When I rent a car—a commodity if ever there was one—I usually go for the low price leader. A Ford Taurus at Dollar is the same as a Ford Taurus at Avis, right? No single rental car company can claim me as a loyal customer. Like many consumers, I’m fickle and patronize whomever I feel can offer me “the best deal” at the moment.
Recently, I had an opportunity to rent a car from Hertz. I had a coupon and combined it with my corporate discount to get a pretty good rate on a mid-size car. The clerk asked me if I’d like to join the Hertz #1 Club. The incentive, he explained, was a free rental day. “I can even apply it to this rental if you’d like,” he told me. “Sure,” I said.
When I returned the vehicle to the airport, I noticed that my receipt showed the full price and didn’t account for my “free rental” day. I was late for my flight, so decided it wasn’t worth it to pursue my discount at the time. A few weeks later when my charge card statement arrived, it also reflected the full price of the rental—with no discount applied.
I girded myself for phone battle with some so-called “customer service” agent, but was happily surprised when Annie Thomas in the Orlando Hertz office picked up the phone. She calmly and professionally explained that the clerk was in error for telling me that the free rental day could be applied immediately, as that went against their policy. But—and here’s the part that caught me off guard—she didn’t argue or complain. She simply believed my explanation and credited my charge card with a free day. A week later, I received a letter of APOLOGY from the Hertz city manager for MY inconvenience.
For an investment of only $21 (the refund I received for my free rental day) Hertz just bought themselves a new loyal customer. They connected me to their brand emotionally through excellent customer service in a commodity business. Do you think I care that I’ll pay a few bucks extra the next time I rent from Hertz? Of course not. Great customer service is a wonderful marketplace differentiator, and it has a way of diffusing price perceptions.
According to Accenture in a CRM survey, the most frustrating aspects of calling customer service include: