Complete customer satisfaction. That is the principle that has guided our company along our journey so far, and it remains our goal today.

Am I petty person? I don’t feel like a petty person but this post might suggest I am. The title of this post was lifted directly from the Commitment to Customer Service by Enterprise Holdings, the people who own Enterprise car rental. This (petty) post is all about a horrible interaction I had with the company and why I no longer patronize them. The fact that I’ve held onto the letters and photos in this post after so many years is silly but it demonstrates how bad customer service can really stay with a customer.

There’s a reason this terrible bit of customer service came into my brain. As you’ll read below, customer service is the career I’ve chosen. I have an Associates and Bachelors degree in Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Management. I’m currently closing in on my MBA and taking Customer Service Management as an elective. I just finished reading a chapter on service recovery and each section reminded me of how badly Enterprise failed working with me. I’ve mentioned that I rent cars for my vacations in past posts. Originally I worked with Enterprise because they were nice to me and geographically close to my house and office. Also they have a loyalty program that gives points for each rental that could be used for discounts on future rentals. I have gone elsewhere for each of my rentals since 2014, and here’s why!

Below is the first letter I sent to Enterprise (names have been edited out to protect the guilty and innocent). As you can see it was not my first attempt to contact them but I was reduced to snail mail to reach someone. This was way back in 2014 when the internet and telephones were still in their infancy…so it’s understandable I had to send a letter to contact someone.

Customer Service Representative (I couldn't find a contact name),

This letter is in reference to a recent adventure I had when using Enterprise. I have been a loyal customer with Enterprise since 2009 and up until now have been extremely happy with the service and experience. I would like to express my displeasure with my latest dealings with the company. I have family who now lives in Arizona who I will be visiting multiple times a year, and that was the point of my visit. I would like to setup a timeline to explain the situation.

2/24/14 – I made a reservation for an intermediate class car in Goodyear, Arizona for Thursday, March 13th 11:00am – Monday, March 17th at 11:00am. Confirmation Number: TD8583. I was quoted $40 a day for 4 days with a total of $188.08. The confirmation is attached to this letter (I'm not attaching it to this post because who cares?).

3/11/14 – I received a confirmation e-mail also attached to this letter (also not attaching).

3/12/14 – I made a change to my reservation. I asked that I pick up the car at 8:30am and drop it back off at 8:30am keeping the same dates. Essentially I wanted to pick up and drop off the car 2.5 hours earlier than originally requested. I made this change as I was getting ready to leave work for the airport. In my rush I failed to notice that my rate was raised from $40 a day to $84.95 a day, more than twice the original amount.

3/13/14 – I picked up the car. The car sat in front of the store for roughly 15 minutes before it was taken away to get cleaned. The total wait was around half an hour but I was patient as I did change the times the previous day. Again I had just traveled the day before and was a bit out of sorts coming from snow to desert. I missed on the paperwork that the rate had changed. I didn’t think to look for this because I figured since it was the same rental length and on the same confirmation that it would remain the same.

When doing the inspection of the car with the branch representative I found nothing outside the car wrong. The rear seats however were in terrible condition (photos added below so you know I'm not talking about a small spot). I was told that the previous renter had kids and the car was due for a detailing. I was already behind schedule so I didn’t push the issue and left. One of my guests was not comfortable sitting on the seats without first laying down a towel.

I was 2500 miles from home and had never spent time in Arizona before therefor I had to use my GPS to get around. During my drive my GPS suddenly died and I realized it wasn’t charging. I called the branch identifying myself as the customer from Delaware to ask about trading cars and was told it was just a fuse and to take the car to a Firestone as Enterprise had a deal with them. I had no idea where a Firestone might be in relation to where I was and even if I had an address I couldn’t find it without my GPS. Fortunately someone on the street was able to give me directions to one. The mechanic inside had no idea what I was talking about when I explained Enterprise sent me and that there was some kind of deal worked out between the companies. Fortunately the man was very nice and helpful and fixed the fuse for free. This did set back my schedule quite a bit more.

I understand that all of these issues can and do occur but when all three occur at once it becomes a bit much. Traveling always brings with it certain problems but when they mount it starts to feel a bit unacceptable.

3/17/14 – I returned the car. When asked how everything was I explained my frustrations and was surprised by the response. The employees both seemed a bit defensive and it came off a little rude. I was given the impression they didn’t want an honest answer and asked how everything was just to make conversation while we waited for the bill.

3/20/14 – I used the “e-mail us” option on the Enterprise website and attached pictures of the car’s back seats and a letter detailing what I’ve described above. As of 3/24/14 I still have not heard anything.

3/24/14 – Now that I’m home I was able to look into the billing as I thought the final bill seemed high. This was the first time I was able to inspect all my paperwork and discovered the high bill was due to the rate change on March 12th. As I didn’t appreciate the service from the branch I decided I wanted to talk to a corporate office to resolve this issue. I called the 800 number on the website and was sent automatically to my local branch in Delaware. The young lady was extremely helpful and gave me a number to the office in Arizona. I called that number and the lady on the other end was less friendly than the representative in Delaware. After some miscommunication between us she gave me the cell phone number of the area manager, a Mr. X. I called and left a message.

