“Stellar customer experiences are good for business.” - Captain Obvious
The Power of Generative AI in Customer Experience: Revolutionizing the Car Rental Experience
Renting a car is a familiar experience for most. You book it ahead of time, picking a company and class of car you think meets your needs and price points. You think about how far you have to drive, how many people will be in the car, how much luggage you will have, what you enjoy driving, and more. You try to guess what car you will end up with based on the vague descriptions and example vehicles in the grid of choices. But your knowledge is limited. Ultimately, they might rent the perfect car and have a wonderful experience. Or six adults are shoved into an SUV that "seats 7," but the reality is that 3 of those seats are for people no larger than a toddler, all assuming you don't have luggage.
Correctly setting expectations and matching the right product to their customer's needs and desires is critical to improving customer experiences. So, imagine how customer experiences will improve when customers are matched with a more appropriate car from the beginning.
Enter generative AI.
Understanding generative AI and its capabilities
Generative AI refers to artificial intelligence algorithms capable of generating new data, insights, or content based on the information it is trained on. Generative AI can create personalized recommendations, provide valuable insights, and enhance decision-making processes by analyzing vast amounts of data and identifying patterns.
How can AI gather customer data and preferences?
By integrating generative AI into the car rental process from the beginning, businesses can gather valuable customer data, such as travel plans, weather conditions, preferences, and specific requirements. Customers can provide this information through user-friendly interfaces like chatbots or online forms. Once the AI system has collected the necessary data from the customer, it can analyze and process the information to generate personalized car recommendations. Customers can also ask follow-up and clarifying questions to refine the recommendations further.
For instance, a customer:
- Is planning a ski trip, and AI recommends some options like a Subaru or midsize SUV. But when the customer says they need a vehicle for four adults, the system removes the Subaru as a recommendation.
- Wants to understand how fuel costs will affect the total cost of their rental, so the AI provides expected costs based on the estimated distance, the fuel economy for each vehicle, and the average gas price. The customer then follows up, requesting a comparison of an EV vs. the different gasoline options.
- Requests the advantages and disadvantages of the models presented, placed into a table to help them compare the options.
- Is safety conscious and wants to know the government safety ratings for each vehicle recommended, then asks which one is the best value based on the safety rating.
By addressing the challenges in the current car rental process from the beginning, generative AI can significantly enhance customer experiences and satisfaction.
Generative AI can revolutionize the car rental industry by addressing key challenges and offering personalized, data-driven solutions. From tailored car recommendations to streamlined booking processes, AI can flip the car selection process on its head, giving consumers more information to help them make a better choice. And when the customers are happier with their rental car, they are more satisfied with the company -- improving customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Implementing AI in your business
Every business has the potential for AI to improve customer experiences. Can AI give your customers more personal attention? Can it help answer questions more effectively so you and your employees can spend more time on more complicated, high-value tasks? Can it anticipate customer needs and desires before the customer knows what they want or need?
How can your business benefit?
Envisioning what is possible is challenging but also fun. Implementing and managing it requires expertise and creativity. We are experts at Qualtric's XM Discover solution (formerly Clarabridge) - having worked with it in 2016. If you're ready to revolutionize your customer experience, contact us, and let's explore how we can help your business thrive in this rapidly evolving industry.
Bonus Content: Using ChatGPT-4 to Recommend a Rental Car
To help demonstrate what is possible, I had a chat with ChatGPT-4 based on a real-life scenario following my time at Qualtric’s X4 Summit in Salt Lake City this past March. Below is the actual transcript.
I start by asking it to make a recommendation based on some facts (which could alternatively be gathered through a form or chatbot):
I would like to rent a car to drive from Salt Lake City, Utah to Boise, Idaho, roundtrip, leaving on Friday, 3/10, and returning on Saturday, 3/11. The weather is forecasted to be in the 30s and sunny, although some snow is possible. There is just one passenger. Gasoline vehicles are fine, but I would like to look at EV options too. I am tall, so make sure the car isn't too small, but I won't have a lot of luggage. The roads are primarily interstate highways. I enjoy trying new and different vehicles.
Its initial recommendations:
Given your preferences, I suggest looking into the following categories of vehicles:
Midsize or full-size sedans: These vehicles are spacious enough to accommodate your height and offer a comfortable driving experience. Examples include the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Ford Fusion, or Chevrolet Malibu.
