My car was in the shop for three days. I needed a replacement, so called a car rental place to arrange for one.
I’m a tall guy with a mammoth torso. If I don’t get a spacious vehicle, my size 13 feet cramp getting in and out and I hit my head on the pillar or roof every stinking time I get in and out. I get cranky.
“We have an SUV for you, sir.” They offered on the phone. I booked it right away.
The day I arrived to pick up my rental SUV, a snow storm had hit. Now I was extra glad to have a bigger vehicle.
I approached the counter and requested my reserved vehicle.
“I’m sorry, sir. We don’t have an SUV for you.”
I was stunned. I had reserved the thing. What was going on?
“We have a new but small crossover though,” he said, offering me a set of keys to a Chevy Bolt.
For the unfamiliar, this small car is essentially a sardine can with singer sewing machine for an engine. It reminds me of a remake of the Acadian meets AMC Pacer.
“Oh. Yeah. See, that’s not going to do. It’s got enough juice to power my garage, but this wont’ get me through the snow. I have showings to get to!”
This guy was a by-the-book type, compassionless about my situation. “Put yourself in my shoes” I said, hoping he’d understand and work with me to find a solution.
“It’s all we have,” he shrugged.
Despite my objections and in spite of my reservation and deposit (what was the point of that??), there was no SUV for me. I begrudgingly grabbed the keys.
Days later, I was still driving the singer sewing machine. I didn’t want my clients squeezing into the micro-cab, so had been avoiding meeting with them. It was super good for business.
At last, my real car was repaired and I could return the sardine can.
“How was it?” the rental guy asked.
“You’re sorry? I’M sorry. I can’t believe that after the SUV was prearranged I get this sardine can.”. He even said that he gets cars back in the afternoon and would put one aside and call me. Day 1 passed, day 2 passed and well day 3 also came and not1 call. Whatever happened to Underpromise-Overdeliver!
He mumbled some excuses, blamed someone who wasn’t there, and offered me a discount on next rental. ...Because apparently the solution to bad service and a horrible experience is to go through it twice? I was so mad. At least give a guy a gift certificate to a restaurant – buy him dinner. A night out with his wife to ease his pain.
But no. Just come back, sir, so we can do this to you all over again.
I returned home to discover an automated email from the rental company requesting my feedback.
Sure. I’ll tell you what I think. Maybe it will help the next guy who needs what he needs.
I typed all the things I’d already said. Sardine can. Singer sewing machine. I had a reservation, but what did that matter.
Five days later, I got a response. I eagerly opened it, expecting an apology or maybe a refund of some kind.
The message read, “Thank you for choosing us. We trust we provided you excellent customer service”
Right. They didn’t even read it. Thank you for adding insult to injury, car rental store.
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know I’m zealous about customer service across many industries, not just in my own. So, as I tend to do, I decided to make one more effort to rectify the situation, hopefully improving the company’s service level so others don’t have to needlessly suffer.
I emailed the company’s head office about my experience, from sardine can to auto reply.
I still haven’t heard back, and don’t expect I ever will.
Guess how many times I’ll be returning to that no-service business? Or how many times I’ll be recommending them?
Are you at a job or in business in the service industry? If you take away only one thing from this story, I hope it’s this: treat people like humans. They’re not just walking wallets. They’re people with feelings and needs and goals and dreams. They come to businesses for solutions to their problems, not to be fleeced and left twisting in the wind.
If it helps, think of each customer that walks up to you as your sister. Or brother. Or parent. Or you. Put yourself in their shoes – who are they and what do they need? Once you understand even a slice of that, you’ll be able to serve them so well, they’ll be loyal to you for life.
If you treat them like a walking wallet though, wave bye bye.
They won’t be back.