Brands can Learn What Not to Do from Hertz

I just got back from a much needed weeklong vacation with my wife, without our kids.  It was as we all want vacations to be – quiet, peaceful, relaxing, not driven by time or schedules, and without work.  I came across a few things that I wanted to blog about while I was out there, but I resisted and stayed unplugged (pretty much).    

There were many moments for us that defined our experience, the overwhelming majority of which were positive.  This was the first time we’d been to the east coast of Florida – from St. Augustine to West Palm Beach to Ft. Lauderdale, the beaches were awesome, the towns were all nice, each with a different personality, and by and large, the people were accommodating and friendly.  But unfortunately, the one moment that was the recurring thorn in our side was brought to us by Hertz.

This is certainly not the forum to go into everything that made that experience bad, but suffice it to say, they really didn’t seem to care about us, two kidless adults, eager to enjoy a relaxing vacation together.  And whether they liked it or not, they were part of our experience.  From this point on though, they will no longer be part of any Cearley-vacation experience. 

See, the thing about companies in the travel and leisure industry is that they actually play a part in people’s well-being.  Some companies understand this to the point of creating mission and culture around it.  Their purpose, and everything they do, is to make life easier for travelers.  But on the other hand, there are some companies who seem to feel content as just another part in the commodity game, and could care less about making things easier.  Hertz, unfortunately, came across this way.

Nevermind the hours that my wife and I spent on the phone or in front of actual people (at least 10) without a single answer or commitment of ownership, the attitude, above anything else, was extremely disappointing.  We repeatedly got an “it’s not my problem” attitude rather than a “what can I do to make your Hertz experience better” attitude.  An “I’m sorry” attitude would have even worked, but that was nowhere to be found.  I even asked one of their employees, “so, it doesn’t matter what we feel or think about this fiasco?” And he said, “no, not really.  There’s nothing I can do.”

I know companies are big and they have business to attend to, but just as I advise every one of our clients – if you don’t show people that you care, in turn, they won’t care.  And if the whole point to any money-making business is to build loyalty, not caring is a heavy weight that can lead to a slow death. 

Everyone is connected now.  Consumers to brands.  Consumers to consumers.  Words spread.  Service (or lack thereof) is amplified.  This hyper-connected world requires a higher level of consistency in philosophy, particularly as it relates to service.  Many companies, Hertz included, have many different channels that they monitor and field comments and complaints.  These different channels, regardless of the size of the company, are entry points into brand experiences.  These are all opportunities to let that philosophy shine and in the case where that philosophy is not best-in-class-service-oriented, it comes through in everything (and everyone).  What does your brand experience say about your philosophy?

I think this is such an important lesson, certainly for us in the business of providing services.  Is your brand experience and philosophy lined up?  Does your brand embody and foster an “it’s not my problem” attitude or an “I’m going to do whatever it takes (even within reason)” attitude?  Does your organization breathe this?  Are the “faces” of your brand restricted or empowered to serve customers? 

To me it all adds up to being the difference between just another place I can buy a commodity and the place I can trust with my well-being.  On the one week of the year that I can step out of my house and have a vacation.  It’s an important experience.

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