Crossover SUVs: These vehicles provide a higher seating position and extra space, which might be useful for a tall person. Some options are the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Nissan Rogue, or Ford Escape.
Electric vehicles (EVs): If you are interested in trying an electric vehicle, you can consider the Tesla Model 3, Chevrolet Bolt, Nissan Leaf, or Volkswagen ID.4. Just be aware that you'll need to plan your charging stops along the way, as the distance between Salt Lake City and Boise is approximately 340 miles. You can use apps like PlugShare or ChargePoint to find charging stations on your route.
Before making your reservation, check with the car rental company about the availability of your preferred vehicle type, and make sure to mention your height so they can recommend the best option for you. Also, consider adding any additional features you may need, such as GPS navigation or insurance coverage.
Lastly, keep an eye on the weather and adjust your driving plans accordingly, especially if snow is in the forecast. Remember to drive safely and allow extra time for potential delays.
Okay, pretty useful, but it sparks a follow-up question from me to help make a final decision:
What is the range of the EV options given the weather forecast and that the speed limit is 80
It goes in-depth with some useful information:
The range of electric vehicles (EVs) can be impacted by various factors, including weather conditions, driving speed, and terrain. Cold temperatures may reduce the range by up to 20-40% due to increased energy consumption for heating and reduced battery efficiency. Driving at high speeds can also decrease the range due to increased air resistance.
Here are the estimated ranges of the mentioned EVs under normal conditions:
- Tesla Model 3 (Long Range): 353 miles
- Chevrolet Bolt: 259 miles
- Nissan Leaf: 226 miles (Leaf Plus)
- Volkswagen ID.4: 250 miles (1st Edition and Pro S variants)
Considering the weather forecast and the 80 mph speed limit, the range of these vehicles may be reduced. To account for this, you can estimate a 20-40% reduction in range:
- Tesla Model 3 (Long Range): 212 - 282 miles
- Chevrolet Bolt: 155 - 207 miles
- Nissan Leaf (Leaf Plus): 136 - 181 miles
- Volkswagen ID.4 (1st Edition and Pro S variants): 150 - 200 miles
These estimated ranges should be taken with caution, as the actual range may vary depending on driving habits, temperature fluctuations, and other factors. To ensure a smooth trip, plan your charging stops strategically using apps like PlugShare or ChargePoint, and consider charging to a higher state of charge than usual to account for the potential range reduction.
Okay, that is useful, but are EVs really worth it compared to gasoline cars:
Does your recommendation change if fuel costs are important to me and the price of regular gas is $3.75/gallon?
Another thorough answer:
If fuel costs are a significant concern for you, an electric vehicle (EV) could be a more cost-effective option. The cost per mile for an EV is generally lower than for a gasoline-powered vehicle, especially when gas prices are high.
Assuming a distance of approximately 680 miles for the round trip between Salt Lake City and Boise, let's compare the fuel costs for a gasoline vehicle and an electric vehicle:
Gasoline vehicle: Assuming an average fuel economy of 30 miles per gallon for a midsize or full-size sedan, the round trip would require about 22.7 gallons of gas. At $3.75 per gallon, the fuel cost would be approximately $85.13.
Electric vehicle: The cost of electricity for EV charging varies depending on the location and type of charger (home, public, or fast charging). On average, the cost per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for public charging stations in the United States is around $0.15 to $0.25. Assuming an average EV efficiency of 4 miles per kWh, the round trip would require approximately 170 kWh. At an average cost of $0.20 per kWh, the electricity cost would be approximately $34.
Given these calculations, an electric vehicle could save you around $51 in fuel costs for the round trip. However, you should also consider factors such as EV availability at rental companies, charging infrastructure along your route, and the potential need for additional charging time. If these factors do not pose significant challenges, an electric vehicle may be a more cost-effective option for your trip.
Okay, I am close to making a decision, one last question to nail this down:
What is the fuel cost difference between a Ford Fusion, a Honda CR-V, and an EV?
Assuming a distance of 680 miles for the round trip, fuel economy of 25 mpg for the Ford Fusion, 28 mpg for the Honda CR-V, gas prices at $3.75/gallon, and an average electricity cost of $0.20 per kWh for an EV:
Ford Fusion fuel cost: $102
Honda CR-V fuel cost: $87.50
EV electricity cost: $34
The fuel cost differences are:
Ford Fusion vs. Honda CR-V: $14.50
Ford Fusion vs. EV: $68
Honda CR-V vs. EV: $53.50