In 2008, I was flying to Denver to speak to two CEO groups for Vistage International. It was the week before the Memorial Day weekend and we’d planned to meet our friends, after my work was complete, in Beaver Creek for the long weekend. I had rented a car for Wednesday through the following Monday.
I “grew up” in a global PR firm where the car rental company of choice was Avis. Because I’ve traveled at least once a week for most of my career, I was part of their Princess Platinum club (I made that up—it was whichever club is their highest).
That status traveled with me after I left the PR firm and started my own business, and I kept it because I continued that kind of travel schedule.
I had no reason to leave them and I was treated very well.
Avis on Twitter, but Not Listening
For this trip to Denver, the Vistage speaking coordinator called to see if I could add a day on the front end of the trip to speak to one more group. Not a problem on my end, and we called Avis to have them add to the reservation.
We were told they were out of cars and I’d have to find one for that first day somewhere else.
Politely explaining I was in their Princess Platinum Club, we asked if they could send a car from another location.
The customer service rep said they had a car at another location, but that I would have to “take a cab” to get there.
At this point, it was very early in the world of Twitter, but being an avid user, I went online to see if they had an account there.
Their Twitter handle is (or was at the time; the account is now suspended) @wetryharder.
So I tweeted:
@wetryharder Having a problem extending an existing reservation in Denver. Can you help?”
Hertz to the Rescue!
Crickets. Nothing. Not a peep. But a few minutes later, Hertz tweeted me.
So sorry to hear about our competition. We can help!
They helped me get a car for my entire trip, gave me the same status I had at Avis, and sent me on my merry way.
About a week after I got home, Hertz tweeted me and asked how the trip was, how the car was, if customer service was helpful—they were gathering market research.
Then they said if I rented from them again, they would give me their Gold status for free.
I did and I haven’t gone back to Avis since then.
This was in May of 2008. In September of that same year, I received a letter in the mail from Avis asking what it would take to get my business back.
Four months had gone by before they realized someone who typically rented at least one car a week from them was gone.
The original tweet went unanswered.
Hertz was monitoring the social networks and Avis was not. They weren’t even monitoring their own handle. And they lost a loyal customer because of it.
Social Media Is Scary
I tell this story because participating online is very scary to many, many business leaders.