Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Rental Car Snafus

Customer Service: Is it a dying art in business?
I love telling stories about individuals and companies that do a great job of providing superior customer service. You also know that I am not shy about shining the light of truth on less-scrupulous businesses when I discover they are not doing a good job. Today's story is in two parts--because I don't yet know the outcome--and contains a little good and a little bad behavior.

I rented a car to drive from my parents' home in Central Texas to Dallas on Sunday so that I could be in-studio with Vince Rowe on Monday as we launched our joint morning show. The Clanton Clan gathered over the weekend to celebrate the pending high school graduation of a niece, and I journeyed on to Big D, with a return flight home on Tuesday.

Imagine my shock and awe when I was told at the rental car check-in booth that I was being charged a fee for not returning the car from the rental location where I picked it up.

It's a substantial fee--triple what I paid to rent the vehicle in the first place.

I took issue with the check-in clerk at D-FW airport, and to her credit, instead of arguing a pointless point, she called the office where the car had been rented. One-way rental in a roundtrip car was the answer. They were going to suck the additional fee out of my magical plastical card. Only I barked back.

I reserved the car through Travelocity, one-way, Killeen to Dallas.
I picked up the car at the Killeen Regional Airport, even mentioning to the clerk at the desk that I was heading to Dallas on business, and flying back home on Tuesday.

A key point, wouldn't you think?

The dude behind the counter put me in a round-trip car, it seems. Nothing on my rental contract delineates either type vehicle. I am not yet at the point of naming names, but dropping the "e" from "dude" might be a more accurate label. Here's why...

The fella who rented me the car in Killeen is the Manager of the rental office there. He told me I rented a round trip car.
I said I didn't.

That conversation could have gone on forever, except I quickly asked this simple question: "what can we do to resolve this issue and salvage my future business with your company?"
He was not in that kind of mood, apparently.
Told me he already had my card imprint, and he was going to apply the charge. I could smell the glee through the phone receiver.

I told him I would refute the billing, and then I made the second, key test of this dud's customer service IQ by asking for his boss' number.
He failed miserably.

Not only would he not give me his supervisor's name, he told me I could call 1-800-XXX-XXXX (no names, yet) if I wanted to talk to his boss.

You know what--I did that. Waded through the voice-mail Hell that is the halmark of business non-communication anymore, and finally got a warm body on the phone. Got the boss's name and direct phone number, too. Left a very warm and inviting message on his voice mail, urging him to call me.

What happens next will be the second part of this this space for details, and the revelation of which rental car company is earning either my very public praise, or scorn and a warning to the rest of you.

The good part of this story is about the two lot attendants who were checking in the rental vehicles at the D-FW terminal. Never did get their names, but they were very kind and considerate--almost to the point of embarassment. In fact, they were embarrased by the behavior of their co-worker in another town.

To molify my irritation, one of the women, a very attractive Asian, complimented my suit and tie--as if to say, "sorry I can't give you back your goofy fee, but you look like you can afford it without breaking a sweat."

Okay, so that did win a few points for her; and it is a new suit.

Still, they were caught in the middle in this scenario, and so did the best thing they could do under the circumstances.
They were nice to their customer.

I'll let you know what happens next.

1 comment:


IT was Alamo or Enterprise car rental..Ray