more, as well as implementing thin clients in the small locations,” Turato says. “It will take a couple of years before the thin clients are fully implemented.

“We have not released the user interface yet, but we plan to pilot it toward the end of the third quarter. We’re going to go slowly. We believe there will continue to be some green screens used for certain functions, but the main rental screens will go GUI eventually.”

Wireless is another technology that’s being implemented on a gradual basis. The company has already offered Wi-Fi capability to its customers in some locations, but customers have not expressed a great need for it at Avis and Budget offices.

“For the most part, we use Wi-Fi operationally,” Turato says. “For example, with the Rover system, those hand-held devices communicate over the Wi-Fi network, and our WOW system also uses Wi-Fi when a bus is in the lot. When it’s off the lot, the system communicates via wireless WAN. We also use wireless in our suburban locations, enabling the terminals to talk to the router and the router to talk to the data center.”

Of course, the use of wireless technology does create some security issues, but the company keeps on top of them. “We spend a lot of time and effort on security, since we handle credit card data,” Turato says. “It’s all vetted through our information security department.”

Eileen Feretic is the Editor of Baseline Magazine.

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