Hypothesis: The corporate policy and decision-making at Hertz is driven by the finance department, while at Enterprise, it is driven by sales/marketing/customer service. This is based on a single Hertz rental experience compared with multiple rentals from Enterprise.
The Hertz rental
When my new grandson arrived from Europe with his parents at the Orlando airport, they were renting a car I arranged for them at Hertz for the two hour or so drive to Atlantic Beach. Who would have thought that they could have driven here and almost back to Orlando by the time they left Hertz for Atlantic Beach?
Challenges: The wrong child's seat and the wrong minivan
The rented minivan was to be in Hertz parking spot 201, but the placement of the parking spot numbers didn’t seem to align with the parking spots with several minivans. So to be sure, an employee was asked which car was in spot 201? With his minivan identified, Kris got in, drove to the Hertz checkout booth, and left to pick up the rest of the family. It was there that they tried to put in the child seat. With limited instructions on the seat, and the seat not seeming to fit rear-facing as required for his infant, he returned to Hertz for a different child seat and some help. With a new seat and no help to be had, he went to leave again, only to find out that he was actually in the wrong minivan – back to the issue of the numbers not aligning with the parking places.
With the right minivan, he left Hertz for the second time (on his third attempt) to get his family and attempt to get the replacement child seat properly secured. With the challenges being faced, I was called upon to help from afar.
Which numbers gets me to the counter?
Interestingly, it is a bit challenging to reach the Orlando counter. Call their posted number, and just about every option in their call tree takes you to their national call center. By the way Hertz, can you PLEASE have the recorded call tree voice talk faster. I know we are in the south, but really – let’s pick it up.
Anyway, according to my phone, I called their number twelve times that day. When asking those at the call center how to reach the Orlando counter, I was given the wrong answer three times (for those of you in the call center, it is option 8). Choose option 8, and chances are you will go to voice mail. I did leave a message, but felt it better to keep trying.
I eventually reached Heather at the counter. She was absolutely great - really trying to help as I talked with her and attempted to communicate with my family in Orlando. Between Heather and Chad (the hero in this story), the child seat issue was eventually resolved hours later. On his fourth attempt, Kris, with his son secured in a rear-facing child seat, finally headed to Atlantic Beach.
A systemic opportunity
A systemic opportunity in Orlando, and perhaps with other Hertz locations, is detailed instructions for how to install the child seat (they don’t come installed and they claim a policy against installing them for liability reasons).
On to Atlantic Beach – the return and the problems grow
We returned the car on a Sunday. The local branch, where we had pre-arranged to return the car, opened at 9:00 am. We were there minutes after it opened. The car was rented Friday morning, with the contract signed quite early in the morning, about 7:30 am. So despite the fact that it was hours before my family was able to head my way due to Hertz’s problem (wrong car, one faulty child seat and challenges putting the other one in without instructions), we were charged for three days. As it is with most rental car companies, they work on a 24 hour clock. So two days and an hour and a half (as in this case) = three days rental. I explained the child seat issue and the fact that they didn’t open until 9:00 am to no immediate satisfaction – where is the empowerment? I was told that I would have to call billing with this issue. I asked if billing was open on a Sunday, and was assured that they were.
Please, own this problem
I called the billing number provided, and of course they were closed (closed every Sunday as it turns out). Knowing exactly how to reach the call center (from my 12 calls on Friday), I gave them a call and reached Cynthia. She told me I was going to have to call billing on Monday. At this point, I had had enough. I told Cynthia that she needed to own this problem and have billing call me – that I shouldn’t have to call and wait and wait and wait on hold again.
What the %$#& is a “time dispute?”
Of course, billing never called on Monday – the empowerment problem continues. So on Tuesday, I called billing. Interestingly, I had to sit through an advertisement for the cars they sell before my call would even ring through. Now we all somewhat put up with the bad on hold music and propaganda messages, but don’t sell to me before you have a chance to answer my call.
“Summer” took my call and she told me that what we had here was a “time dispute.” The fact that it had a name was ominous. She then informed me that this time dispute would have to be sent to Orlando and that I would get an answer in about seven business days.
The overage of one and a half hours that threw us into a day three “time dispute” now has involved two gentlemen in the return location, Cynthia in the call center, Summer in billing, and who knows who in Orlando as they answer the time dispute inquiry. And, of course, whoever and however they will communicate the results to me. All of this to hopefully eek one more day rental out of me, or to credit me for one days car rental. Wow! And they wonder why Enterprise passed them years and years ago.
Great employees, but…
Interestingly, throughout this ordeal I have encountered really good Hertz employees who want to do right, but who appear to be hindered by systemic issues and a lack of empowerment.
Enterprise and Hertz, different companies with different ways
I often rent from Enterprise in Jacksonville Beach and the one thing you notice right away with Enterprise is that their employees are empowered. They are empowered to do what it takes to ensure that their customer is happy.
I will happily return to Enterprise knowing that each employee there can own and solve the problems presented (and as a frequent Enterprise renter, I have had issues that they have done a great job resolving). And I will feel sorry for the Hertz employees who appear to work in a bureaucratic environment that constrains their ability to solve problems and generate happy customers through rigid and senseless policies. These policies probably cost way more than they can ever generate in revenue (think of the people and effort involved in the “time dispute” process).
In my experience consulting with numerous companies on improving customer experiences, I suspect that these two companies are driven by two different “power cores” (term thanks to Jeanne Bliss) – the group or department in a company that wields the most power.
Finance can calculate the costs, but...
I have found companies with strict processes, poor customer experiences and little empowerment are typically ruled primarily by the finance department. Finance can very accurately calculate exactly how much revenue they would “lose” if they easily credited customers a day’s rental for those who complained at the counter. And they are really good at coming up with processes for making sure that they get their money and making sure it is hard for the organization to return money to customers. What is difficult for the finance department to calculate, and perhaps even impossible for them to fathom, is the negative impact their thinking has on future revenue. Fred Riechheld calls their way of generating revenue, “bad profits” – revenue that is potentially good for today, definitely really bad for tomorrow.
And while I eventually got my refund – communicated through an impersonal form email with no apology – of course I will never rent from Hertz again.
So, goodbye Hertz and all of your nice but constrained employees, and thank you Enterprise.
Remember, to your customers, you are your touchpoints.
For more, check out my book, TOUCHPOiNT POWER! Get & Keep More Customers, Touchpoint by Touchpoint (William Henry Publishing, 2013), an Amazon international top 10 customer service best-seller. For information and to order, visit TouchpointPower.com or view the TOUCHPOiNT POWER! listing on Amazon.
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