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Computer Business Review - June 2002


New Intranet helps to cut costs and improve customer service

Written by: Gary Eastwood.

For 30 years, Avis Rent A Car has used paper-based processes for hiring out cars. With 320 corporate customers, each often requiring up to 30 pieces of information, it was anything but ideal. But now the company has installed a new intranet for hiring cars online, which it claims has improved customer service and immediately reduced internal costs.

The company began discussing the project in January 2001 while it was working with IT Consultants and system implementors OCS Consulting on another. "We knew we wanted an intranet and they [OCS] knew us and helped us with the business case," explains Sharon Rigler, Avis IT customer account manager. "But we didn't just want to move our [paper-based] manuals online, we wanted users to get to the information within three clicks."

Although OCS came up with a working prototype, which matched Avis' vision, in April 2001, Avis did not set a launch date for the project. "We just wanted to get it right first time round," says Rigler. To that end, the intranet, called Wizdom, went live on a rolling basis, after training every member of staff, which took only an hour each, at each location around the UK. It took just six weeks to train all of its 1,000 staff and go live across the enterprise.

"Potentially, all of our staff can use it, from operations (renting the cars) to administration. Whereas before administration might have needed five or six phone calls to get information, they can now get it within five minutes from the intranet," says Rigler.

Wizdom runs on Microsoft NT 4.0 on Compaq servers, feeding into an existing mainframe reservation system, called Wizard. "Wizard always worked perfectly, with excellent response times, and so on, but now the tool is there online and is supporting the business very well," says Rigler.

Avis says that return on investment on paper costs was immediate, with the company expecting to save 90,000 ($102,580) per year, while in terms of customer service - from a decrease in customer queries or complaints - it is hoping to save $43,720 per quarter. The system cost $131,900 to install.

Rigler also believes that Wizdom has immediately added value to the customer experience. "If you imagine you're renting a car there is a lot of manual work that goes on such as verifying credit cards, driving licenses, getting references, but now agents can get the information straight from the intranet quickly," she says.

"Also we can print off a map of the area, or directions to the train station with its opening hours on it, which we could never do before. That adds value to the customer which is hard to quantify."

The biggest challenge of the project was the paperwork, which took three months to audit, in terms of making it accurate, consistent and set to a company-wide template. Next, Avis plans to migrate its core business process manuals, which deal with the day-to-day running of the operation, onto the intranet.

One of the big pluses for Rigler was the way in which OCS consultants integrated themselves into the project and the Avis IT team. "If we needed their expertise we felt like we were going to an Avis employee, and not just paying for a service," she says.

Copyright Computer Business Review June 2002

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