This world-class customer service story from National Car Rental wasn't squandered. In fact, see how it was successfully used by the company CEO for years both inside and outside the company.
- When Ray Brook's flight landed in Portland on Monday morning, he headed straight for the National Car Rental office. Now, he had a meeting with a customer in 30 minutes and a full schedule of customer calls over the next four days. But when he ran his card through the machine to get his keys, it got rejected, and there was a message on the screen that told him to see an agent at the counter. So he went to the counter and told the agent what happened. Now, she looked up his reservation and said there was a problem with his profile. And then she asked to see his driver's license. And she looked at it and then looked up at Ray and said, "Did you know your driver's license "expired last week on your birthday?" And Ray said, "Well no, I had no idea." and then she smiled at him and said, "Happy Birthday, Mr. Brook." Now, that certainly helped diffuse a little bit of the building tension, but it couldn't overcome what she had to tell him next, which was, "I'm sorry, Mr. Brook, "but we can't rent you a car "because you don't have a valid driver's license." Now, you can imagine all the things running through Ray's head at that point, not the least of which was how upset his boss and his customers would be if he had to cancel all his calls and go home.
So he told the clerk about his very important meetings and the tight schedule for the next couple of days and that he needed that car to get to all those meetings. You know, was it really important that his license was expired? Well, the agent didn't know what to say, so she called the manager. Well, the manager came over and explained the problem. And he said, look, it's a liability thing. If you were to get in an accident or get injured or injure someone else, National would be liable because we'd rented a car to someone with an expired license. So, I'm sorry, but we just can't rent you a car.
Well, Ray just stood there in shock, but what the manager said next shocked him even more. He said, we can however, drive you wherever it is that you'd like to go. What? Ray wasn't even sure he heard that correctly. So he explained again that he had meetings scheduled at multiple places around Portland for two days and then he had to fly to Sacramento for another two days of meetings, where he would again need a rental car. Now, I mean, it was a very generous offer, but Ray didn't want a guest along with him for four days anymore than that manager probably wanted to be without an agent for that long.
Well, the manager agreed with that, but he thought about it for a minute and then offered this rather creative solution. He noticed Ray's driver's license was from Washington state. Well, Portland is on the northern edge of the state of Oregon and the state line was just on the other side of the river from the airport. So despite the fact that Ray was almost 200 miles from home, the nearest Washington Department of Motor Vehicles office was just a few miles away. So he offered to drive Ray to his first appointment about 20 minutes away, then he'd come back to for him at the end of the appointment and drive him to the DMV to get his license renewed.
Now, there was just enough time in between the appointments to make it. Well then, of course, Ray could officially rent the car for the rest of the trip. Now of course, Ray thought that was brilliant, so the manager had one of the agents drive him to his first appointment and then later to the DMV, but when they got there, Ray got his third surprise of the day. It turns out in Washington, all the DMV offices are closed on Mondays. Okay, now what? Well, the agent drove Ray back the rental car office at the airport to figure out what to do next.
Once he got there, he and the manager came up with plan B and here's what they did. A National agent drove Ray to his hotel to check in, but didn't charge Ray anything for the day since technically he hadn't rented a car yet. Now, with that money saved, Ray paid taxi fares to get him to the remaining calls that day. On Tuesday morning, another National agent picked Ray up at his hotel and took him to his final appointment in Portland and then waited outside for him. Well, an hour and a half later the agent drove Ray to the DMV, which of course was now open.
The agent waited again for an hour for Ray to get through the line and get his license renewed, then they drove back to the airport just in time for Ray to catch his flight to Sacramento. Now, when he got there, of course the manager personally updated Ray's profile with the new expiration date so he wouldn't have the same problem renting a car in Sacramento. Now, that was 26 years ago and Ray Brook has been a loyal National Car Rental customer ever since. And that amazing customer service he got in Portland is the reason why.
Stellar customer service like that is one of the most reliable ways to build customer loyalty that can last for decades. Share the story and ones like it with your employees and then challenge them to find ways to go above and beyond the call of duty with your customers.
- Leading change
- Creativity and innovation
- Getting results
- Collaboration and teamwork
- Managing during crisis
- Giving and receiving performance feedback
- Increasing engagement