The Sales Force and Beyond - Customer Impressions

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jan 18, 2011 @ 08:01 AM

National Car RentalYesterday I used National Car Rental's VIP program for the first time.  There wasn't any obvious signage directing me to the car I reserved so I asked the first attendant how I could get it and he said, "Go to the man in the green glass booth". 

I stood outside the green glass booth for a moment, forever invisible to the man inside who had nothing else to do. Finally I went to the glass door, which he finally opened and said (didn't ask), "What do you want..."

I asked how I could pick up my car.  He pointed and said, "Drive any car in this row to the gate."  So I walked down the row of a dozen cars, couldn't locate the Jeep, and returned to the booth.  He was clearly put off by my return and said, "What."

I explained that this just didn't seem right.  I reserved a Jeep with a Nav system and I didn't see a Jeep in the row.  He asked for my name and then said, "Take any SUV from this (the opposite) row and drive it to the gate and get the Nav there."

There were only 2 SUV's in this row and sure enough, one was the Jeep. I drove it to the gate where the lady said (she didn't ask either), "Contract..." 

I didn't have one and told her so.  She said, "Membership Card..." 

Nope.  Didn't have that either.

Frustrated, she said, "Drivers license and Credit Card used to make the reservation..."

So it was my first time at National and not one out of the first three people I interacted with:

  • cared
  • made an effort
  • welcomed me
  • helped me
  • smiled
  • used complete sentences
  • explalned anything
  • gave me confidence about National
  • made me feel good
  • knew or acknowledged it was my first time

Lesson for National:  They may have the simplest VIP rental car pick up program on Planet Earth but if the people suck, so does the program! At least it sucks compared with Avis and Hertz (in my opinion).

I returned the car 10 hours later and the portable scanner-take the car back-provide the receipt guy apologized for making me wait so long (15 seconds).  He asked how the service was and I told him the car was fine but the people I met in the morning were awful.  He said, "My name is Benito.  Let me shake your hand and apologize for your experience.  Do you need a hug? You took great care of the car, I'm glad you made it back safely, you beat the lousy weather we have coming, and I hope you won't hold that bad experience against us.  I really hope you'll try us again."

Benito is probably paid less than the man in the green booth or the lady at the gate.  But he tried and succeeded at making a good impression.  So I have three questions for you:

  1. Which impression will last longer?  My first impression or last impression of National?
  2. Which is the real face of National - The guy in the green booth?  The lady at the gate?  Or Benito? [UPDATE - See comments from National Car Rental below.  This exchange makes it more likely that Benito and Elizabeth are the face of National.
  3. Your salespeople make an initial impression on behalf of your company.  Who interacts with customers and clients after that?  What kind of impressions do they make?  Is it better, worse, or the same as the impressions your salespeople make?  Do those impressions impact customer retention?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, national car rental, first impressions, last impressions

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog has earned medals for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for eight consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave.

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