The Hertz Guy

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Image copyright 2005 Olivier Blanchard

Remember that thing we talked about yesterday? Treat your customers really, really well?

Okay, here's a little story about Hertz:

Imagine that you're tired after having bounced your way across the country from one airport to the next. You finally land in LAX and take the shuttle to the Hertz lot to rent a car... but there's a line. You look at your watch, you zone out, and you wait. Another day in paradise.

But then comes this guy whose name may or may not be Doug, and he opens up a three-foot wide stretch of counter just to help things move along a little faster. It's late and it's dark, and Doug has been dealing with weary travelers all day, but he's all smiles and speed and professionalism. When it's finally your turn, Doug says hello. He asks you how you're doing. He asks you how your trip was. He asks if you're going to get to enjoy L.A.

Doug asks all of this before and after he asks you for your DL and your CC. Doug wants you to relax and feel at home. Doug takes all of the stress of a day's travel and makes it all melt away, right there at the counter.

Doug asks you what kind of car you would like to rent, and because you don't want to take advantage of your boss, you go with the economy car. Doug warmly suggests you go with something a little more comfortable, but you explain that... while that would be nice, it isn't necessary. You lock in your insurance at the rate of the economy car. The deal is sealed.

But then Doug says:

"You know what? I'm just going to let you have this (much better) car for the economy price. What the hell." A few clippitty-clops of his fingers across his keyboard, and he hands you the keys to the car you really should be driving... only you aren't being charged extra for it.

You didn't have to ask for a thing.

Doug, the guy with the name tag you can't quite remember, the guy with the friendly smile, he did it just to be nice.

He also did it because he is empowered by his company to make this kind of decision. Because he doesn't have to jump through hoops to get something like this approved. He did it because, while that probably isn't something Hertz encourages, it's still something Hertz allows.

This speaks volumes about the kind of customer-driven company hertz really is.

It also speaks volumes about the kinds of people Hertz hires and nurtures.

That's my experience with Hertz.

Guess where I'll be renting from on my next trip.

Is there a lesson here? You bet. Throw away your reward cards and your memberships and all of the rest of the clutter for a minute. Now look at AVIS. Look at Hertz. Look at Budget and Thrifty and Enterprise. Look at all the car rental companies at every major airport in the country. What sets one apart from the rest?

A logo? A particular brand of car? Video screens inside the shuttle? Curbside service? Maybe.

A great customer experience? Definitely.

You bet there's a lesson there.

By the way, if anyone from Hertz reads this, there's a guy in LAX you really need to promote and give a big fat raise to. I'm not sure his name actually is Doug, but... he should be easy to spot. He's the guy who is single-handedly turning every customer he has contact with into a Hertz fan. His customers all walk away smiling instead of stressed, tired looks on their faces.

Doug is a one-man repeat-customer factory. A customer service superhero. A WOM-worthy brand embassador.

Doug is the poster child for everything that customer service should be.

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