Dealing with An Irate Customer– Me!

by Mary Jane Grinstead on January 8, 2012

Here’s another car rental story. My mother lives in a very small town in southeast Missouri. It’s 417 miles from my house in Chicago door to door down I-57, one of the longest, most boring, and heavily under- construction routes in the US.

 I have finally wised up and started taking Amtrak from Chicago to Carbondale, IL. That gets me within striking distance—82 miles. Enterprise has the only car rental place in Carbondale. I call them when the train nears the station. Someone picks me up, takes me back to the rental counter, and within 20 minutes or so I’m back on my way. I’ve been following this routine since the fall.

 So the Thursday before Christmas my husband (who LOVES trains) and I board the 8:15 a.m. 391 Saluki line for Carbondale. As usual, I call Enterprise from the edge of Carbondale and they say they are on their way. When we arrive, there is Cody from Enterprise to pick us up in his own car.

 He says that’s because Enterprise-Carbondale has run out of cars and he’s going to drive us to Marion, IL to get a car. Now Marion is about the same distance from Sikeston as Carbondale, and it’s about a 30 minute trip from Carbondale to Marion, so this was a reasonable alternative—but I popped.

 I didn’t want a reasonable alternative. I wanted a car at the Enterprise location in Carbondale like I had reserved—and I for sure didn’t want to have to ride another 30 minutes to get to it. And I sure didn’t like being surprised at the station when they had my phone number or could have alerted me when I called from the train. I demanded to go to the rental office in Carbondale, and Cody, who is personable, gracious and exactly the kind of person you would want to have representing your business, took us there.

 And then we met the new Enterprise branch manager in Carbondale—Elizabeth Dodd. I had to have been the NIGHTMARE customer—insisting on a car when there weren’t any and other people waiting. Angry because when we called from the train, we weren’t told about the lack of cars. Tired from traveling and a little stressed with the whole Christmas thing.

 Well Elizabeth Dodd was unflappable. She expressed regret, took full responsibility and in the middle of my rant, when a car arrived, asked me if I would mind having a larger vehicle and did the paperwork at a lower rate than my original quote.

 It was A+++ in managing rude and irate customer, but the most amazing thing to me was I felt that Elizabeth really did care about me getting to my mother’s house on time and wanted to honor the reservation commitment that had been made because it was a commitment…in spite of the fact that my anger was way out of proportion with the situation.

 Here’s the second amazing thing. When we returned the car, Elizabeth and Cody were the only two on duty again. There were four Japanese-speaking customers trying to change a reservation and understand the pricing and terms. The phone was ringing off the hook with people trying to reserve cars, get quotes, and one guy was even trying to buy a truck from the Enterprise inventory. Elizabeth was wearing all the hats—still unfailingly polite and respectful to the people in front of her and on the phone.

 Lessons from Elizabeth and Cody

  •  If there’s a problem that’s going to affect a customer, tell them about it as soon as you can. Offer an alternative.
  • Even if the customer is raving and ranting, don’t lose your cool. It will only make a bad situation worse.
  • Handling an irate customer smoothly and turning the situation around in front of other customers sends a strong message to everyone in the room that you really do care about customer service.
  • Even unhappy customers respect leaders who take ownership and responsibility.
  • Sometimes things go wrong. If you make a commitment to a customer (ie, a reservation for a rental car) figure out how to meet that commitment and then, going forward, figure out how to NOT run out of cars.

 Even if there ever is another car rental place in Carbondale, I’m sticking with Enterprise…and Enterprise should stick with Elizabeth and Cody.

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Thrifty Not So Swifty

by Barry Moltz on September 3, 2011

Sometimes the easiest customer service requests are made difficult by company employees following a printed policy.

