3 minute promise stand in an Avis rental locationYou may recall that a little while ago I wrote about the roll out of the 3 minute promise in France – a promise to our Avis Preferred members that they will be able to collect their hire car keys at the counter and go in less than 3 minutes. Well I am delighted to announce that this promise has now been rolled out to 400 locations across Europe including Paris Charles de Gaulle, Madrid and Zurich airports. It is also available at Heathrow, Birmingham, Glasgow and Edinburgh airports in the UK and will be coming to Gatwick, Stansted, Bristol and Manchester airports by the end of March.

Now reading some of the comments when we wrote about this last time, there was some concern that this would mean losing any kind of human contact. This initiative does not involve any kind of automated self-service kiosks that would replace our rental agents. It is simply a service guarantee that we make to all of our Avis Preferred members that they will be served within this timeframe. Each Avis Preferred member is given the opportunity to take a stopwatch so they can personally time how long it takes to be served. If we fail to fulfil our promise then we will provide a £20 John Lewis voucher as compensation (this is for UK rentals – the kind of vouchers will differ in other countries).

If you are not an Avis Preferred member and are interested in taking advantage of this service then you can sign up on our website.

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We’re running a bit late writing our first blog post for the week with the team attending the annual Avis UK conference over the past couple of days. It was a great conference with everyone leaving energised and committed to delivering on our goals for the year ahead. However, for me, the nicest thing about going to these conferences is to get out of head office and spend some time with those people who are the most critical to the success of Avis – the staff at our rental stations who are responsible for delivering our service day in, day out.

I have a lot of admiration for anyone who works in our rental stations. Car hire can be a difficult and complicated service to deliver with a number of challenging operational issues to contend with. But our front-line staff do a great job meeting this challenge every day. It is these people who make the real We Try Harder difference. They are our unsung heroes.

So today’s blog post is about introducing and giving recognition to our staff on the front-line. If you work in one of our rental stations then I would encourage you to make yourself known by posting a comment stating your name, which office you work in and anything you would like to say to our customers. Our people are very much pivotal to the quality of our service and it would great if our customers could get to know who these people are!

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My name is Paul Lewis and I am the Senior Station Manager at London Heathrow Airport. I have worked at this location in a number of roles over the past 8 years and I have always been passionate about customer service and the challenges of meeting ever changing customer expectation.

The team at Avis, Heathrow are fully committed to delivering an excellent service to our customers and we have, over the years, implemented a number of new products and services aimed at enhancing the customer experience at this rental office. These include the introduction of extra customer service agents at peak periods, free water in the summer, free wi-fi on site, a customer help point in the car park, GPS for hire, the new, easy to read rental agreement, customer service training for all our staff, vending machines for refreshments and, most recently, the partnership with Baby On Board to provide a fantastic baby seat product and service. It has been satisfying to see these lead to gradual improvements in our customer satisfaction scores.

The last 6 months has, however, caused us to stand back and review what we are currently doing. Whilst our overall service levels have improved we are noticing that the customers are left feeling that the emotional experience could have been more rewarding.

We are always challenging ourselves to deliver a great service to our customers so, if I’m honest, we’ve taken this feedback a little to heart. Now we feel more driven than ever to improve our service. But we can’t do anything without you. So if you’ve rented with us then please tell me what you think. Where do you feel we need to improve? What can we do to improve your rental experience? I am open to any ideas to help us provide the best possible experience at Avis, Heathrow airport.

We might not be able to distract you completely from the stress of the overall airport experience but hopefully make a small part of your journey more enjoyable.

I look forward to hearing your suggestions.

Paul

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Ford FocusBy reading this blog you are probably well aware that we rent cars. But did you know that we sell them too? With depreciation hitting hardest as soon as the car leaves the forecourt, buying an ex-rental can get you a nearly new car at great value. Buy the car direct from Avis and you could save over £1,000 versus going to a dealership (plus I’ve been told to say that they all come with metallic paint which adds value in itself!).

It’s also a common misconception that life as a rental car will have taken its toll on the vehicle you maybe looking to buy. It is a misconception. All of our ex-rentals are fully inspected to Avis’ high standards, they are no older than six months and will have done less than 13,000 miles. They will also come with what is left of the manufacturer’s warranty (which usually leaves about 2 years) for that extra peace of mind.

The list of cars we currently have available for sale includes the Ford Fiesta, Focus and Mondeo; the Honda Civic; the Citroën C4 and C4 Picasso and the Mazda 3 and 5.

Now, we try not to use the blog as a sales tool (and I know this does sound a little like a sales pitch) but I wanted to highlight this as I strongly believe that buying ex-rental car represents tremendous value for anyone looking to purchase a car. But that is my opinion and I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback on this. Would you consider buying one? If not, then is there any particular reason why you wouldn’t? And if you are interested in finding out more about buying an ex-rental then please click here for more information.

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***UPDATE*** PLEASE NOTE: Avis currently does not have any ex-rental cars available to sell. This notice will be removed when cars become available again.
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The one thing that has really exploded on the Internet over the past couple of years is the amount of information being shared from person to person. This has resulted in a wealth of travel information posted by consumers advising where to go, where to avoid, who is likely to make your travel a joy and who is likely to make your travel a disaster. We can now make more informed decisions about our travels than ever!

Today I thought I’d list those websites that I have found to be a particularly useful source of consumer posted travel information and advice for planning your holidays and travels:

Tripadvisor
We’ve talked about Tripadvisor on this blog before and, while it may not have won the hearts of all hoteliers, it has a wealth of experience to tap into on both hotels and holiday destinations in general. I often use it to pick out the hotspots and the areas to avoid. The trick is to try and spot those people who you believe to be like minded and with similar tastes.

Lonely Planet
The one website on the list whose content has been traditionally written by their travel experts rather than from the experience of general consumers. But the Lonely Planet website, while still staying true to what made them so great in the first place, now provides a whole host of opportunities for travellers to share their experiences. This includes the Thorn Tree travel forum, Lonely Planet TV (which hosts some great videos posted by travellers or you can post your own!) and the Blue Lists where travellers can post their lists for pretty much anything – top festivals, top surf locations, top buses of doom – they’re great for a little inspiration. And of course Lonely Planet has a blog of it’s own!

Travel Rants
Another website we’ve mentioned a couple times on this blog and one of the few blogs I read on a regular basis. The author Darren writes a really good range articles with plenty of posts on travel news, handy tips and, of course, the occasional rant. He has also kicked off a Travel Blog Carnival which has made his site a great central resource for discovering some of the other great blog articles that are hiding out there on the world wide web!

Trusted Places
This one is a bit of newcomer and definitely the one to watch. It is kind of a directory for restaurants, pubs, bars, shopping and places of cultural interest. It is a great resource for helping you to decide where to go when you arrive at your destination (although the content for outside of the UK is still fairly limited). The great thing about Trusted Places is that, not only do they have a growing database of reviews for the places listed in this directory, but they have a very simple and fun way to profile your tastes and interests. This way, you can be confident that any review you read is relevant to you.

Flyertalk
One of the most popular travel forums I’ve seen. Flyertalk has a forum dedicated to all the major frequent flyer programmes and there is a great deal of conversation between members sharing inside tips, information and advice. The members will also point out when things do not always go plan. I often read the threads on the Avis forum and pick up some great feedback!

Anyway, these are the top sites that I use. What do you think? Do you use any of these? Or have you found a hidden gem of your own that you would like to mention on this blog?

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A new look Southampton AirportSome of you may have passed through our rental area at Gatwick Airport and seen our noveau approach to car rental in the form of an open plan office and “pod” type desks. This design has brought us excellent feedback from our customers since it’s inception in 2005.

