A recent bad experience with a service provider set me to wondering about what constitutes great service.

Imagine the scene. It’s a freezing cold morning in December (this Tuesday past actually) and you arrive on the crack of dawn plane into Luton Airport. It’s even colder in Luton than it was when you left Glasgow (well I did say ‘imagine’ the scene).

You arrive at the car hire desk and hand over your email confirmation eager to pick up your car and fight your way on to the M1, off on a cross country journey to a meeting in deepest Oxfordshire. The first words that greet you are “I’m sorry but we have NO cars!” But I have a piece of paper in my hand clearly stating they will provide me with a car so this can’t be. But it is. And the help offered? Well, there’s none actually. This car hire rep clearly has a degree in the bleeding obvious as he kindly asks if I want to cancel my booking. Cheers, mate that should see me on the road then.

There followed a dash from car hire desk to car hire desk, with each declaration of ‘no spare cars here’ increasing my anxiety threshold until at the fourth time of asking I was informed that a car was available. A chirpy young chap dashed out with a scraper and, after much huffing and puffing, my chariot-to-be was slowly revealed. A little Chevy Spark with a close similarity to a shopping trolley.. but at least I would now make my meeting on time.

Where was the great service? Well nowhere in this particular scene. Sure, I was provided by a car but it was of lesser quality than I thought I’d booked and cost me more. So instead, I’ll focus on everything that was so wrong in this situation and how taking the opposite tack constitutes good service.

1. Communication – customers don’t mind bad news so much as long as they are kept informed. This car hire provider had my mobile number and email, yet no attempt was made to warn me that there was a problem.

2. Solutions not problems – again, customers expect that when you identify a problem, you’ve also thought about a solution. In this case, the rep had no solution other than to cancel. No attempt had been made to come up with an alternative arrangement, or even to establish if other providers had vehicles.

3. Follow Up – they screwed up. Yet the one contact I received was an email confirming the cancellation. No ‘sorry’, no discount voucher or M&S gift token to lessen the pain. Nothing, rien, nada, zilch.

And the end result?  One car hire company who won’t see my business any time soon, and a hugely negative story that will be re-told and re-told. I heard later that they were 38 cars short of their ‘confirmed’ bookings. Multiply the negative press of that story being told by 38 people over and over. The irony was that as I landed back in Glasgow, the cabin crew encouraged us to use their recommended car hire partner – guess who?

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Post by Stephen Malloy

Talk to me if you’re considering a business solution. If I don’t know the answer, I will know someone who does.