I recently went on vacation and rented a vehicle from Enterprise Rent a Car. Overall it was a really great experience but like many Customer experiences there were a few flaws that came about that I think we can all learn from. I originally rented a 15 passenger van because I was renting a house in Orlando and I invited several relatives to stay with us. I thought a large van would be the way to go. I rented through Travelocity where I compared and received the best price. I arrived at the airport and the van was ready! The first snag is there is a different process for larger vans. I would guess that they are fearful of people using the van commercially. After waiting for a little time, I decided to tell the Enterprise person that I did not need the van anymore because the others I was traveling with rented their own vehicles. He was thrilled to hear that and was very helpful in getting me into an SUV. As we were walking down the aisle he even said pick whichever one you want. So I chose the Cadillac Escalade, which put a smile on my face.
The first thing I noticed about the vehicle was it was brand new. It only had 5 miles on it. I have rented numerous cars through my travels and I never had a new vehicle like that. It was also a luxury vehicle which was fun to have on vacation. After our first stop I noticed damage to the trim on the side. It looked like the trim was pulled off. Needless to say I was stressed about this and wanted to know why. When I made our next stop I immediately got out to check on the damage and see if I could see what happened. At the same time the person in the back of the vehicle opened the door. As I walked around I could easily see what happened. The trim was not on the vehicle properly causing it to get caught in the front passenger door. I was a bit relieved that it was not caused by something else.
I immediately called to alert the company of the issue. The vehicle did not need to be replaced, but I also did not want to be held liable for damage caused by a defect. I told the call center employee about the damage. He was very understanding and was going to alert the location where I rented the car from. I would hear from them. Of course I did not hear from them, but again the car was fine to drive, so I was not too worried, at least until I returned the car.
When I returned the car I wanted to share the picture above with them. This would allow the rental car company to have the manufacturer correct the defect, but it would also protect me from a hassle due to the damage. I pointed out the damage to the return agent. He really did not care. At this point the small piece of trim was off the car, so I handed that to him. He told me just to throw it in the car. I tried to explain that I wanted to share the picture with them to show the damage was caused by the alignment of the trim. He told me he did not need the picture but then also went on to say that it was good that I had it for a claim with my insurance company. What????
I would not file a claim for this, nor would I pay for damage that is caused by a defect. I would think the employee would also want to have the damage corrected by the manufacturer, but I was wrong. They are used to seeing damaged caused by others and the typical claim process. This was not that and should not be treated that way. At the same time it is in the interest of the rental company to have the vehicle fixed properly, which the picture should easily help with. The website did not have a way to submit a picture, so I used the only email I could find, which was to the CEO.
Every company has items that do not fall into the standard process, but they do not create a process to handle these items because they simply do not happen very often. At the time of the return, it would have been a great opportunity to escalate to a manager to ensure things were handled properly. As a Customer I would not want a letter in the mail stating I caused damaged, which was not what occurred. Does your company have a process to handle things outside the norm? Can your Customers easily submit pictures or videos to you? Do employees care for you equipment as if it were their own?
Process is really good, except for when it is not.
Frank Eliason is the Head of U.S. Digital and Customer Experience at Zeno Group, a global, integrated communications and PR agency in New York. His prior executive assignments include Global Director and Senior Vice President roles with Citi. Frank served for three years on the Board of Directors of the Council or Better Business Bureaus (US and Canada). He is a LinkedIn “Influencer”, and has contributed multiple articles to ExecutiveVine.com.