And now it’s in Southampton Airport! In conjunction with the improvement works being carried out to enhance the customer experience, a new car rental centre has just opened. And we’ve incorporated our new, modern and more customer friendly design. We believe it brings our team closer to the customers – face to face instead of being fenced behind a desk. It’s truly different and no one else has them, so if you’re passing through to fly with our partner Flybe or anyone else, please stop by and say hello.

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We’re proud of our We Try Harder heritage at Avis. We thought we’d start taking the opportunity on this blog to recognise those people who we feel really demonstrate the We Try Harder ethos. These are the unsung heroes who often go the extra mile with little reward or recognition for themselves. To start, we thought we would recognise one of our own.

Dean Miller is taking time out of his busy role as Station Manager at Avis Taunton to travel to South Africa to help an orphanage become more self sufficient. The aim of the project will be to give the children living there a safe and healthy environment in which to live, through the repair and refurbishment of the electrics, kitchen and living areas. The living conditions and health of the children will also be improved by laying paths to keep them out of the mud in the winter months. Along with this, two members of the team will also provide educational support throughout the week.

I think this is a fantastic initiative and all of us at Avis have a lot of respect for Dean for being involved in such a worthy project. To support Dean and his colleagues, Avis are supplying all the transportation in South Africa free of charge. The project is due to take place between 21st and 28th March and all the volunteers are self financed through personal and sponsored funding.

If you wish to sponsor Dean, you can contact him through his blog . As Dean says, “A little from a lot can do a lot for those with little”. If you know anyone who you feel deserves a bit of We Try Harder recognition on this blog, please send us an email or comment recognising them. We’ll try and feature it if we can.

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I was watching Best of Top Gear last night and it reminded me about a segment that I really wanted to mention on the this blog (but completely forgot about until I was reminded yesterday), where the Top Gear team went on a quest to discover the world’s best driving road. Now their approach to this was hardly scientific with all continents outside of Europe being discounted on a whim. And the cars they tested were not exactly what you’d expect your average Joe Bloggs on the street to be driving. It is Top Gear so of course they rolled out light-weight supercars including the Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera, the Porsche 911 GT3 RS and the Aston Martin V8 Vantage N24 (to say James May regretted choosing this stripped-to-the-bone supercar is understatement).

In their search for the best driving road the criteria was simple: they needed to find a road that combined beautiful scenery with a test on driving ability that provided a rush of adrenaline. Now random methodology aside, no-one can complain that the roads featured in this segment were nothing short of spectacular. The three roads featured were as follows:

1. The Col De Turini. A high mountain pass located in the Alps in the South of France. This road is the home of the Monte Carlo Rally.
2. The San Bernardino Pass. Another high mountain pass connecting Hinterrhein and the Mesolcina (Misox) valleys, this time in the Swiss region of the Alps.
3. Davos to Stelvio via Bormio (the overall winner). Heading south from Davos, Switzerland to Stelvio, Italy, this road lays deserted with miles of track that test the ability of both car and driver to backdrop of stunning scenery.

So there you have it. According to Top Gear, these are the world’s best driving roads. For more information and pictures, the Redline blog has written a pretty good summary of this segment. There are even a few comments from readers providing suggestions of their own. And if you have any roads you would like to suggest then this is the place to do it!

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As many of you will know, Avis have a long standing partnership with British Airways Executive Club. Yesterday, a select few were invited by British Airways to visit the new Terminal 5 at Heathrow, and I was lucky enough to be one of them! I have been looking forward to this day ever since I had a look at their first designs on their website.

One word summarises my first impression: WOW!

BA and BAA have radically changed the way we look at airport terminals. The building in itself is a piece of art. They have re-engineered all the critical processes to make it easier and faster for their customers to go through check in and security. Their promise is that it shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes to go through security. The fast bag drop is “fast” and you should never have more than one person in front of you in the queue. Wait till you have finally passed through security. There are 112 shops including the usual high street shops and luxury brands such as Prada, Paul Smith, etc… and 12 or so restaurants. There is also the first ever Gordon Ramsay restaurant air-side! With that many shops, you’ll probably want to hurry up to the lounges to protect your credit card!

