I received an email from Europcar SA’s (on Twitter) general manager for marketing, Zavi Stein, in March responding to my blog post as if it was a recent post. It seems Europcar only picked up on my post this year. After pointing that out to Zavi we exchanged emails during the course of which Zavi offered me a Europcar Platinum Card and asked me to try Europcar when I next travel within South Africa. I don’t travel all that much so the card felt a bit like overkill for me but it was a generous offer so, what the heck, I accepted.
After giving Zavi and her team all my information for the card, I received it from Zavi personally. The idea behind the Platinum card is that you just show or swipe your card when you arrive to pick up a car you booked and you walk out with the key. No need to do all the admin you normally need to do when you walk in and book a car. The card comes with a variety of benefits including a car class upgrade and car availability. The reduced admin is terrific and the one thought I had about this was how awesome it would be if Europcar had a lower tier card option where customers could get the admin out the way at sign-up and get a card that just allows them to skip doing all the admin at the counter when they arrive to pick up a car. Those customers don’t even need all the benefits the platinum card holders receive, just that expedited checkout. That part of the experience was the most useful to me but more about that below.
Update: That reduced admin service is called the Ready Service and is also available to customers traveling on corporate accounts.
I finally flew to Cape Town a couple weeks ago for a WASPA Adjudicator’s workshop (I am an independent adjudicator) and took the opportunity to book a car with Europcar. My needs are pretty simple so I requested a Polo which was booked at the cost of one class down (the one card benefit). My flight left OR Tambo airport late due to a sick passenger who got off the plane. By the time we arrived and I walked through the terminal I was running late and couldn’t afford a delay at Europcar. When I arrived at the office, this was almost literally my experience:
- I walked into the Europcar office and up to the counter directly opposite me as I walked in;
- I took out the card and presented it and was directed to another counter nearer the entrance;
- I walked over there, showed the guy behind the counter my card, he quickly checked my name, located the key, handed it to me and directed me to another employee who walked me out the other side to my car.
I think I stopped moving through the office for about 10 seconds from the time I arrived to the time I placed my bag in the car and got in. I overstating the delay. It was that quick.
The car was clean, I got to the workshop more or less on time and when I returned I pulled into the drop-off queue (as with just about any car rental company), handed over the key and walked into the terminal. My experience was totally different to my last encounter and this was probably largely due to me not having to deal with the admin and the realization that I couldn’t use a cheque card to pay. Instead, I registered a credit card with Europcar when I got the platinum card and the payment happened behind the scenes. The staff who helped me this time around got me out of the office as quickly and as courteously as they could and that meant I spent very little time getting the car and more time getting to my workshop and, on my return, getting on to my plane and going home.
That efficiency was what mattered to me. The car was only for two short drives and the Polo was perfect for what I needed. When I think about it now, what stands out for me is that the Europcar experience was limited to the essentials and didn’t get in my way. Isn’t that the point? This experience was a thousand times better than my previous one.
So, a big thank you to Zavi and her team. The platinum card certainly made a difference but they also simplified the booking process tremendously and answered some logistical questions I had quickly and decisively. I am flying to Cape Town again in September for the WTF Conference and I will use Europcar again, no need to even think about it.