Customer Service Lessons: Some companies understand. Many don’t
It continues to amaze me how some large companies with so many available resources, can spend so much money on customer service and yet still be so inept.
This past December I rented a Chrysler Minivan from Hertz in Calgary. When I arrived in Calgary temperature was -30C and my destination was Panorama Ski Resort. This meant I would be travelling through the Rockies into the Columbia Valley and then to Panorama in the Purcell Mountains, approximately three and a half hours away.
My first frustration was that against every expert opinion I have read, Hertz does not equip their vehicles with winter tires. Instead, they believe that all-season radials are acceptable substitutes even though most of the roads I was driving on as soon as I crossed into BC legally require winter tires between November and April
As I was entered the Village of Radium Hot Springs, my rear brakes started grinding. We pulled into a garage and called Hertz Roadside Service. I was advised to either return the car to the nearest Hertz location in Banff (two hours’ drive back through the Rockies) or have the local garage mechanic check the brakes. I did the latter and was informed that the rear brakes were worn past the pads and were down to metal on metal. I was also told that the front brakes were in almost as poor condition and required immediate replacement as well.
I again called Hertz Roadside Service and was advised to have the brakes repaired, pay for it and it would be deducted from the rental price. I asked that this be recorded in the rental record to avoid issues when I returned the car. I also asked to be transferred to Customer Relations. I was upset that Hertz would rent an unsafe, unmaintained car and that I had just driven a car on the verge of brake failure for three hours through the Rockies. Thus ensued the comedy of error where for the next two hours I was transferred back and forth between Roadside Service, Customer Relations, put on hold, transferred to Managers, and disconnected twice. Each time I had to re-explain my story. Finally, in frustration, I gave up and resorted to posting a couple of dramatic tweets on Twitter to complain about Hertz. These tweets were promptly responded to Hertz Customer Relations with an invitation to Direct Message on Twitter, followed by them providing an email address to contact them. I responded via email. Other than the automatic reply acknowledging receipt, the Hertz’s Customer Relations team has never responded to my email.
When I returned the rental to Hertz, no managers were available to discuss the issue. Additionally, no notes from my conversation with Roadsides Assistance were recorded on my files as had been promised, so the clerk on duty could not take any action. As a result, I was given the manager’s name and phone number and my file was left open. I left them the old brake rotors and pads so they could see the shape of the brakes at the time of repair. Later in the week, I contacted the manager by phone and was told that they were still waiting for the maintenance report from their mechanics and could not refund the cost of fixing their car until then. I asked to speak to the Hertz Area Manager for Calgary and was given his number. I called him and left a message. Three days later, he had still not returned my call.
I finally connected with the Hertz Area Manager just prior to Christmas. After hearing my story, his words were “I don’t know where to start apologizing”. I had been charged for the rental even though I was assured I would not be so he reversed though charges and is working on reimbursing me for the brake repairs. After many follow-up phone call and emails, in April, I finally received a cheque to reimburse my costs
So what have I learned from this? First, I will never rent from Hertz again. Second, I have learned never to accept a rental car with mileage over 30,000km. This rental had 71,000 km so I suspect was due to be sold and therefore not maintained but that is only a guess. Third, I have a topic to write this blog about as the bad example of customer service. And finally, I can only be grateful that my car didn’t end up at the bottom of a mountain gorge after descending 800 m down the final stretch of highway from Sinclair Pass to Radium Hot Springs.