At this point my frustration led to a little impatience. I still haven’t heard a response to my e-mail on March 20th so I looked for other ways to contact Enterprise and receive more immediate service. On the contact page the “Chat with a customer service agent” has not worked all day. I didn’t want to use the “E-mail Us” form again because nothing has been accomplished since I first used that. I found on two separate pages the e-mail address CustomerService@enterprise.com. One was on an answer page and the other (ironically) is on the Culture of Customer Service page. I e-mailed this address asking for someone to contact me and did finally get an immediate response! Unfortunately that response was “You have replied to a system generated email from a mailbox which does not accept inbound messages.”

I called the 800 number again and spoke with the same young lady from Delaware who again was extremely polite and listened to all my frustrations. I’d like to stress I am happy with the services she was able to provide. She understood that the many avenues I’ve taken to contact people have failed and that I am very frustrated in trying to clean up this matter. She told me that Mr. X was indeed the correct person to talk to and that she could e-mail him to speed up the process of contacting me. I told her that I would try and be more patient and wait. I’m curious as to how long my pleas for service will go unanswered.

I went onto the Enterprise website to see what a last minute rate request would be at my local Delaware branch. It says I am able to book an intermediate class car for $43.68, less than 24 hours in advance. This is a smaller window than the one in which I changed my reservation on 3/12/14 (I gave 25 hours’ notice on that change). I’m still not sure why the cost more than doubled.

A little about me: I’ve worked in the hospitality industry for 16 years. My degree is in Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Management. For many years I was an event coordinator for a conference center and am now a manager of a meeting facility and all of the event operations within. I know it is in my own best interest to be accessible to my clients and to resolve issues immediately. I work at a university now, so my business isn’t to the scale of Enterprise, but my office of 5 staff members does plan and execute over 12,000 events campus wide each year. We have over 350 student groups and about half as many departments to answer to and my staff does accept all of their feedback. I personally respond to issues within the day of learning about them, even if that response is only a confirmation that I’ve learned of it and that I’m looking into it and will contact the client as quickly as I can to resolve the issue.

I’m not going to bluff and say I plan to take all my business elsewhere (even though I eventually did). I plan to rent a car again April 24th – 29th and will most likely use my Enterprise branch in Delaware. As I’ve stated I always feel like I get A+ service from them. I will certainly never use the branch in Goodyear, Arizona again however. The whole situation of speaking with people at the branch and again on March 24th on the phone with a regional office has left a very bad taste in my mouth. I will be visiting my family in Phoenix at least twice a year and will be looking into other rental options when there.

I’m more than happy to discuss all of this with someone if I can find someone to discuss it with. I would especially like to work out this billing discrepancy as I feel the rate increase is a bit outrageous. I’m going to the snail mail address I found on the website as a last resort and hoping it will be faster or actually work unlike the online and phone options I’ve already exhausted. Thank you for reading this. I promise if you contact me at my cell phone number (XXX-XXX-XXXX) or my e-mail {redacted} I will respond to you quickly! The e-mail address will accept your messages and the phone number will contact me directly (it will not forward you to your local The Yuppie Hobo).

Thanks for helping me put these issues behind us and continuing our business together.

So you can see I’m not exaggerating about the state of the car, here are some fine pictures.

IMG_3613IMG_3614

My letter to the corporate office paid off! Not only did I get a letter, I got it from the corporate VP of Customer Service directly! He was going to set things straight! My voice was being heard! I was going to get back the difference between my original quote and what I was charged! I was going to get an apology and recognition of my plight! I was going to be shown that I was cared for by a company I had been loyal to! I was going to be…put off onto someone else. I can’t find the letter sent to me but it was basically a form letter saying I would hear back “shortly” from the regional head of customer service overseeing the Arizona area. It vaguely apologized but said that a Mr. Y would be contacting me. Guess who never contacted me? If the letter turns up, I’ll add it to this post.

So not having heard back from Mr. Y I decided to send another letter through the U.S. Postal Service. This was the only way I could reach someone it seemed. Second letter:

Mr. Z (I now had a name, the VP of Customer Service, from his letter to me)

Thank you for your letter dated March 28. I have included a copy of it and my original letter should you need to reference them. I did want to update you on the situation. I would like to continue the timeline from my last letter:

3/24 – I did receive a call back from Mr. X however was unable to answer. He left a message.

3/25 – I called him twice and each time I reached his voice mail. At the second call I left a message.

