Renting a car is not, in my experience, very inspiring. Quite the opposite, in fact. Dingy retail outlets, long waits, poor service – let’s face it, it’s an industry that screams out for a makeover. Or does it?
Last week I rented a vehicle. Picked it up on a Saturday of a long holiday weekend. When I entered the rental office there were – no exaggeration – thirty people there ahead of me. When it was finally my turn (in less time than I would have thought, thanks to an energetic, young, very professional and capable team), I ended up with a vehicle that smelled distinctly of bad cigars. While I was loath to re-enter the queue, when I came back into the office the woman in charge recognized me, sensed that something was amiss and swapped out the offending vehicle for a different, upgraded one – in five minutes, no problem. Already this is a better experience than just about any other rental I can recall (bad cigars notwithstanding).
When I returned the vehicle the same crew was on staff, plus an additional individual – slightly older than the twenty-somethings running the desk, and clearly in some position of authority (although he wasn’t throwing it around). It was this higher-ranking individual who processed my return and asked if I needed a lift home. Turns out the twenty-somethings were all occupied, so Mr. Manager offered to drive me himself.
Turns out the reason Mr. Manager offered to drive me is because the location team was in the midst of writing up their biggest sales day ever and he didn’t want to interrupt their flow. Turns out Mr. Manager loves his work and his company. Turns out Mr. Manager is his company’s best ambassador. Turns out this particular rental car company has really progressive recruitment, training, retention and reward programs. Turns out that once I opened the conversational door by complimenting the customer experience, Mr. Manager couldn’t stop talking about the company and how great it is to work there.
Never in a million years would I have expected to hear that kind of passion from someone in an industry that, to me, has always had a low bar across every imaginable criterion. Just goes to show that you don’t have to be running a high-growth tech marvel or hob-nobbing with celebs to love your work. Apparently the formula remains pretty simple. Hire great people, treat them well, communicate regularly and clearly, reward performance AND behaviour, show them that there’s a future, and leave them alone when they’re doing their jobs well. The result? While it’s still a tough business to get right all of the time (the cigar smell?) it’s entirely possible to treat your customers like they matter, solve problems quickly when they do arise, and demonstrate excellence in comparison to your competitors. Nice going, Enterprise Rent-a-Car – I’ll be back.