Thursday, March 16, 2006

Enterprising Solutions

The question of whether customer service is a dying art was raised by me earlier this week following a recent experience I had with a rental car company. I promised I would reveal the company name, and give you the rest of the story as the problem was resolved.

I rented a one-way car to drive from Killeen to Dallas on Sunday. On Tuesday when I returned the car at the D-FW airport depot, I was told there was a $300 car-return fee because I had been given a “roundtrip” car. An interesting phone conversation ensued with the agent in Killeen arguing with me—one of those “you said this, no you said this, no you said this” kind of pointless conversations.

The topper for me was when the agent crowed that since he had my card imprint, he would extract the fee regardless, and refused to pass along the name and phone number of his supervisor. Told me to call the 800- number.

Well, I did within minutes of that exchange, and navigated the voice mail tree to obtain a name and direct number. Left an intriguing message, and within 24-hours received calls back from two much more responsive managers for Enterprise Car Rentals.

The first was from the Central Texas Regional Manager, Craig Corporon, who agreed that the way the matter was handled was not the way Enterprise likes to treat its customers. Craig’s solution was elegantly simple, and extremely fair: the mistake in sending me off in a roundtrip car was theirs, so no car-return fee. The proper rate for a one-way car would be imposed (I thought that it had been), resulting in a slightly higher daily cost.

That’s fair.
That’s balanced.
That’s more like it.

The second call from Enterprise management occured only a few minutes later. The manager of the rental office at the Killeen airport, Jimmy Phillips, also expressed his apologies for the way his weekend manager had handled the transaction. Alienating a customer is not how to cultivate a lasting customer base, he said, and he wanted to do everything in his power to rectify the problem and roll out the red carpet for me when I next rent from Enterprise.

Neither of these gentlemen knew much about me, or that their as-yet un-named company had already been outted by a talk show host with a very active blogsite. And I didn’t tell them about that until we finalized the fix for this incident.

Now they know…and so do you.

Lessons to take away from this—when you arrange for transportation on line, make sure you print out a copy of the transaction or the reservation (which I did!)

When you pick up a rental car, don’t just sign here, initial there, there, and there, and sign here, without reading through the contract and understanding what you’re agreeing to. I also did this, which is how I knew I was not contractually obligated to pay a non-return fee for a car I was driving one-way.

Finally, never accept the first answer you get when it appears someone with your card number has the upper hand. To quote a line from “Porgy and Bess,” “it ain’t necessarily so.”

Will I rent from Enterprise again?
Sure—who doesn’t like a little red carpet treatment?

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