In the last three years, I have probably rented 40 cars per year from Hertz and therefore belong to the Gold “President’s Circle” (it did make a difference when I got called by one of their their European Customer Services Team Leaders).
A few months ago, upon returning a rental car, I was blamed by the Hertz employee for having tried to hide damage to the front bumper by painting it over with a blue (remember this colour, it comes back later) felt pen. I was allowed nastly looks, cynical mumblings and was absolutely outraged since not only would I never have envisaged doing something like that but I also had no responsibility in the said damage. I got stung for 148.15 Pounds Sterling to repair and repaint a scratch I had absolutely nothing to do with.
This week like many others, I picked up a car from Hertz at an airport station. I got the keys, was told the car had been checked and had no damage and scrambled to where it was parked. The globally-warmed Euro-tropical rain was pouring as usual and I tried to inspect the car for scratches but how do you see anything on a black car when it is raining!
After driving 180 miles I parked the car (still raining) and checked into my hotel. The morning weather was no better and I drove to my appointment. Somehow, the sun came out during the morning and when I got back to the car at 2.00 PM, I noticed what looked like a smudge above one of the headlights. It was tacky and seemed to partly cover some very fine scratches (did somebody use a ScotchBrite on the coachwork?). I immediately called the Hertz station to report the problem and was given the “Party Line”: “Sir, you have until 12 noon to report damage…it is now 2pm, you are too late, I cannot record this damage; you will have to work it out when you return the car”. I explained the whole weather story but it simply felt like hitting a brick wall. The lady finally asked me whether I actually wanted to report something and although I told her I thought Hertz might then use that information to blame me, I did report the scratch
When I returned the car, the guy asked me a lot of questions: was it a long term rental, did I have a SatNav, etc…I realised afterwards that this was because he had a note on his handheld terminal but didn’t know what the note was about. He checked the car, didn’t see the smear and scratches and asked me to go to the station to get my receipt. At the counter, I was told that there was a note that I had reported a scratch but that since the car had just been checked it seemed OK.
That car was made available to me with an unreported scratch and has probably already been rented again by a new unsuspecting customer who is at risk of being blamed for something he has nothing to do with. Ultimately, some poor guy will get caught and will pay for the repairs. Hertz won’t…now to my point about weak processes and policies:
At Heathrow, Hertz’s main competitor (they try harder) has a floodlit and sheltered area at the car park exit, where a person inspects the car with you, signs the manifest with you and only then opens the barrier. There can be no argument. I suggested this in my first letter but probably wasted the ink, paper and stamp.
Another suggestion I made was to impact the employees when a customer reports damage they missed. There could be a bonus for the guy who never misses a dent or a scratch.
But that would be too simple, it would mean they couldn’t blame the customer and get him to pay for the repair. How many times do you think it will take someone before they move to the people who try harder?
Great Customer Service is the ONLY differentiator when you are in the services business. That means you should at least try not to question the good faith of your most loyal customers. They are your evangelists, your influencers…don’t screw with them, or they’ll vote with their feet and tell the world about it.
19th July 2007:
Well…a few days ago, Hertz Europe contacted me because they had seen this Blog. I had a very constructive conversation with the lady who called me and I explained that I didn’t hate Hertz (I really do find they generally offer great service at a good price) but since my day job is about enhancing customer experience and relationships through better processes, it was evident to me that there was definitely something rotten in the Kingdom of Hertz (by the way, Hertz means Heart in German and I felt rather like Alice in Wonderland saying the roses weren’t red-or was it blue– when they were being painted to please the Queen of
To cut a long story short, I provided the lady with as much information as I could and we found that the situation was even more complex than I had assumed. She called me today to say that she had requested a refund and apologized profusely for the way things had been handled.
I promised I would amend the above post to reflect the full story and wished her good luck in improving what is (was?) clearly a weak link in Hertz’s generally outstanding organisation.
I can only say that I am impatient to see the changes Hertz will make to the whole damage assessment process and I know they will find that whatever investments they make will result in a strongly improved customer experience and more profitable business.
Janice, Hertz Europe can thank you for handling this situation extremely well. Lets both hope that your findings result in the necessary improvements.