3/26 – I called again and left a message. He returned my call at 5:34pm (my time). I was on my way home from the grocery store but wanted to take the call so I pulled over. As my situation didn’t allow for a detailed conversation we only discussed my billing issues. We were unable to discuss the other service problems. He did explain to me that the system must have performed an auto update of the price, even though it was the same reservation number. He asked that I forward him my e-mail confirmation with the original rate and he would put the refund in that evening. I sent the e-mail at 5:54pm (my time) and explained inside that my partner Ms. A had paid for the car and I would like her card to be refunded, not mine.

4/4 – I received your letter in the mail informing me I would be contacted “shortly” by Mr. Y to discuss the issues I’ve had further.

4/14 – Neither Ms. A nor I had received a refund so I called and left another message for Mr. X to inform him of this matter.

4/17 – I’m writing this letter. I have not been contacted by Mr. X or Mr. Y nor has the refund gone through. It has been exactly one month since I returned the car and twenty business days since I initiated my first contact about the experience.

When I initiated this whole debacle my intent was to get a refund for the doubling of my rate, acknowledgement of my frustrations, and recognition that I am a valued customer. I have received none of this. What began as poor service from a branch has escalated to me feeling as if the company does not want/need me as a client. I’m very disappointed by this matter and feel that further contact with me (beyond my refund of the $44.95 per day that I discussed with Mr. X) is not necessary. I don’t believe this disaster can be salvaged.

I am renting a car with my local branch, which I have always had positive experience with, for April 24th – April 30th, so that I can use the points I’ve accumulated. I also put in a reservation for May 24th – 27th that I have since decided to cancel. I will be investigating other options for my future rentals.

As I mentioned in my previous letter I am in customer service and have relayed this story in a recent staff meeting. It helped affirm the great service and approachability we provide our customers and it was also decided we will consider other companies to rent from when at conferences. We decided to use taxis when we left our hotel last week at our Orlando conference. I also plan to use this experience as an example during my training session with my student managers about the concept of “Moments of Truth” in customer service. In speaking at our meeting we were able to identify several moments where we felt a little attention and acknowledgement of the situation could have helped ease the problems.

I am saddened by how this played out but I cannot continue to work with a company that obviously does not value or respect me as a customer. If the matter is not concluded by the time this letter reaches you I would appreciate anything you could do to expedite the refund. I am looking forward to putting this matter behind me.

The Yuppie Hobo

After this letter I called Mr. X one more time on 4/23 and left him a message. In that message I reminded Mr. X he had not returned my message left on 4/14. I can’t find my notes of what happened after that.. If I remember correctly, he called me back on 4/24 and let me know he would process the refund that afternoon. I believe there was a faint and embarrassed apology involved. Within a few days the refund was posted to Ms. A’s account. After over a month of trying to contact people I was refunded, the photos of the car were never addressed, and the apologies given to me were flat and not appropriate to the escalated situation.

Things I have learned from my class that apply to this situation:

  1. The use of technology in the service industry is growing and can enhance the customer experience when used properly. It should not be used if it does not provide the service it is suppose to. You should not use contact forms or email addresses that don’t actually go anywhere. You should not have a “chat with an agent” function if it doesn’t work.
  2. There is something called a zone of tolerance that is the space between the service a customer desires and the service a customer will accept. If the service is below what is acceptable, that zone becomes smaller in further interactions. We are less likely to accept poor service the second time.
  3. Service recovery done properly can improve customer relations better than doing the service correctly the first time. When a company makes a grand gesture to rectify the situation, customers loyalty can drastically increase. This is called the service recovery paradox. Service recovery not done properly makes the issue worse and drives customers, like me, away.
  4. Customer complaints should not only be heard, they should be welcomed. It is important to hear of problems so they can be fixed. Only 1 – 5% of customers complain to upper management (mom, I’m finally in the top 5%!). Those customers are doing the company a favor, the service provider can now make sure these issues don’t reoccur. The gentlemen at the branch did not want to hear my complaints. Apparently nobody did.
  5. Communication is key to service recovery. It should be quick and supply adequate explanations for why the failure occurred. It should not drag out for over a month.
  6. There are different types of fairness customers look for:
    1. Outcome fairness – customers like to feel their complaints are received and be compensated for the issues. At a minimum, this compensation should be equal to what the customer suffered. I was refunded the money charged by their system, fulfilling our pre-service agreement, but nothing beyond that.
    2. Procedural fairness – customers like when the receiver of the complaint takes ownership and helps solve the issue. I was passed through many hands, each took little to no responsibility.
    3. Interactional fairness – customers like to be treated with respect. I received a rude response from the lady answering the phone in Arizona as well as the people at the counter when I dropped the car off.
  7. Customer rage exists and it causes silly, petty hobos to post 3-year old stories about poor customer service.

I hope you appreciated a small lesson on customer service. I pay a lot for this information, be thankful I provided it for free! Below is a great music video shared by my professor. The airline eventually offered this guy the money to repair his guitar. Apparently when the video went viral the airline’s stock took a hit. If only I were more musically inclined perhaps I could have gotten a free car!

One thought on “Complete customer satisfaction. That is the principle that has guided our company along our journey so far, and it remains our goal today.

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