I love being able to share real-life experiences to make a point about the importance of Customer Service. Well, National Car Rental gets the award this week, but the issue isn't just a challenge with one of their locations, but the pure incompetence when it comes to actually finding somebody with decision-making ability.
Here's the short version of the challenge: On August 18 we picked up a car at Bozeman Airport. We only drove it to the hotel and to a restaurant for dinner - no back roads, all dry pavement and maybe 15 miles at the most. We woke up the following morning to a flat tire.
National's roadside assistance sent AAA to change the tire. The tire had a gash on the inside, which couldn't have been seen when picking up the car. When I commented on never doing anything but drive on good roads the mechanic said, "Looks like somebody hit something and it gave out on your watch!"
I returned the car to the airport for an exchange for the next ten days. Returning home there was a message from an insurance mediator who told me the Bozeman counter put in a charge to me of $182.00 for the tire, $113 for the tire itself and the rest in transaction fees.
Well, that started the quest for a live body at National headquarters with decision making authority, but here's what I've experienced:
- The local manager in Bozeman claimed there was nothing he could do, since I did not return the car in the same condition it went out in. It doesn't matter that I didn't do anything or the opinion of the AAA mechanic.
- In trying to talk to somebody of authority at National headquarters - it just isn't done! I've repeatedly tried. At one point two weeks ago I was told I'd get a call back from their executive team, usually within 48 hours. Ten days later I got a call from the same useless manager from the Bozeman counter. Not only that but he called at 9:40 pm! Talk about clueless customer service.
- I've written several negative comments on their Facebook page and keep being reassured somebody will be contacting me - but nothing happens. Their FB staff presents a great impression, but without follow-through they just can't walk the talk. The effort couldn't be a bigger time-waster.
- I've tried to speak to somebody in executive customer service - there isn't anybody. I've talked with their Damage Recovery Unit, but they have no information. At one point in trying to check I had a rep tell me I was "DNR," which in their world stands for do not rent. Two aggravating calls later I learned there was no such thing on my account - she had a typo when she entered my license number!
So here's the lesson in all of this, thanks to National Car Rental:
- Handle problems quickly.
- Be accessible!
- You've got two ears and one mouth - learn to listen more than you talk.
- Make sure whoever you have talking to customers has the authority to resolve problems.
- Follow-through on your solutions.
While there's lots more to this experience that's a lesson in what NOT to do - remember one huge issue: There's nothing worse than an angry customer arguing on the basis of principle. I found out halfway through this nonsense that American Express will cover the charges. However, I did NOT damage the vehicle and based on National's incompetence, at least at this point, I refuse to even put anything through Amex!
And one last thing to remember. I pulled some statistics from a Google search for a presentation at Marathon's MAP Getaway last month: There are one billion Facebook users, 343 million Google+ users, 200 million Linkedin users and 500 million Twitter users. That's more than a billion influencers who have the power to help or harm your business goals.
Now go one step further: The average Facebook active consumer posts 36 times a month and broadcasts to 130 connections. Every second there are 650,000 Facebook shares, 100,000 tweets and 48 hours of video uploaded to YouTube.
I pulled those numbers off of a few different sites and they're only estimates, probably on the low side. You'd think that National Car Rental, being part of an even larger company, would have the sense to at least handle customer complaints quickly.
And that brings me full circle back to you and one of the best things about you being a small business owner. You can handle things quickly and demonstrate an outstanding level of Customer Service, just by showing your customers how much you care!
Photo Credit: Andy Dean, Fotolia