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Microsoft MapPoint puts Avis website on the map

By [email protected] - 20th February 2007 - 10:26

A recent revamp of the Avis UK website - part of a Europe-wide redesign - features MapPoint functionality to make hiring a car even more customer friendly
The UK version of Avis Europeâs new website service launched in November without a hitch, but in leading the redesign John Phipps travelled the usual rough road to get there. âIâve had a lot of sleepless nights,â he jokes. Phipps, the director of customer contact systems development at Avis Europe, is charged with developing a car hire site that mirrors retail design and functionality, something completely new in the rental industry. He is currently in the process of rolling out the new design across Europe during the first half of 2007.However, one of the highlights of the new website gave him no headaches at all: Microsoftâs MapPoint Web Service. âIntegrating MapPoint was easy, even easier than we thought it would be,â Phipps explains. âIt only took about a week to integrate MapPoint into the new site.âMapPoint is business mapping software that allows users to easily locate and illustrate points on maps and integrate maps into Microsoft Office documents. It includes the MapPoint Web Service, Virtual Earth Platform, Microsoftâs next-generation mapping and location service that features new innovations such as bird's eye, satellite and aerial imagery, map styles and usability as well as enhanced local search.The inclusion of MapPoint is part of Avisâ Inspired Change programme, which has introduced a number of customer service innovations to ensure that the car rental process is as quick and simple as possible. âOn the UK site, we are currently using MapPoint mainly to guide customers to our rental locations. We will be adding routing shortly,â Phipps says. âAs we move forward through our Inspired Change programme, we will be using MapPoint more and more.âWith MapPoint, customers have the option to search by town, postcode or even flight number to find the correct rental location. Even with a spelling error a number of options are offered. âOne of the most important things for me personally, when I rent a car, is being able to find where to pick up that car and where to return it to. If you can make that process easier, it improves the customer experience,â Phipps says.Other new features of the site ( include online customer registration so that users can store all personal and payment details securely, and save time when completing a booking. According to Phipps, a rental can now be completed within 60 seconds.Phipps has an extensive retail background, having joined Avis Europe from John Lewis Direct, where he was head of web development. His intention has been to buck current industry trends by bringing the retail experience to car rental. âI have always believed that car rental is no different from retail itâs just that you donât get to keep the thing that you buy,â he says.One of the first strategic moves was to find the right partners, so Phipps and his team set about doing a lot of research and talking to the various mapping providers. Microsoft demonstrated that MapPoint has the easiest integration path, the best support and superior presentation layers. From a choice point of view, it also meant that in future, Avis Europe would be able to offer customers all sorts of different mapping styles and routing, as well as Virtual Earth.Avis and Phipps saw MapPoint as the clear choice. âFor starters, the website is all built using .NET, C# and SQL 2005, so there is a Microsoft link there. But also, if there is one company on the planet that can provide a fast mapping service to us, itâs going to be them. And if there is one company in the world that has a proven track record of great products in the past, thatâs Microsoft as well. So it was logical for us to build on the relationship we have from a development point of view,â Phipps says. âAnd theyâre a nice crowd to work with too â they are approachable, easy to get along with, and excited about the ideas that we have.âOnce the new website has been rolled out across Europe, including Germany and France, Avis Europe has a number of other ideas in the pipeline for MapPoint: making it available to all customers at each Avis location; making it available at the call centres; and making maps available for people to download when they get their rental confirmations through. Phipps envisages numerous ways to use MapPoint in the future, but will take a measured approach to make sure any new use will add value to what the customer is going to get.âWe have found Microsoft really easy to work with and their MapPoint system works,â Phipps says. âIâm quite sure, that as people get more used to using mapping and more used to seeing it in more places, then Microsoft will probably be the first ones to offer new, exciting features.â Itâs too early to tell if the volume of users has increased, according to Phipps, but the feedback from customers has already been overwhelmingly positive. Customers are commenting on how much easier it is to book their hire car, and how MapPoint is helping them to find some of Avisâ more difficult-to-find locations. âMainly, the feedback weâre getting about the site in general and MapPoint in particular is how fast it is, how easy it is to use and âCan we have more, please?â And of course, yes, they can.â© 2006 Microsoft Corporation

Author: Microsoft Corporation

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