And rightly so. The Executive Club lounges are incredible. They offer a range of great amenities: bars, wi-fi, a terrace, a spa, a “Chef’s Theatre and Food Court with a view into the kitchen”, bedrooms, boardrooms, etc… And to make it easier for their customers, they’ve located such lounges at every end of the 396m long building. We didn’t even get a chance to look at the new car parking facilities that Rob blogged about!

Everyone who visited Terminal 5 yesterday are now looking forward to its opening on the 27th March.

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For all you ski fans, I thought I’d share a bit about my recent travels to colder parts. I spent last weekend at the Chamonix valley to watch the men’s downhill (known as the Kandahar), a trip sparked off by a chance conversation over a beer 18 months ago! Having flown into Geneva airport and picked up our hire car (Avis of course!), we set off on a leisurely drive into Argentiere, a lovely little village with plenty of spectacular scenery en route. Of course, we made ourselves at home pretty quickly, making our way around a few bars on the first night (a big hello to Paul in the Slalom bar! – thanks for the cocktails!) and a spot of sightseeing.On day 2, while one of our party took himself skiing at Plan Joran, the rest of us relaxed in the sunshine on the large open air terrace to enjoy the view and a fine lunch. We spent the evening in Chamonix watching the draw for the race. A great atmosphere with a large crowd and a spectacular firework display.

On Saturday, we set off to Les Houches for the race. The slopes weave through forest scenery and the famous “Verte des Houches” on which the race is held. It has to be one of the most beautiful World Cup downhill trails. With our snow shoes on and after a long trek up the side of the piste, we enjoyed a quick beer in fine sunshine at les vielles luges, after which we settled down to watch the race. Spectacular is the word I’d use! Fast and furious action with no room for error. Watching it on Ski Sunday does not portray the real picture! These guys are super quick and on the ragged edge most of the time! With the race over, we set off for some more sightseeing of the area compagnie du mont blanc.

There was no chance to experience the famous Aiguille Du Midi this time, but if you’re out there and get the chance, you have to visit! Be warned though – you’ll need a head for heights! 3,842 metres high and a 20 minute cable car journey, at times the car feels almost vertical, so don’t look down. But the view at the top is breathtaking. The earth seems to meet the sky and as you look at Mont Blanc in the distance, the sheer scale of the scenery has to be seen to be really appreciated.

It was an early start on Sunday back to Geneva for the 0945 flight back home. A great weekend and we’re already planning our next trip, probably in the summer this time for some serious walking. We’re open to other suggestions however, so if you have any ideas on how to combine an energetic yet relaxing long weekend, answers on a postcard to the blog please!

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Please note:

The details of all blog posts are correct at the time of publication. Information and offers are subject to change without prior notice. Please check www.avis.co.uk for the most up-to-date information.

All comments will be moderated so there may be a delay in your comment going live. We will filter out anything that is confidential, inappropriate, abusive, defamatory, profane, or anything considered as spam or an advertising link. We promise not to cut something just because it's not favourable to Avis.

We ask that if your feedback is regarding a past rental, you include your reservation details (which will be removed from the live post). If your comment is a customer service issue, you can email customer.service@avis.co.uk .
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Why we love to blog

At Avis, we really do try harder. We pioneered blogging in the car rental world and we aim to make our blog much more than just an information source. You can use our blog to ask questions or tell us what’s important to you when you hire a car. We try harder because we care what you think, so we really do value your feedback.

New to car rentals? Our blog gives you tips and advice on getting the most out of your Avis car hire experience. You can find information about booking and hiring your car, safety tips, and eco driving. We also provide driving advice and the latest news about our fleet.

We understand that hiring a car is just one part of your trip, so our blog covers other aspects of holiday and business travel too. Whether you want to know more about business travel hire conditions, access to location and city guides or ideas for families travelling with children, it’s all here.

But that’s just a taster – find out more about the Avis blog.