This month we return to our Spanish holiday and Part Dos of my unforgettable encounter with the world’s best customer service focused hire car company, Avis (their words not mine).
If you remember we left the story (see blog post from July 2015 “How can a major corporation get is SO wrong?”) with our intrepid explorer (me) stranded by the roadside with a puncture. After inflating the tyre we managed to limp the car back to our villa where I called the Avis emergency line.
I was now going to witness this amazing Avis customer service that I had spent nearly £1,300 pounds for. ‘Habla usted Inglés’? I asked in my best Spanish accent, ‘Yes I do’, so far so good.
After explaining our situation I am told a pickup truck would come out and tow the car back to Alicante (120km) and I could hitch a lift with it. No asking about passengers, children, location just a stock answer.
To say I was not impressed was an understatement so I politely requested for a replacement car to be delivered to our villa. Surely this is what the world’s best customer focused hire company would do? NO, OK, what about a local tyre company to come and replace the tyre, I wasn’t fussed. Still NO, it was Alicante or Alicante. I politely declined their kind offer and said I would ring back in the morning and speak to someone who would surely understand our requirements. I was aware this was the emergency line and not Avis, so certain there had been a mistake or an issue with translation.
Challenge 8: The Solution…
Next morning I get up at 07:30 on my holiday) and call a UK number that was printed on my Avis documents under the heading Customer Service. I had tried the same number the previous night but it was closed, leading me to the conclusion that Avis customers don’t have any issues post 17:00.
Anyway, I digress, the call is answered by Deborah and after explaining the situation she said ‘of course Mr. Norbury we will get it sorted ASAP’, she continued ‘all I need to do is contact the Alicante office and explain the situation and arrange for a local garage to come and fix it.’ Yay for Deborah I thought.
Unfortunately Challenge 9
Several hours go by and nothing, no call, no pickup truck, no car, no garage, nada. I call again and of course cannot speak to Deborah and speak to Pepe instead.
‘Nothing I can do’ he says, ‘it’s with the Alicante office and we have passed over all the information to them, you will have to just wait for them to contact you’. Call me fussy but this is not my idea of world-class customer service. However as he was adamant it was in their hands. I wait another two hours for, yes you guessed it -nothing. So I call again and speak to (you can’t make this up) Jose. Jose is in between Deborah and Pepe, well not physically but in his message. Basically, it is down to Alicante and the best thing to do is to get a pickup truck to collect the car, pick up q new one from the airport and get on with our holiday.
I could tell his pragmatic approach was from someone inside the company who had gone round this cycle a few thousand times. Frustrated, I agree and call back the recovery company. They still have all my details from the night before and inform me it will be collected, with me, in 30 minutes.
Three hours later and there is still no sign of this recovery truck. I am now having to make my 5th call and am a little hot under the collar, which is nothing to do with the sun as I’ve been stuck in the shade, alone, missing those precious moments where Jacki is teaching the twins how to perfect the running bomb. “Pardon Senor, the truck has broken down and will now be with you in the next 30 minutes”. Could they not have phoned me to explain this I suggested? “Yes that would have been ideal” was her response.
Eventually the recovery truck arrives and manoeuvers the car onto the back and then offers me a seat for the ‘very comfortable’ 120 minute trip to the airport. I have with me some water, my iPhone and ‘Spanish in a Day’ audio download. I fear I am going to need this when I get to the airport.
Two hours later we arrive at a depot near the airport to drop the car off. A heated debate in Spanish ensues between the driver and three Spanish office staff, with me stood by wondering what is going on. Eventually I am noticed and spoken to in English. I explain rather mischievously that I am fluent in Spanish just to see their faces; it made the last 2 hours journey worth it. I am now informed that the driver should have dropped me off at the terminal in Alicante as though it was my fault.
In the meantime the car is deposited in the mechanics bay and we are about to set off when there is a large knock on the window. ‘Would you like your car back Senor’, I get out, slightly bemused to find the tyre has been miraculously repaired with some tar/glue and ready to roll again. The mechanic is also astounded to discover I have had to traipse across Spain in a pickup truck for a two minute fix that any local garage could have carried out within an hour of me making the first call last night.
Fuming, I am about to go on my way, but suddenly stop as the warning light is still displaying a puncture. A few shrugs of the shoulders later, and some mumblings and I am off on my way back to our villa, where I get back dead on 21:00. 24 hours later for a small. Tiny. Puncture.
So how can a supposed world-class company get it SO wrong on SO many levels? The answer is simple and as you SCALE your own businesses you will undoubtedly do the same, I nearly did.
See what happens is as the business grows the costs centres start to arrive to ensure that the business is not over spending. A larger proportion of staff are employed to focus on ‘internal’ stuff and the management are more focused on everything day to day to make sure the lowest cost is employed to deliver the service as this really is the perceived competitive edge.
What gets forgotten? Yes the CUSTOMER. The reason I could not receive the service from a local garage is Avis will not have a relationship with them. Instead they have a fantastic local, owned maintenance centre for ALL their cars at the airport. Here they can control costs and manage the situation. Is it the right service for the customer? Of course not, but costs are controlled centrally as they only have one outlet to deal with not hundreds.
When you SCALE is SO easy to forget about your customers and what you are putting them through whilst you organise “the internals”. In fact most of the seniority no longer even speak to a customer.
I believe it should be compulsory to have a customer at every senior meeting in large businesses to make sure they don’t forget who actually pays for their salaries.
My frustration as Avis’s forgotten customer will hopefully mean you put yours at the centre of all your business decisions.