Exhibit A…Thrifty Rental Car

My sister rented a car in Chicago to drive to our beach house in Michigan.  When she arrived, she realized she had left her computer at the Thrifty check in desk in Chicago.  She called their 800 number to confirm it was there.  It took 6 hours of disconnected calls, bad transfers and voice mails to finally reach the Chicago manager’s cell phone.  Once she was able to talk to him (call out to Johnny Alexander and Adam Ahmed), the issue was resolved in 15 minutes and my sister could breath easier knowing her computer was safe.

What made matters worse, Thrifty knew she had left the computer. They had her contact information from renting the car.  Her ID was also on the outside of her  case.  Why didn’t Thrifty provide great service and call her?  Good question.

Don’t let your company’s policy of not sharing contact information for your staff get in the way of great service.  Think through the needs of each customer and make decisions based on making them satisfied!

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In this world of less service for a higher price, Bloomberg Businessweek reversed the trend.  I was notified that I would no longer get the magazine by mail but hand delivered to my door!  What?

When a copy of this week’s issue arrived on my steps with my Friday paper I was amazed!  Apparently working with other co-delivery services does not increase their cost over USPS.

Bloomberg says that they want to get the “critical global business news” in my hands before the weekend!  9% of the magazine’s 860,000 domestic print subscribers receive the magazine hand delivered.  The company plans to expand into other metro regions and raise that to 30% by the end of 2011.

In this world of electronic delivery, hand delivered customer service is still the tops!

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I received an “astonishing” email today:

Dear Barry,

Recently you may have had trouble instantly watching movies or TV episodes due to a technical issue on our end.

We are sorry for the inconvenience this may have caused.  If you attempted and were unable to instantly watch TV episodes or movies yesterday, click on this account specific link in the next 7 days to apply your 3% credit to your next billing statement.  Credit can only be applied once.

Ready to start watching again?  Browse our selection.

Again, we apologize for any inconvenience and thank you for your understanding.  If you need further assistance, please call us at 1-866-923-0898.

–The Netflix Team

Wow, a service utility offering a discount for an outage?  Have you ever heard of a cable, telephone or utility company doing this?  Never!  They all need to follow Netflix’s example of not only giving a discount but offering it without being asked!

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The Moo Promise

by Barry Moltz on July 7, 2011

I am always in search of the perfect business card.  Over the last year, I think I found it.  I love Moo Cards.  Their site makes it simple to design your own cards.  My favorite part about dealing with Moo is The Moo Promise.

We hope you’re happy with all your MOO products, but if you’re not, we’ll do everything possible to fix the problem.  In the unlikely event that we can’t help, we’ll happily give you your money back.”

It doesn’t say that the customer is always right.  But if the customer thinks that they are still right, they will return their money.  No questions asked.  Everyone should be as easy to do business as Moo.

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Now an Apple Customer Forever

July 6, 2011

My first job out of college was with IBM.  I didn’t buy an Apple product until the iPod came out. After this last week, I am not sure I will ever own anything but an Apple product. I have owned an iPad 1 and an iPad 2.  I enjoy traveling with them.  Last week, a cousin [...]

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Great Service from A Chicago Yellow Taxi Driver #597

June 24, 2011

I live in Chicago and I hate taxi drivers.  I know that they do not have the greatest job in the world and with higher gas prices it takes hard work.  Unfortunately, for the most part Chicago taxi drivers are rude and give lousy customer service.  This comes from constantly talking on the phone while driving [...]

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The Theft of Customer Service

June 10, 2011

Today’s guest post is from Zanna Joyce, Chief Duck Wrangler: “Maybe I’m a bit shifty-eyed.  Maybe I hover a little too often.  I don’t know, but I am finding loss-control measures at small boutique stores to be a bit much! You know the type I mean.  Maybe they’re owned by people who use the store [...]

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Parking Wars: How Your Employees Affect Your Brand Even When Not At Work

June 7, 2011

I love the reality show, Parking Wars and it is why I wanted this post.  Employees are constantly branding your business in and out of work!  Les O’Dell writes: “I saw it again this morning.  As I was taking my infant foster son into the day care center, another parent pulled up to take her [...]

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