Whenever I rent a car, I dread the moment when the agent asks if I want collision damage waiver insurance. I don’t want it, but the way the question is asked always makes me second guess myself for a moment.
And then there is the confusing array of refueling options, and the half dozen clauses I have to initial on the application. By the time I’ve got the keys, I’m never entirely certain what I’ve signed up for. And I’m slightly worried that it’s more than I thought.
This is, of course, a terrible customer experience. The emotions the rental car process produces – uncertainty, confusion, anxiety – are exactly the sort of negative feelings that destroy long-term value for a company.
One car rental company seems to have taken this to a new level. According to the New York Times, Payless Car Rental has a pattern of “pointlessly antagonizing its customers.”
In one case, a Payless customer returned a car and found she had been charged for personal liability insurance that she had repeatedly declined. The same agent who rented her the car claimed to lack authority to remove the charge. The renter began to get collection letters, even after she had paid the disputed charge to avoid damaging her credit rating.
The Times called the parent company, Budget Avis, which responded with corporate-speak about integrating Payless into its operations. It then said that the customer had initialed the paragraph authorizing the insurance – which was true, though she thought she was declining it. (This is why I’m always uneasy about initialing all that fine print!)
The company did not express regret or offer to refund her money, but said it would talk to its agents to reinforce the importance of customers knowing which options they were selecting. The Times also reported on Payless’s ridiculous fueling policies that have people paying for a tank of gas even if they bring the car back on full, and the difficulty of making a complaint to the company.
Short-term profits placed ahead of customer loyalty!
To me, this looks like a company that places short-term profits ahead of customer loyalty that could provide long-term value. Payless is the low cost option in the Budget Avis family, and its driving principle seems to be “bring them in with low prices and then charge them as much as you can get away with.”
When a company treats its customers this way, it may earn short-term profits, but it’s hard to get repeat business.
At our customer experience consultancy, we work with companies to identify where they can improve and make the customer’s journey a positive one that makes them want to come back. One way we do this is through customer mirrors, where our experts pose as customers and go through the entire customer journey, taking note of rational, subconscious and emotional experiences. While many companies focus on rational factors like pricing, we’ve found that emotional factors account for more than half of a customer’s experience.
If we were to conduct customer mirrors at Payless, we’d probably identify quite a few negative emotions and fewer positive ones. Renting a car is stressful to begin with, but Payless seems bent on making matters worse.
If Payless wants to avoid unhappy customers and negative press, it could start by prioritizing the customer’s experience. Maybe it could even adopt a new motto: Pay Less – But still get great service.
Do you have a rental car horror story? Please share it in the comment box below.
To learn more about understanding your customers and improving your Customer Experience join one of our training courses. We have a wide range of resources – ranging from learning the CX Essentials to the tools for a customer centricity assessment.
If you found this post interesting, you might also like these:
Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s leading Customer experience consultancy & training organizations. Colin is an international author of five bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.
Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX