I have traveled all over the USA and rented cars from every major car rental company at almost every major airport (and many smaller ones). So, I have had a variety of customer service experiences at the hands of car rental companies.
But at the Las Vegas Airport, Hertz showed me how easy it is to chase away an otherwise happy customer.
Our interaction with the Hertz representative was normal (and fine) until she started up-selling. First she upsold the car type. That was okay because I wanted the upgraded car and it was a good deal.
The problem was, she lied about the car. Either that, or she was misinformed. Regardless, we did not get what we expected.
Next, she pushed the “fuel option”. If you rent cars a lot you know this is where you have the option of returning the car with a full or empty gas tank. If you choose to return it full, it better be full or they charge you over $7.00 a gallon to fill it. If you choose to return it empty, any gas in the tank when you return it is a donation to Hertz.
It has been a long time since I’ve seen $7+ per gallon prices at a car rental company. The majority I’ve seen are at or near market prices. Most seem to understand that gouging customers this way does not create goodwill or loyalty on the customer’s part.
Apparently Hertz thinks otherwise.
What amazed me at this point was that the Hertz representative aggressively pushed us to choose the “bring it back empty” option. She kept saying “it’s the best deal for you”. She said it at least three times. She kept pushing even after I told her we’d have plenty of time to fill the tank prior to returning the car.
But that was not the worst part. The worst part came when she asked about damage coverage. At most car rental places the representative asks, I decline, I initial the contract and that’s it. Done deal.
Not at Hertz. Not that day.
This Hertz employee was not interested in getting “no” for an answer. She went into great detail about how our insurance probably didn’t provide full coverage for all the liability allowed in Nevada. Again, she repeated herself several times, regardless how much I protested.
Then, at the end of the transaction, she pointed to the charges and said, “this is how much we’ll charge your credit card, assuming you bring the car back undamaged.”
Apparently she thought scare tactics would succeed after her bullying strategy failed. (She was wrong.)
It was clear this “service person” was focused on getting us to do what she wanted. Everything she pushed us on was something that put money in Hertz’ bank account. Not once did she ask anything to determine what we might want or need to make our car rental experience better. She was completely focused on selling us what she (or Hertz) wanted to sell us.
Then when we declined, she got ugly. She resorted to manipulative tactics designed to scare us into doing what she wanted done. She did this even after we declined with good reasons, even after I explained to her why we declined her offer.
Does Hertz really believe customers want to be bullied and scared into buying something they don’t want or need (and have already declined)?
And is this the type of revenue Hertz really wants for the long term? This is what Fred Reichheld would call “bad revenue”. It is not sustainable because it does not help the customer get what they want. Instead it’s obtained by taking advantage of the situation (and the customer).
Prior to this I respected Hertz. My perception of the company was no better or worse than the other big rental companies. But now, my perception has changed. It’s changed because one employee decided to focus on the company’s needs regardless of what I wanted.
Because of this employee, Hertz gave me a lousy experience. It was surprisingly bad. It was so unexpected it stands out in my memory. And it will stay there for a long time.
We are in the experience economy. I rent a car not just for transportation but for peace of mind while I’m traveling. I want to know the company behind the car is there to help me have a wonderful travel experience. I would like to believe that is part of their goal.
But the Hertz employee in Las Vegas took that away from us. Instead she focused on how to get more money for the company, regardless of how it affected us.
Which would you prefer? Do you want suppliers who are there to help you get what you want (like an enjoyable vacation)? Or would you prefer working with companies that are clearly focused on generating revenue even if it means annoying or abusing their customers to get it?
As our economy moves more and more into delivering experiences over goods and services, employees like this will become dinosaurs. Companies that continue to employee these people and these tactics will find themselves with eroding market share, falling revenue and shrinking profits, as they should.
Hertz needs to wake up. Even if it’s just one employee or one office that behaves this way, they need to make changes. Every customer is important. Every customer contact is critical. Every action counts.
By the way, to top off the whole experience with Hertz, they charged us more than they said they would. When asked to explain why, the representative could not do so. All she could say was “talk to customer service about it”.