Two weeks ago I had to rent a car from Hertz. It was one of the blandest experience I’ve had with a customer desk in a very long time. This is not a rant on Hertz or this particular team. I could guess that my customer experience by all their standards had been amazing. The process was smooth and I’m sure it checked all the quality control boxes, or customer satisfaction KPIs they had. I just tend to have an obsessive frame of mind in regard to building added value as a brand… or not.

But there was one thing that was absolutely baffling to me. Let me explain…

My car was reserved and already paid online. So even if you book weeks before picking up the car, as usual you don’t get to have the model you want, but the one they deem convenient to give you by looking at what they have just minutes before they give you keys (and in my experience you frequently get a free upgrade offered if they know the model they offer really suck). Getting the car you want  in rentals could be a full topic to discuss. But you know what? Let’s not even get there…

What was amazing to me was that the customer guy I was talking to offered me the last minute no deductible insurance. He even gave me the very convincing golden retriever eye. You know? The « It’s all the same for me, but right now I’m feeling so much empathy and love for you that I’d really like you to be safe out there. » And well, facing such obvious upsell oldest trick in the book, I cannot do anything else, but say YES. Sign me in. I actually love having peace of mind, so paying the on-the-spot extra is a cool bargain for me.

But then, this is what I’m buying. Peace of mind. That is our trade now…

So after that, the next step comes up. You are being told « We are going to examine the car together and check if there’s anything wrong with it. » But now something weird happens. Because if you’re not consistent, I am going to be. I said: « we are certainly not going to check the car together. At the risk of letting you [the car rental person], be lost in translation, didn’t I buy peace of mind? Hell, I could probably kick the door right now in front of you and you’ll have to smile and ask if my foot is OK (admittedly, I need to read the fine prints some day). I don’t HAVE to examine the car. Not now, not during the trip, not when dropping it back. »

But you [the car rental person] do.

Which I understand, so while you do that, why not offer me a coffee? Give me details on the traffic today or problematic road works? Even better, let me go on a limb here, but I would guess you check all your cars… So why not deal with this BEFORE the customer picks up the car?

Now let me go even more crazy here…

Why not, instead of embarking me in your process (which again I understand YOU have to deal with)… Why not take these five minutes to deliver something interesting. Peace of mind? OK, so let’s setup my phone with the car’s bluetooth together. You might even record some statistical benefits of less customers involved in accidents with your cars within a few months.

BOOOM. Customer service my friend.

See how radical and crazy I can get sometimes? I listen to what you say you’re doing as a brand and try to believe it.

All jokes aside now, this is the thing: the Hertz and Avis of the world are going out of their own business because of their own processes, their own KPIs and bullshit customer satisfaction metrics. They don’t get it. Worse, they don’t want to get it anymore. They truly think they are selling car rental, while car rental is just the product. This is not what they are selling because this is not what we are buying.

Remember when they disrupted the car market by offering to use a vehicle for just a few days? A vehicle that you didn’t have to own yourself anymore? No? Why should you? It was in 1918. They were uberizing car manufacturers!

But they should remember their own history though.

We are buying convenience and peace of mind for the last miles of our trip. Or we are buying a memorable experience if we go on road 66 for two weeks with the car. We want this customer experience to be consistent. We don’t buy getting the car we don’t want or going through a twelve-step process as if we were your staff.

Hertz: this is YOUR business. Get back into it, don’t just say « Love the Road » as a generic motto (who’s bragging about making us hate the road? No one? So your motto is pointless!) Even worse, your mission statement is this abysmally non-opposable monstrosity:

“Our mission is to be the most customer focused, cost efficient vehicle and equipment rental / leasing company in every market we serve. We will strengthen our leading worldwide positions through a shared value culture of employee and partner involvement by making strategic investments in our brand, people and products. The focus of everything we do will be continuously improving shareholder value.”

That is soooo informative right? Let’s compare with Avis just for the kick of it:

“We will be a leader in the vehicle rental industry by focusing on customers, our people, growth, innovation and efficiency. All of these elements will drive bottom line success and show that Avis and Budget are stronger together than they could be alone.”

You know what? In my book they get extra point for saying the same non-sensical gibberish in fewer words. Good for them. They are dead too anyway.

Why am I so frustrated when confronted with all this?

Well again, I know I’m just obsessive with how the core strategy (or lack of) percolates down to how the customer is dealt with. Knowing that, I try not to be too much of a jerk as a customer myself. Which can be hard when companies are so out of touch.

Meanwhile, I am also seeing this kind of market ripe for an AirBnB just getting it and taking care of this mess. Removing the mess of finding a place to stay for travel was hard. Adding transportation to get there, even if it means partnering with Uber and push the envelope for an already fantastic travel experience, would be nothing.

I would even believe that the only problem with that is AirBnB not wanting to be associated as a brand you can trust to the toxic culture of Uber (a big problem though).

It is easy to identify entire sectors held by incumbent companies that are just waiting for an accident to happen to them. But Nokia wasn’t saved by realizing in 2011 they were a « burning platform »…. It’s still immensely difficult to have first a self-realization moment when you’re the incumbent, and then do something drastic about it.

[ Update – Nov. 2, 2018 ]

As a quick update to this post, I wanted to point out that companies like UBER record a significative rise in business customers. They are already pushing out Hertz and Avis out of their own market:

Uber pushing out AVIS and HERTZ


ride-sharing vs. car rental
The link has been copied!