Some Good News About Customer Service

Bad news travels fast online. Especially stories about bad customer service.

There’s no question that thanks to social media platforms, more consumer oriented companies are paying more attention, at least online, to stories of bad service and taking steps to address them (if it’s not too late). But good stories don’t get as much attention. So I’m going to share one and the lesson that can be learned from it.

Over the holidays, my family and I spent about a week in and around Atlanta. We arrived on Christmas Day and it was slim pickings in National Car Rental’s Emerald Aisle (made famous recently by the humorous John McEnroe ad campaign). My choices were a small Pontiac, a big pickup truck or a Ford Flex that looked to me like it was a part of the Emerald Aisle (but there’s a brand new monstrosity of a parking garage that now houses all rental car companies at that airport. It’s huge and not yet well marked. Be warned, it will add time to your next trip there). Because I was hauling a family and all of our luggage, I picked the Flex.

When it was time to check out, the agent processed my rental like normal and I was on my way, driving what was a nice ride for 8 days. But, when I returned the car last Saturday, the computer spit out a receipt that cause immediate sticker shock – a bill for more than $1600!

I went inside, took a deep breath, then talked to the agent at the counter, explaining the situation. She let me know that I had made a mistake, taking a car from the premium row with a jaw-dropping rate of $283 per day. But she also quickly agreed that the “checkout” agent had made a mistake by not alerting me to this at the time of rental. After about five minutes of working the computer (and, I assume, seeing that I am a relatively frequent customer over the last 10+ years), she talked to her manager and within a few seconds, she let me know that they would honor my original rate quote. Talk about doing the right thing.

I share this story because it’s important to pay attention when businesses empower their employees to take care of customers and take a long-term view of relationships. It’s especially impressive when this can happen, on the spot, in dealing with a large corporation.

It’s really an example for all of us in business – listen to customers and join with them in creating solutions when challenges arise. It’s all a part of preserving relationships – the lifeblood of business.