One of our Core Values at BelRed Energy Solutions is Delight – Creating memorable experiences. We work hard to empower our staff to create these experiences, and while we know there is always room to improve, we generally think we do a good job with this. A recent experience with Hertz Rent-a-Car reminded me, however, that our perspective is not what matters; it is the customer’s perspective. Despite the following bad experience, some good did come from it—the realization that we can further improve our recognition of touch-points with our customers, and a renewed focus on our Core Value of Delight.

I had to fly to Philadelphia from Seattle for the funeral of a loved one. I was a pall bearer at the funeral, and getting to-and-from the funeral, memorial service, and family members’ homes was critical for this brief, but important trip. I rented a car from Hertz, where I am a Gold member, having used Hertz for both business and vacation car rentals for over 12 years and have been happy with their service.

My rental car was waiting for me at the lot when I arrived, and I drove to my lodging location without incident. When I went to drive to the funeral service the next morning, the car would not start. There was battery power, but the starter would not engage. I had an hour to get to the funeral (a 30-45 minute drive). I called the company’s roadside assistance and was told it would be an hour before a truck would arrive. I informed them that I could not wait and made arrangements for a ride from a family member.

After the funeral, I returned to the car, with a few hours to decompress before I had to go to another service. I called the roadside assistance number again, re-explained the problem, and asked that they send a tow-truck. I was informed it would be up to an hour, and it was all of that until the truck arrived. Unfortunately, a tow-truck was not dispatched. Instead they sent a battery service vehicle. The operator found the battery was fully charged, and the vehicle would not start even with a jump-start. They had not listened to and trusted a “valued” customer.

Upon calling again, I was told it would take another hour to get a tow-truck to me, at which point they would tow me back to the airport, exchange the car, and I would then have to drive back. I informed them that this would take several hours, and I just didn’t have the time. Rather then sending someone out to me with a new car (which would have really wowed me – and saved the day) they suggested I call back later when I had the time. Another opportunity lost. I then arranged for a family member to pick me up again for the next service.

After a dinner with family, and the service, I returned to my lodgings around 8 pm, and called to have the tow truck sent. I arrived at the airport lot’s car distribution center at 10 pm, where no one was expecting me, and was not sure how they would get me to the airport lot for a new car. Obviously, interdepartmental communication is another issue with which they struggle. The staff there was actually very sympathetic and helpful, and quickly arranged for a ride to the airport lot via a transport van. I was hopeful that my ordeal would soon be over.

At the airport lot, I encountered a rental agent who, while trying to be helpful, showed no sympathy or any regard for what had transpired. He informed me that he tried to get me an upgraded car, but none were available, and he actually put me into a car one-level lower than the one I had rented (that smelled of smoke to boot). I told the counter agent that I did not want to pay for the rental, as I did not have use of it. The counter agent told me that he wasn’t authorized to issue any credits, but gave me the number for customer service and assured me that they would be able to help me.

I called them the next morning, and spent 15 minutes going through automated phone trees and sitting on hold. When I finally got to talk to a live person, I relayed my story to them. The agent apologized profusely, and seemed genuinely sympathetic, but then told me that she could not do anything to help me until after the vehicle was returned and the rental contract closed out. She told me that the only person who was actually able to do anything to resolve the situation was the location manager, and to talk to them when I returned the car. They clearly do not place emphasis on trust or empowerment of their employees to satisfy customers. Yet another opportunity lost.

I returned to the airport rental lot early to provide time to speak with the manager, cutting my time with family short. After waiting in line at the counter, I was then directed to sit in a nearby chair and wait for the manager. The counter agent called the manager twice while I was in front of her, and I overheard the manager telling her to call another person. Embarrassedly, she told him that she had attempted to call that person twice first, but he was not responding. 

While in the lobby, I witnessed another unhappy customer, which assured me I was not alone in receiving this type of treatment. When my wait to speak with him was over, the manager approached me and asked how he could help. I politely asked if we could have the conversation in the privacy of his office. The manager said yes, but the previous customer was wrapping up a call in there, and would be a minute. Instead of waiting, the manager again asked me to tell him how he could help in the public setting of the lobby.

We ended up eventually moving to the office, where I finished my story. The manager apologized, but did not seem sincere. He then offered to take off one-day’s rental fee as I did not have use of the vehicle. I asked him if he felt that was a fair resolution, in that I had suffered a great deal of aggravation and stress as a result of their problems, and a very difficult day was made even worse by them. I also explained that I had lost hours the day before dealing with this, had lost time this morning, and had to cut my trip short to come deal with it in person. The manager told me that he couldn’t know what was wrong with the car, and for all he knew, I had left a light on and drained the battery, placing assumed blame on me. I reiterated to him that the battery was fine, and that the vehicle did not respond to a jump-start. The manager then said that he would split the difference. (As a side-note, this was an inexpensive weekend rental, and the total bill was only $60 to begin with). The discount came to $30. A small savings for them (by not issuing a full refund) caused them to lose a valuable customer for life; a customer that would have otherwise continued to spend thousands of dollars on their service in the future. I made sure to recount my story in a follow up customer satisfaction survey in detail, as well as follow up by email, but I have yet to hear anything in response to either.

Like us, Hertz provides a service that people rely on – and failures can be devastating. Hertz lost $30 on a $60 transaction. But what is the real cost to the company of their failure to provide me with the assistance I had hoped for, and needed?

It is easy for us to get caught up in our jobs, and our own point-of-view. I don’t believe that anyone at Hertz was intentionally trying not to help me, but they were certainly not empowered to do so, and the ones who were did not make the effort to view things from my perspective, and so failed in their attempt.

We all make mistakes, and problems will occur. But if we make an effort to look at things from the customer’s point of view, we will be better equipped to recognize opportunities for DELIGHT – to avoid or resolve problems, and to create memorable experiences for our customers. Personally, I can’t wait to start incorporating this into our training!

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