Competitive Audit to Reduce No-Show Rates

Hotwire Rental Car No-Shows


In the fall of 2015, the Hotwire rental car team noticed an alarming trend in no-show rates for reservations made on the site. Nearly 50% of people who made rental car reservations on Hotwire never picked up their car. This was more than 20 points higher than the industry standard, which many rental agency partners started to notice. 

Hotwire's VP of Product requested that the research team look into this issue and make recommendations to the car rentals product and supply teams. 

How might we improve the reservation experience to increase rental car pick ups and actual bookings?


Competitive Audit of Reservation Services


The goal of this research was to help document practices and generate ideas that Hotwire could infuse into the booking experience. Over a two week period, I conducted a literature review and audit of reservation services in analogous domains, such as medical appointments and restaurant reservations, to understand how other industries with similar reservation models prevent no-shows. 

My recommendations were embraced by the car rentals Product Manager, and resulted in a number of A/B tests to introduce SMS as a channel for reservation reminders and follow up communications.


Reviewing Literature and Past Research

Making reservations and dealing with unfulfilled bookings is not a new issue. I began by reading up on industries with similar issues, to understand the main explanations attributed with no-show customers across industries. I found dozens of articles including advice from leaders in other industries and academic research on the topic.  I also drew from past research on no-shows from within the Expedia family.


Making Real Reservations

Based on my literature review, I chose to look at medical appointments and restaurant reservations, along with other car rental companies. Though I felt bad doing it, I made reservations that I never intended to keep so I could see how other companies prevent no-shows during and after the reservation process. I found that many companies employed tactics at the point of making the reservation and in follow up communications that fit with recommendations in the literature.

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Comparing the Hotwire Experience

After assessing the best practices and conventions of other companies, I documented the Hotwire car rental reservation experience. After seeing the patterns across several analogous experiences, I identified opportunity areas within the Hotwire product to employ the same tactics. 


Inspiring New Practices


My findings from this study prompted several A/B tests to introduce SMS as a channel for follow up with car rental reservation holders. Changes were also made to the reservation confirmation process, including copy changes to key CTAs.

Feel free to contact me if you would like to hear more about this research and my findings.