‘Our emphasis is on customer service’
Interviewed by Jonna Simon
TTN: As the executive vice-president of Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group, how do you manage to convey the company’s mission statement of ‘Value Every Time’ through the 1,600 corporate and franchised worldwide outlets?
Yves Boyer: The way we live up to the ‘Value Every Time’ statement is through the way we behave towards everyone in our organisation.
First towards our own 8,000 employees working directly for the company. This number does not include the franchisees we have around the world. Our core values are total customer satisfaction at every single car rental operation. We are a people-driven organisation, which is very much improvement orientated. I am always telling our employees that if they are satisfied with the status quo, then they are in the wrong organisation, because we aim to improve our standards and processes all the time.
Dollar Thrifty is a Fortune 1,000 company, which has been profitable every year since 1997 – how do the results for 2005 look? Are you still maintaining profitability?
Yes, we are, despite this being one of the more difficult years, because of the heightened petrol prices and everything going on around the world, which has impacted harshly on the car rental business.
Dollar Thrifty is well-known for being a leader in car rental internet bookings. Have you managed to translate that into the local markets here in the Gulf?
No, not yet. We are and have been on the leading edge of internet facilities for car rental bookings development to facilitate online car rental reservations. We have a very good project in place, which we call International Internet Development, which is designed to facilitate car bookings by customers all over the world. Previously, a lot of efforts have been put in the North America market. We did not have the facilities to, for instance, have a customer in the UK book a car in Dubai and pay in his/ her own currency before travelling. We now have a big project in place, which will enable any customer to book cars at any destination and pay in their own currency.
When it comes to the Gulf, do you have plans for increasing the number of franchised locations?
Yes, we do. Today, we have around 50 locations throughout the Gulf region. We are planning to open franchises where we are not sufficiently represented today such as in Qatar and in Oman and also our existing franchises keep expanding. I would say that our market share in the region is around 10 per cent. In North America, which is our biggest operation, our market share is 13 per cent. In the UAE, we have about 20 per cent of the market share. In fact, in the UAE, we believe we are number one in the sense of the amount of vehicles we have for rental and the expansion we have seen. The future for us in the UAE looks very good.
There are many car rental companies in the UAE. How does Dollar Thrifty differentiate from its competitors?
Our company values, which we teach to our employees and franchises, are where price meets service. Our emphasis is strongly on customer service and as our customers keep coming back time and again, we obviously are doing something right.
As well as cars, I believe you also rent out buses in the UAE. Approximately what is the proportion between cars and buses?
About 20 per cent of our business in the UAE constitutes the operation of buses, but we are not the largest operator of buses here.
Is there any difference between running a car rental company in the Middle East and in North America?
In North America, we offer a variety of vehicles, a large array of different car brands, but not as wide a spread of vehicles as we have here. The different nationalities visiting this region differ substantially from North America.
Another significant difference between the two regions is that in North America we deal directly with the car manufacturing companies, whereas here we are trading with the car dealers themselves which, of course, makes a huge difference. In this region, you sometimes trade with car dealers, who also operate car rental companies. We have around 11,000 vehicles here for rental and, in North America, the number is 200,000.
What are the most popular cars for rental in the UAE?
Small- to medium-sized cars because they are easy to park anywhere. The 4x4s are mainly rented by people who wish to go off-road.
Can you explain the difference between the Dollar Rent-A-Car and the Thrifty car rental brands?
Both brands are very much leisure orientated brands, which is the market we focus on globally. There are many differences in various countries around the world. Thrifty, outside North America, is a more established brand. In the US and Canada, it is the other way around, as Dollar is better known there. We are set up as two different companies with two different managements and we do compete with each other, but that is only healthy.
Has the Dollar brand introduction been as successful as you anticipated?
We started in the Middle East just over a year ago and today we have close to 2,000 vehicles. We have a business plan in place and we already have exceeded expectations.
On a more personal level, is this your first visit to Dubai?
Yes, it is.
What is your impression of Dubai?
We have an office here and I thought I was on top of things from a business point of view. But, when I arrived, I was absolutely amazed at the economic development taking place here. Talking to people everywhere in the city, I have the impression of lots of enthusiasm and energy, which must be driven by all this economic development and all the magnificent projects being implemented here.
Is Dubai the sort of destination to which you would return on holiday?
Yes, I would definitely like to come back and bring my family, so they could experience this part of the world, which I find so fascinating.
When you go on holiday, do you rent a car?
Yes, of course, wherever you go, just the convenience of having a car at your disposal is for me a necessity.