TQS is Still Required for Business Success

Long before there was Value Pricing, Ron Baker (with me joining later) educated firms about competing on service and that before a business can charge premium prices, they must provide their customers with Total Quality Service. Today was simply one of those days where the service quality I received from one of my preferred service providers failed. The company that failed me was National Rental Car. I guess I should really lay all of this at Baker as he was the one who introduced me the benefits of National’s Emerald Isle service (prior to Baker or in Paul O’Bryne speak sometime in late BB {Before Baker}) I was simply renting cars from whomever would rent them to me cheaply. But I digress.

I am a frequent renter of their vehicles and I am in their 2nd status tier known as Executive Selection. On Sunday I returned one of their cars in Portland, Oregon. Today (three days later) I received a statement indicating an additional charge of $15 for 2.4 gallons of gas as they claim that my full fuel tank was not really full. Having fueled my vehicle before returning it, I was just a little miffed about this added charge. So, I called the number of the invoice and of course they couldn’t help me (but they could help me with a rental) and they transferred me to the customer service line where the phone call was dropped. So, I called the special 800 number on the back of my card where I thought maybe they could help me. But no, the Executive Selection line is for rentals – if you want to discuss an issue about a closed transaction, well then, one has to call the customer service number and the nice lady who was attempting to transfer my call when my call was dropped for a second time. Lets call that strike 2.

So having been dropped twice, I called the customer service number directly where my call was answered by someone with a worse attitude then I had. I attempted to explain my situation and my request for an adjustment when he interrupted me and challenged me about whether “I had a receipt” or not. Well I told him I did and I again went to discuss my situation and he again interrupted me and essentially challenged me while simultaneously presenting his questions in a very smug tone. His tone only exacerbated mine and so I pushed back. The call didn’t end well. I suggested that maybe Hertz would like my business and he didn’t like my implied threat.

Lets remember this is over $15 (2.4 gallons of gas – that penalty pricing is steep). I reviewed my last year of rentals. Over 20 of them. That isn’t days rented, that is rentals so my total days exceed 30. At $50 or more per day, there is way more than $15 at stake. I think that Hertz would probably like my business and would probably give me $15 to pay National to smooth my transition and minimize my pain. I found my receipt and it is timed 6 minutes before I turned in the car, so it wasn’t like I filled up across town and tried to cheat them. The customer service agent should have had the ability to resolve this and maybe with less of an attitude he could have.

Why am I writing about this? Well it is to remind everyone that customer service representatives need to have the authority to apply judgment to resolve matters like mine. They should be more like the Ritz Carlton where even the housekeeping team have the ability to spend like two thousand dollars to resolve customer issues. That makes customers happy. I would like to be happy.

I ended the call with Customer Service before it escalated. After 30 minutes, I attempted to call customer service again only to learn that they close at 7 PM. Then I got to thinking. My airline can take care of my needs and wants 24/7/365. So can my hotel chains. Even the IRS is open later than 7 PM. Why isn’t my rental car company? Simply does not make sense to negatively impact your customers. After too many phone calls for tonight, I decided to write a customer comment on National’s website. I received an auto response indicating that they will attempt to respond to my comments within 24 hours. I guess I will wait and see. I am certain that I will not pay the additional charge. Whether I switch my loyalty at this moment is up in the air.

This is really a leadership issue. Leadership needs to provide tools and options for thier customer service teams to resolve issues at the first opportunity. Southwest Airlines does. Ritz Carlton does. Nordstrom does. National does not. I wonder. Maybe if National provided a little more opportunity and authority – I would be happy and praising them rather than pointing out their challenges.

As Baker and I often say, when a customer has challenges, companies need to resolve them to the satisfaction of the customer. The ball is in National’s court. How this ends is really up to them and not to me. I hope they understand why I feel the way they do and resolve it to my satisfaction.


  1. Dan,

    What an awful story! These are customer n-service stories.

    As a consultant trainer, I often speak of Peter Block’s consulting assumptions. One of which is: decision making requires free choice. There is a corollary from the customer perspective – don’t accept a “no” from someone who does not have the authority to say “yes.”

    I often employ this tactic with customer no-service people. I explain my situation and ask, “Do you have the ability and authority to say ‘yes’ to me? If not, please direct me to the person who does.” In most cases this works great.

    Still it is a travesty that we need to employ such measures. Dan is right, this is a leadership problem!

  2. Dan Morris says:


    I like that, “don’t accept a no from a person who cannot say yes.”

    Later in the day, I received an email from National that besides confirming that the customer service person should have and could have adjusted simply because the upcharge was from a different station and different state than where I returned. She offered me 2 free days of rentals. And, I received a call from the voice mail. He apologized and agreed he would have removed the charge. I also explained how happy I was with Judy and he committed to notify his CEO of the 50 location group so that Judy’s direct supervisors would know that she is a keeper.

    It is unfortunate that this had to happen and no doubt about it, the original phone call should have closed this issue, but their in ability to apply judgment really escalated something that should never have happened.

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