What Story Are Your Customers Telling?

Today’s post is a bit of a rant, but I hope you’ll bear with me because it DOES have a point.  As many of you know, I travel a great deal.  I visit corporate clients, helping them with social media strategy, and I also have the opportunity to speak to thousands of amazing direct sellers, speaking at leadership conferences and conventions on how to use social media strategically and effectively to build a direct selling business.

Because I travel so much, I’ve had the opportunity to observe another industry: the travel industry.  Airplanes get me where I need to go, rental cars give me the opportunity to get there, hotels provide me with a comfortable place to kick up my heels at night.

But one portion of this industry that has me shaking my head often is the rental car industry.  Case in point, on this last trip I had a car reservation with Avis.  Due to the bad weather blowing into the East Coast, my original flight was cancelled, and I had to catch an earlier flight.  When calling Avis to let them know, they informed me that my car would cost DOUBLE.  Because I was a couple hours early.  Um, are you kidding me?

I promptly changed my reservation to another company, National, that offered a more reasonable rate.  National has saved me on more than one occasion, and I’ve been consistently impressed with their service and professionalism.  I even TOLD Avis that I would be changing my reservation because of the increase in price.  They didn’t care.  They just told me that prices change.  Um, are you kidding me?

That brings me to the point.  I believe that when you work with a customer, you have a certain level of responsibility and accountability to that customer.  That customer has a right to expect a certain level of service and satisfaction.  Doubling a price due to weather, and a couple extra hours, seems to me extreme.  Because of their greed in the moment, they have lost a customer for life.  And I’m telling you about what they did too.

Social media has brought in a new era for customers.  No longer can companies get away with clandestine moves that harm the customer.  We need to be completely authentic and transparent in what we do, because nothing stays limited to one customer anymore.  We tell our stories to our social networks all the time.  As a direct seller, every interaction you have with a customer may go much further than you think.  It is up to you to make sure the story that customer has to tell is a good one.

Avis didn’t think it was any big deal to double the price.  They lost me as a customer and probably thought it ended there.  But hundreds of people read this blog every day.  It didn’t end there.  Now you know too.  Will that influence the carrier you choose the next time you need to rent a car?

Our customers are making those same decisions every day based on word of mouth.  Do they have a good story to tell about you and your brand?  For your sake, and the sake of every other consultant in your company, I hope so.

What do you think?

3 Responses to What Story Are Your Customers Telling?
  1. gale bates
    February 27, 2010 | 1:35 pm

    You gain customer loyalty when you give great customer service! You are so right! I recently had a similar experience with Avis and am now a devout Hertz customer. Like you, I travel a lot internationally!
    Thanks for your great articles on reminders how important it is to treat your customers like gold, online and offline 🙂

  2. Beatriz
    February 10, 2010 | 2:49 pm

    It will most definitely affect my choice next time, too, though I haven’t rented cars that much in my travels. I usually stay in a hotel that has a shuttle to and from my event. However, I am glad that the social media have given us a forum through which we can impact our consumer choices.

    Sometimes, I get bad service and want to post something, and don’t, simply because that isn’t necessarily always the company’s fault. I say to myself, “I might have exacting standards…maybe this person was having a bad day..” etc. However, if there is repeat trouble or the price or conditions are altered without permission, etc., that is the *perfect* instance to share via social media.

    I’m glad you did so, and will make a huge mental note: NO AVIS rentals! 🙂

    Take care,
    Beatriz K.

  3. Barb Orozco
    February 10, 2010 | 11:09 am

    You bet this will influence which car rental agency I use the next time I need to rent a car! I’ll check out National FIRST and stay as far away from Avis as I can! And, I will keep your post in mind as I’m doing my best to serve my clients and readers. Thanks for the reminder!

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