What Did You Say?

Published on February 17, 2012

When I wrote the book The Complete Idiots Guide to Great Customer Service in 1998, we interviewed the Vice President of Hertz Reservations who shared this story with me.

Hertz did a survey of their top customers and found out that they were highly dissatisfied with how long it took to return their cars and get to the terminal.  So Hertz increased the frequency of their buses from the return lot to the terminals.

Six months later they repeated the survey and again this complaint came up.   When they investigated why it took so long to return the car, they realized it had not so much to do with bus frequency, but rather with how long it took to wait on line for the receipt.

Hence, Hertz developed the hand held computers you now see when you return your cars.

When Hertz heard of the original problem, it operated from its own assumption that the problem had to do with bus frequency.  They never asked the customers to clarify.  If they did, they would have solved the problem much earlier than six months later.

Hertz has a strong brand and it was able to survive not having solved this problem for so long.  Today, no one has the luxury of time to figure out if they are exceeding the expectations of their customers.

Clarify your customer’s feedback.  Don’t let your assumptions get in the way.  It can kill your business!  In this case, Hertz did a great job in turning a problem into a differentiating value.