Since I published my new book at the end of April, I have intentionally held off adding to my social media content. In fact this post will be the first in June 2018! The hiatus in my writing does not mean I have run out of things to say on the subject of customer experience (CX) (boo, say some; hurrah, say others!) – far from it! In fact, so much is happening in industries around the world, I and other CX commentators have been spoilt for choice. My CustomerThink column in April featured a piece on the retail industry – entitled ‘Transform or Die’, it describes how critical customer focused business transformation is – the retail industry continues to struggle as the temperature in the Northern Hemisphere rises.
In this post, I am going to feature another industry – one I have written about many times in the past. Car Hire is something that most adults with a driving license have experienced at some point in their lives. Unlike most, I experience it on a regular basis. During my six years as an independent customer experience specialist, I have become a customer of almost every car hire company on the planet. Sadly, during that same period I have also ceased to be a customer of every single one!! A combination of unsatisfactory, inept, unpleasant, embarrassing and downright shambolic experiences, have resulted in me having to make the decision to kick rental car company after rental car company into touch.
Please do not think I am being overly harsh on the car rental industry. I have had some very good experiences on occasion – just not very many. Please do not also draw the conclusion that I am having a dig at the men and women in the industry – having done work with a commercial vehicle rental business, I completely understand how tough their job is. From dealing with rude, obnoxious customers; to working in premises that are not fit for purpose; to having to attempt to clean vehicles in temperatures that span from feeling like the North Pole to the middle of the Sahara Desert!
I said that I have ceased to be a customer of every rental car company. Until this week, that statement was not quite true. One company in particular has maintained my custom for far longer than any other. However, said company has finally pushed me that one step too far. The company in question is Enterprise Rent a Car.
In 2007 (11 years ago by my calculations), Kirk Kazanjian famously wrote a book about Enterprise Rent a Car. Entitled, ‘Exceeding Customer Expectations’, the book claims to be able to share the following :
What’s the secret to wowing your customers while maintaining a loyal and dedicated workforce? No one knows better than Enterprise, the nations #1 car rental company. Drawing upon the time-tested strategies that have propelled Enterprise from a single location in St. Louis into a $9 billion global powerhouse, EXCEEDING CUSTOMER EXPECTATIONS reveals how to:
Actively seek out unsatisfied customers and quickly turn them into loyal fans
Hire smart people and train them from the ground up
Develop methods to reduce costs and add value for your customers in every interaction.
Grow your business by rewarding employees with financial incentives, forming strong partnerships, and focusing on the long-term
Thrive during tough economic times by bringing new advantages to the market
Cultivate a fun and friendly workplace where teamwork rules
In EXCEEDING CUSTOMER EXPECTATIONS, noted business author Kirk Kazanjian reveals how your company can consistently outperform and outsmart the competition by following a simple philosophy espoused by Enterprise founder Jack Taylor: Take care of your customers and employees first, and the profits will follow. Winning customer loyalty is like running a marathon, not a 100-yard dash. By mastering this principle, Enterprise has earned not only record profits, but also received numerous awards for customer service and earned an enviable reputation as one of the world’s best companies to work for.
EXCEEDING CUSTOMER EXPECTATIONS imparts timeless lessons on satisfying both customers and employees that you can put to use right away, no matter what your business or industry.
Wow! Sounds amazing. I am not doubting Mr Kazanjian’s sincerity and writing prowess in creating the book. Although I was not a customer of Enterprise in 2007, it is highly likely they were a shining beacon of customer centric behaviour back then. It is also highly likely that I too have written very positively about brands and their customer centric behaviour in the past – only for them now to have ‘slipped backwards’ since. HOWEVER, if ever there were ever a better example of a brand failing to do the things that Mr Kazanjian’s book professes, then Enterprise is that brand.
Throughout all of my interactions, Enterprise actually made me, the customer, feel as though I was actually a little bit important. It is not difficult to deliver good customer service – yet so many are unable to replicate the experience I had with Enterprise last week. If I were the senior leader of an Enterprise competitor, I would ask all of my staff to hire a car from Enterprise for the day and see how it should/could be done.
