CUSTOMER DISSERVICE. A open letter to Avis

Customer Disservice

Dear Avis,

This is an open letter in regards to our poor experience at your facilities located at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) last week. This occurred as our CEO and I arrived to pick up our car. Our poor experience was punctuated with a tweet that I sent, to which you replied and invited me to explain in writing our experience. Your tweet came two days later, which we will also address.

I am also publishing a copy of this letter on my blog which you can read at ScottEggert.net. I do so not because I believe Avis to be evil, you ruined my life, or because irreparable harm was done to me or our business. Our inconvenience was a small matter compared to suffering experienced by others everyday, so let’s keep things in perspective. I am sharing this publicly because the lack of attention to your customer’s experience, both in person and online, is unfortunately common and I believe it can serve as instructive to others. I want to help!

Preferred Customers and Point of Conversion

Avis has a preferred customer program. We think this is excellent! Our young company has been traveling a lot and any opportunity to save a few benjamins by consolidating our purchasing power is welcome. Your program offers a generous benefit in cost and time savings to those customers who use you on a regular basis. We were excited to take advantage of this.

When we arrived at LAX we took the shuttle to the Avis rental lot. At LAX there are two separate drop-offs which are about 100 yards or so apart. Believing we were at the correct stop we got off at Preferred instead of the regular customer drop off. When confirming our reservation we were told that we were actually not Preferred. We investigated for a few minutes and decided that between the cost savings we could realize by upgrading our membership and the long line we could avoid in the other office, that it would be best that we convert our account to a Preferred status. Avis is to be applauded; the Preferred program costs nothing to participate and the savings is quite significant!

Here’s where the problem arises. Customers can not upgrade to Preferred from inside of your office at LAX. Instead, your staff directed us to upgrade to Preferred from our cell phones. This is a dilemma for a couple of reasons;

You are using technology to ignore your customers

Technology is a huge ally in providing customer service. Online databases, customer service software, and mobile have made transactions quicker and frictionless as ever. However, how companies choose to use these technologies reveal a great deal about their culture and how they view their customers. Technology should be used to enhance your ability to serve the customer, not act as a barrier or as a replacement when human interaction is available and preferred. The fact is, customers expect better customer service at physical locations. The internet is a tool for the customer’s convenience. Frankly, there is nothing more frustrating than standing in front of a customer service professional and being told to go look online.

Your website  is not optimized for mobile use

The website which was offered as a replacement for human assistance is not optimized for mobile. The process was clumsy and the website ultimately failed to help us. The

The hour we wasted inside of your office attempting to upgrade involved a call to your customer service center. They too were unable to assist us in upgrading the account. Ultimately, after we badgered a couple of the employees, and a change in shifts, a helpful manager, Seth, was able to help us with our reservation. By looking up the account by Lynn’s drivers license he was able to find and fix our reservation.

Here’s the thing; several of the employees confirmed that customers often want to upgrade their memberships and become loyal Preferred customers once they see the lines at the other office. Your lack of employee training and a simplified process costs you several, if not dozens, of upgrades or conversions each day!

Now let’s discuss Twitter

Twitter is not for everybody, or every business. It certainly has been for most of our clients, but our clients are predominantly food related. Everybody likes to share about food. Isn’t that what we all joke about, sharing our lunch on Instagram? Guess what else is huge on Twitter? No, I am not talking about Lady Gaga or Justin Beiber. Try the airline industry. Airlines have become easier to deal with via Twitter than by phone or online. The airlines have become incredibly responsive to customers via Twitter.

According you your investors report dated May 2014 Avis and your sister company Budget combined are an $8 BILLION dollars a year corporation (this includes a tiny portion of revenues from ZipCar). Your company has also reported that 70% of your revenues are from on airport locations. Surely you company is aware that the high standard of service set by airlines has a an effect on your industry. Since you share customers with the airline industry, customers share a high expectation when it comes to service.

 

The fact that it took two days for you to respond to my tweet is quite slow. It certainly is no form of customer service and it is nearly as bad as not responding. A recent study of the airline industry measured average response times of all the leading airlines. The fastest average was found to be American Airlines and JetBlue with 12 and 15 minutes respectively. The top ten response times are each under an hour. Let’s take a look at the worst performing airline, Spirit. Their industry lagging response time is 328 Minutes, or 5-1/2 hours on average. Measured in hours, it took Avis 42 hours to respond to my tweet. I mentioned your account correctly by name, and my tweet was even retweeted by others. Your response time is roughly eight times longer than the worst airline.

 

Can you hear me now?