March 4, 2014

Customer Service and the Automotive Industry–Part 2

By Paul Bieber

Enter the time machine and let’s go back a week.  I had reserved a luxury-level car from Dollar Rental for a vacation in California.  At the airport the best car they could give us was a Kia, which I barely fit into.  The customer service at this airport was as weak as any I had ever encountered in my business career.  And my only resolution was to keep the car for nine days and ask for a rate reduction upon returning the car in San Francisco.

Friday evening Elaine and I pulled into the car rental return at the San Francisco airport.  Elaine came along to prevent me from making a scene, which I was really planning to do.  I pulled up to the check-in booth and a gentleman named Hakam came up to the car and asked if he could help.  Pretending to be nice and quiet (I should have won the Oscar), I explained the situation.  Hakam fervently apologized for the company.  Either he was trying to win an Oscar also, or he was just a very nice guy.  He asked for the rental contract, read it for a minute, and said, “Of course, we owe you a reduction.  I’ll be right back.”  He led us to a comfortable bench.  Five minutes later he came back, apologizing again and offered a 25-percent reduction in the original rate.  I was totally pleased.

Give your employees the teaching and the authority to solve customer service problems.  Give them limits to work with, train them to be caring and yell from the top of the mountain that customers are their job, not an interruption in their day.

Let’s finish this blog with another car-related incident.  Back in New Hampshire, on Sunday when filling my car with gas at a self-service station, I couldn’t get the gas nozzle out of my filler pipe.  I walked into the convenience store and asked the clerk if she knew anything about solving my problem.  “Nope” was the answer.  I asked her who she calls when there is a problem with the pumps.  She said her boss.  I asked her to call the boss, but he couldn’t be found.  She did not have a list of repair people or emergency numbers.  My options were simple.  Stand there and cry, or leave, dragging the gas pump behind me.  I went back to the car and called the 24-hour service line from Ford and spoke with a very kind lady.  She had never heard of this happening either.  She asked me if she could send someone out to help and I said yes.  But the only Ford dealer for 30 miles around is closed on Sunday, as she found out.  She said she would switch me to another dealer that she knew was open, and maybe they could help.

Instantly I was speaking with a service manager at a Ford dealer, described my problem and he said he had never heard of this either, but would be glad to send a technician out right away.  Now that is good customer service.  I told him where I was and he paused.  He didn’t recognize the town I was in.  I asked him where he was, and he told me Los Angeles.  I laughed, thanked him, and hung up.  Customer service again failed, and I am telling the world.

A buddy of mine came over, and using a hack saw blade, he managed to clear the obstruction on the nozzle.  There was a flange at the end of the nozzle that had become loose.  The gas station lost an hour’s worth of pump business, they will not get my business for a while, and I get a story to end this blog.  All because management at this station didn’t have an emergency list for the clerk.

Think about it.