I travel a great deal. I am on the road about 150 or so days a year. I am the type of person loyalty programs love… when they treat me well. I am loyal to those that are loyal to me and keep me happy, safe, secure and bonus me! As a result, when I travel, I am loyal to Air Canada and am rewarded as a Super Elite traveller. Amazing service… they fix things when things go wrong (or at least the best they can). I stay for the most part at IHG hotels (Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Staybridge Suites, Crowne Plaza, Intercontinental, Kimpton) as they are available in almost every market, have a terrific app for booking and checking in, typically amazing service and they reward me with points as a Spire Elite Member that I can use for free stays. And when it comes to rental cars, I typically use National Car Rental. I have a great rate with them and the app here is good as well for both pick up and drop off… and I get to choose my car on location (as an Executive Elite Emerald Club member) and several other benefits including free rental days. But customer service is critical if you want me to remain loyal.
Customer service is key. For instance, at almost every IHG property the staff is friendly and welcoming. They are smiling, greet you with an honest welcome and make a point of remembering me (heck it is probably on their computer at check in). But there is one property that I feel like I am inconvenience to them. They are almost arrogant. I very seldom ever get a room upgrade when I know the hotel is at less than 80% occupancy, where at other IHG properties I almost always get an upgrade… with delivering over 140 room nights a year and a Spire Elite Member, I feel I have earned this “reward”. So, in that market I do not use the IHG Holiday Inn any longer. But I stick with the chain because they are typically outstanding… one bad apple “so to speak” has not caused me to leave the group completely.
Then there is National Car Rental. Again, a great company. Typically, terrific service. But recently in Regina I had to switch my loyalty. My flight from Vancouver to Regina was delayed. This meant that my arrival into Regina would no longer be 11 pm… but actually 12:45 am… almost two hours late. I called the National office at the airport and let them know I would not be in until late and could they please make sure someone was there to give me the keys to my car. I spoke with the manager (eventually… prior she spoke to me through a junior counter person who had no authority to make decisions) who told me they closed at 12:30 am and would not keep a staff person on the extra 15-30 minutes to ensure a loyal customer got their car. (I needed the car that night as I had to get up at 4 am and drive to rural Saskatchewan for a client meeting at 8 am. So “picking up a car in the morning instead” as the manager had suggested, was NOT an option. I was dumbfounded by the service level.
So, I went to Air Canada and let them know the situation… since the delay was their fault. They said leave it with them. They called the manager at National in Regina… to no avail. They then phoned their staff in Regina who agreed to pick up and hold the keys and take responsibility for the keys until I arrived, and National Car Rental manager refused. Air Canada went to National in the Vancouver Airport to see if they could assist. Again… nothing. So, Air Canada called each of the other Regina airport rental car agencies explained the situation and no one had cars… except AVIS. The lady at the counter at the airport at AVIS said they would go and get a car from downtown; keep their staff person on late and have a car for me and charge me the same rate that I was paying at National (which was booked 6 weeks in advance… the great rate… not the last minute exorbitant car rental rate). I got there and a really friendly counter service person was happy to have stayed (or so appeared) to ensure I got my car and to my morning meeting. AVIS (for those who remember their old slogan from decades ago) really do try harder. They went the extra mile! And they got rewarded. Now when I am in Regina, I rent from AVIS and not National.
The saddest part of this story is that even though I notified National that I would not need the car rental that trip, and that I had cancelled the reservation, that manager made the employee stay. He did rent a few cars to people… but as he said to me, she would not pay him past his shift time of 12:30… he worked for free to service customers that night…. And never got paid. When I told National Car Rental customer service line, they said, “oh we are sorry… here, take two fee renal days” and that was the end of it. Pretty sad when customer service and management cannot get it right, but the front-line staff can!!
Treat your customers, subscribers, fans, sponsors, partners with respect. Do like AVIS and try a little a harder and get even more loyalty from them!
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