Being a “Preferred” Customer Never Felt So… Bad


As a marketing executive, I do quite a bit of traveling.  For years I had relied on Hertz as our go-to rental car company.  But after upgrading to a Club Gold membership, shockingly our service level dropped.  Over the course of about a year, a lot of little things happened, but when little things like not having my reservation or not having a car for me became the norm, I decided to switch to Avis.  I mean, after all their tagline was “We try harder!” And that’s really all I wanted –  a company to try and accommodate my rental car needs.

So, over to Avis I went, eager and excited about how “hard they would try.”  As a “Preferred Member” the first couple of rentals went quite smoothly.  They didn’t exceed my expectations, but my name was on the board and my car was in the parking stall.  That all changed quickly.  Recently, I was traveling out of state and was dropped off at the Avis Preferred Customer board where my name was supposed to be.  It wasn’t. So I went inside to inquire.  They had my reservation there, along with the keys and said that yes, my reservation was made as a “Preferred Customer” so they were not sure why my name was not on the board.  Those things happen, so off I went about my business in my Avis rental car.  Well, then it happened again.  This time I asked them to check why this was happening and the person at the “Preferred ” Counter told me I needed to call customer service.  In a hurry, I asked if they could inquire for me, so that if I had any issues, we could resolve them immediately.  I was informed that they could not help me at the “Preferred” counter and that I needed to call an 800 number instead.

So, there I stand helplessly at the “Preferred” counter wondering why the person wearing the Avis shirt, standing behind the Avis counter in front of the Avis computer that houses all of my information cannot help me.  So, given that I had about a 45 minute drive to our client’s office, I figured I’d use my time productively and call Avis “Preferred Customer Service” as instructed by the “customer service representative” at the counter.  After maneuvering through the queue and being on hold for 15 minutes I FINALLY got through to someone.  I shared my my plight with the woman on the line who informed me that I needed to go to the Avis Counter at the car rental location where I picked up my car. I told her that I had just come from the Avis counter and that they told me to call “Preferred Customer Service.”  She told me she couldn’t help me.  So, I asked for a supervisor and after another 20 minutes with him, he assured me that all was updated and fixed.

Then came my recent trip to St. Louis where the bus driver asked if there were any Preferred Customers on the bus to which I replied yes.  She confirmed that I was in the system.  So, she drops us off at the board and sure enough, my name was not on the board.  I go over to the “Preferred” Customer Service booth where the attendant can’t figure out what the problem is, so I politely ask her if she can please inquire to ensure this doesn’t happen again.  She says, “oh, someone screwed up.” Really? So, I asked her since she now knows that “someone” screwed up, can she help fix it? Her reply? “No, you need to call ‘Preferred Customer’ Service.” I told her I had already spent more than 30 minutes on the phone with them and I was assured all was fixed.  But my plea for help went unheeded.  So, after wishing I was never a “Preferred Customer” of Avis, I am looking for another rental car company to give my business to, so if you know any good ones, drop me a line.

When it comes to marketing, you have to deliver upon your brand promise.  No poster, advertising campaign or slogan can do it for you.  In a service business, the customer experience lies in the hands of your employees.  Make sure that when it comes to your brand or business, your employees “try harder.”

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