In the same article, a review of my first Enterprise experience, I also wrote:
The key for me as a new Enterprise customer is that this first experience is repeatable. Was this a one off, or will I have the same experience every time I use them? I sincerely hope and expect that quality of experience I received to be maintained.
Regrettably, Enterprise were unable to repeat the experience I had on my first visit with any consistency at all. Over the last four years, they have lurched from very good; to terrible; to ok; to horrendous. They are the epitome of a brand delivering random experiences. Less than a year after writing my first article about Enterprise, I penned another. In this article, I wrote the following:
… I am writing this blog post with a heavy heart as a previous promoter of a business I am now likely to not be using again in the near future. Do not ever take your loyal customers for granted – you can turn them into foes very quickly!
That is some change in less than twelve months! This was the first occasion that Enterprise really let me down as a customer. In the heat of the moment, I mentally decided NOT to use them again. I changed my mind. This is what customers do. Whether it be conscious or subconscious, human beings will often give those who have disappointed another chance. My experiences with their competitors drove me to make the decision of, ‘better the devil you know’. After a year of renting cars from them, I had built up a good relationship and rapport with the staff in my local branch. They assured me they would ‘look after me’. I believed them. For a short time they did. The staff then moved on.
As staff member after staff member came and went, I shifted from being a recognised loyal customer, to being treated as someone who had never used the company before. Far from being looked after – the longer I have used Enterprise, the more devalued I have felt. Loyal to Enterprise I was not. Foolish is how I now feel. In four years I have rented a car from Enterprise on at least 200 occasions – just some of the evidence of their complete failure to meet my needs and expectations is as follows:
- Asking me the most basic of personal details EVERY time I rent a car
- Failing to properly valet the car (almost NEVER cleaning the inside of the rear window)
- Accusing me of getting a parking ticket AND charging me an administration fee as a result, when I was not even in the country at the time!!!
- Failing to advise me if the administration charge was repaid
- Giving me the most RIDICULOUSLY embarrassing hire cars imaginable (see picture below)
- Accusing me of owing money on ‘my account’ when I have NEVER actually had an account
- Telling me I do not owe money on my account and then sending me a threatening legal letter saying I do!
- Failing to call me back when promised
- Having a loyalty scheme, of which I am now a PLATINUM member, but failing to ever mention it or explain how it is supposed to benefit me
- Having the cheek to ask me how the service was, and then manually writing ’10/10′ on a sheet of paper in front of my very eyes – irrespective of what I said
I could go on! Through all of these issues and more, I have stuck with them – ‘better the devil you know’ strikes again. Through all of these issues, I now realise that apart from the first few months as a customer of theirs (almost entirely down to staff members of the branch at the time), I have never actually felt valued at all. I have not been a valued, loyal customer, using Enterprise to help me achieve my desired objective. I have just been another ‘mug’ helping Enterprise to increase the number of cars they have on the road.
Well enough is enough. Accusing me of owing money I do not. Sending me threatening letters. We have reached the end of the line. I will definitely NOT be using Enterprise again. Platinum or no Platinum. The thing is – I get the impression they do not even care. They are seemingly so disengaged from their customers, manually convincing themselves they are still delivering ’10/10′ service EVERY time, they are almost certainly under the illusion that there are plenty of other customers/mugs (delete as appropriate) who will take my place.
Well I have news for Enterprise Rent a Car. No company is too big to fail. No industry is impermeable to disruption. This week I became a customer of Europcar for the first time. Whilst not perfect, they delivered the car to my front door. They will be collecting it from my car door tomorrow. They have done so at a considerably lower price than Enterprise. If I were to suggest anything to the leadership of Enterprise Rent a Car in 2018 – it would be this – go and learn from the great things others are doing both inside AND outside your industry. Transform now, or come face to face with potentially dire consequences.
My book, ‘Customer What? – the honest and practical guide to customer experience’ – is now available to purchase! You can do so on Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk. If Amazon does not ship to your part of the world, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will arrange an alternative method to ship a book to you. Enjoy the read!!