Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Sometimes a Poor Customer Experience Really Hertz

For those of you who caught my first blog in a series of real customer experience stories, allow me to provide a brief update. I recently recounted a chain of negative experiences I had as a customer visiting Brooks Brothers.

Once that post went live and was shared on my social channels, I received a direct message from Brooks Brothers, via Twitter, asking me to take the conversation offline. Fair enough. Once offline I was asked to fill out online forms to clarify and explain the situation further. The communication back from Brooks Brothers included two canned responses followed by contact from a district manager. The manager was very respectful, inquisitive and specifically cited the Michigan Avenue incidents and was looking to rectify the situation. She explained that she was replacing the management in that store and we discussed and agreed that a store manager can be the trigger point between a good and bad customer experience. While I appreciated her reaching out about the Michigan Avenue store experience, I explained that the problem went much deeper than that and seemed to be ingrained in their overall consistency and customer experience since this was not the only location I had issues with.

She told me she would elevate our conversation and I am currently waiting to hear back from a higher-up at Brooks Brothers. The proverbial ball is and has been in their court for the past several weeks.

Now let’s move on to another customer experience story. This one involves the well-known car rental company, Hertz.

My family and I made plans this past Memorial Day to leave the hustle & bustle of our downtown Chicago digs and head to the suburbs for a Memorial Day picnic. For city folk, venturing to the burbs can require renting a car. Since we didn’t plan on an overnight stay, I wanted to rent a vehicle with a 24-hr pick-up/drop-off window and pay for just one day of use.

This proved to be difficult on a holiday weekend since many car rental companies were not open on Memorial Day to actually take the car back. However, when I called the Hertz 1-800 line they are able to find one Hertz location in Lakeview, Chicago that would allow me to return the car on Memorial Day and stay within the 24-hour window I wanted, in order to only pay for a 1-day rental. This particular location is either a taxi ride or one-hour walk from our condo and since it was a beautiful day, I chose the latter. I get the car the night before our drive out, bring it back to my condo and park it in the garage and then woke up the next morning to drive my family to a nice Memorial Day picnic. The whole time, I was super conscious of the time restraints and the need to get the car back within the 24-hour window. After a great day with my family at our friend’s barbeque, I drop everyone off at home and head back to the Hertz Lakeview location to return the car. When I arrived the office was dark and the door displayed a “Closed for the Holiday” sign. There was no representative to process the return, but there was an after hours kiosk. I filled out all of the necessary information – fuel level, stall where I left the car, etc. – and dropped the keys and accompanying paperwork in the lockbox provided.

My 24-hour rental plan was a success! At least I thought it was. Then I got the bill that Tuesday and it was DOUBLE what it was supposed to be. They charged me for two days even though I had confirmed I could drop off the car on Memorial Day before I even rented it, and dotted all of my I’s and crossed all of my T’s. What the heck happened??
I immediately made a call to Hertz’s Lakeview location and they said “we don’t do returns on Memorial Day.” However, I knew that was not the case since I had deliberately and specifically confirmed that detail with the reservations agent at their 1800 reservations desk prior to rental. But the location wouldn’t budge and told me to contact corporate. So I did. And guess what they told me? They DID in fact take returns on Memorial Day through the kiosk and I needed to call the location back. So I did. And it became the most frustrating back-and-forth with neither side willing to call the other directly. I’m confused…aren’t you guys on the same team? Aren’t I the customer?

I was done being a human ping-pong ball and stopped calling Hertz and instead called American Express, explained the situation and they immediately took the charge off my bill and filed a dispute with Hertz. American Express resolved the issue quickly and I was credited for ½ of the charge, THAT’S what should have happened from Hertz on my first call instead of sending me to act as mediator between Hertz corporate and the Hertz Lakeview location. Major fail chalked up to internal disconnect.

I want to add just a little bit of context to this story. You should know that I had been a loyal Hertz member for 20+ years, even after my company switched to National. I was literally the last to make the jump and it was the cost savings to our business that eventually guilted me to part ways with Hertz. Why is this so important? Because it shows that when someone is loyal to a brand, it’s difficult for them to make a change. What I realized was that in my 20-year relationship with Hertz, I was blind to the bevy of changes many other car rental companies had made over the years as they evolved their respective customer experiences. Everything at National showed an elevated customer experience - from the warm greeting at National’s Emerald Club, the cold bottle of water waiting for me and the ability to actually select my own vehicle. Once I realized how National had upped their customer experience game, it wasn’t hard to be loyal.

My choice to go back to Hertz for my Memorial Day plans was 100% about procuring the most inexpensive transportation I could. However, they did have a chance to gain my loyalty back and prove they were the better choice after all. But frankly, they blew it and my loyalty remains with National. It is difficult for customers to change once they are loyal to a brand. If they leave, you may never have the opportunity to get them back and if you do, you better not blow it.

Anyone else have a customer experience nightmare to share? Tweet with me at @GMagenta. Email me at gmagenta@rootinc.com

You can also read more about my take on customer experience in my latest book, 720 Haircuts.