Wednesday, October 17th, 2007

Enterprise Rent-A-Car : The Story That Everyone Wants to Hear!

by Glenn Gabe

Enterprise Rental Car and Extraordinary Customer ServiceIt ends up my blog post from last week about the drivers of word of mouth marketing had an interesting effect… no matter who I’ve spoken with recently about web marketing, we somehow come back to the 7 drivers listed in my last post! It’s a weird phenomenon. :-) Over the past week I’ve listened to many stories about how WOM has impacted a wide range of businesses, and out of the 7 drivers of WOM that I listed in the post, the “Extraordinary Customer Experiences” listing really seemed to resonate. I believe this is because it’s something that you as a business owner can directly impact. During my conversations about WOM, I’m inevitably asked if I have an extraordinary customer experience to tell. No, not a client example, but my own experience as Glenn Gabe. That’s actually an easy question for me…it’s my experience with Enterprise Rent-A-Car… hands down. When I tell people about my experience, I get the same reaction almost every time. “You need to write a blog post about that!” So, based on popular demand, here it is… Buckle up and enjoy the ride. No pun intended. ;-)

Have You Heard the Joke About a College Grad, a Bus, and a Resume?
I had just graduated college and I was ready and eager to interview with companies in Corporate America. I was hoping to land a great job in New York, living only 40 minutes outside of the greatest city on earth (OK, I’m biased). I received a call from Perrier about a position in their NYC office. I did a solid job on the phone interview, and I was asked to visit the Manhattan office for a second interview. Cool. I’m excited. So, I had 2 decent choices for getting into NYC from where I lived, the bus to the Port Authority and a train to Hoboken where I could pick up the path to midtown. Being completely inexperienced with commuting to NYC at the time, I chose the bus. I won’t explain all of the intricacies about why the train is better, but to me, the train rules. So, it’s a hot and humid summer day in NY (more on this later), I’m dressed in a new suit that doesn’t really fit well, and I’m off to Manhattan for my interview, ready to take on the world.

Summer in NY
It was 90 degrees that day with high humidity, which means I was miserable as soon as I left the air conditioning… I parked my car near the bus stop and waited for the bus to show up. The 10 minutes waiting for the bus felt like I was in the Sahara Desert and knowing that I had to stay in that suit while acing my interview was starting to freak me out a little bit. Remember, I’m right out of college. The bus arrives and we’re on our way. I noticed immediately that it was really hot on the bus. That’s the proverbial red flag number 1. Just a few minutes into the ride, I noticed the smell of burning oil. Uh oh… Red flag number 2. About 10 minutes into the trip, the bus broke down. So, here I was, at least 2 to 3 miles from my car, on a hot broken down bus, and with no idea how long it would take to fix. And, since I was new at the job hunting game, I didn’t leave enough time in case something catastrophic happened, like this… so there was a good chance that I would miss the interview. Great…

Go West Young Man!
Well, it was actually North, but that’s not important. I climbed off the bus and loosened up my tie, now throwing my jacket over my shoulder. I thought I might as well start walking back to my car. Remember, cell phones weren’t very popular at this point… It’s not like I could quickly call a taxi from the side of the road. I had about 45 minutes to get into NYC for my interview. Only a few minutes into my walk, I came across a line of stores, one of which was an Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Not knowing exactly where I was in relation to where my car was parked, I wanted to ask someone if I was on the right path. So, I walked into Enterprise, sweaty and frustrated and asked if I was heading in the right direction. The manager answered, “Yes, but you’ve got a few miles to walk back to your car.” I frowned, thanked him, and turned back to the door when he asked another question, “Are you going on an interview?” See, I actually looked more like a college grad going on an interview than I thought I did at the time! Big shock, right? I was young, wearing a new suit, and held a cheesy portfolio in my hand (of course with nothing in it but a copy of my resume and blank paper!) So I answered, “Yes, but there’s no way I’m going to make it, since it’s in NYC”. He didn’t hesitate and grabbed his keys. “I’ll drive you to your car. Let’s land you a job.” On the way to my car, I thanked him a few dozen times and even tried to pay him! He of course wouldn’t take any money, but he asked that I follow up with him to let him know how the interview went (and if I made it in time). “You bet I’ll follow up!”

An Important Lesson…Nobody Knows What Happened 15 Minutes Ago…
I hopped in my car and drove into Manhattan like a bat out of hell. I was lucky…I didn’t hit much traffic. I flew through the Lincoln Tunnel, parked near Penn Station, and ran into Penn Plaza. I even got to the office with a few minutes to spare. The hiring manager actually needed a few extra minutes to finish another interview. Phew…no problem. :-) “Tell him to take his time”, I said to the receptionist. That’s when I learned a great lesson that I’ve taken with me to this day. No matter what happens before a sales call or meeting, how hard it is to get there, what happened on the way, heck, what happened on your way up the elevator, nobody knows that… You just need to perform to the best of your ability in the moment and deal with any circumstances later. Anyway, I didn’t mention what happened with the bus to the hiring manager, I did a great job on the interview, and I was pushed to the next level, which was an interview at Perrier headquarters with the Regional Manager. To make a long story short(er), I landed the job and spent the next 7 years at Perrier. Those 7 years truly helped build the entrepreneurial platform that I use every single day. They gave me the best training, education, and real-world experience necessary for me to grow professionally. To me, my experience working at a large company that was going through tremendous growth, with the ability to learn, execute, test, while furthering my education, was critical to my success… Those 7 years definitely changed my life.

“We simply work hard to be the best.”
That quote is directly from the Enterprise Rental Car website, and boy, do I believe that! See, what the manager of Enterprise Rent-A-Car did that summer day truly impacted my life. It’s not a corny cliche, it’s real life. He didn’t need to drive me anywhere… I wasn’t a customer at that point, and never had been. But, he went above and beyond…actually he went way above and beyond. Think about it, how many of your employees would do what he did?? Not many, right? I ended up writing a letter to his Regional Manager about my experience and I hope they plastered that story all over Enterprise Rent-A-Car Land. He deserved to be promoted…and that very day. And of course, I followed up with him to thank him another dozen times.

They’ve Earned a Lifetime Customer Evangelist
My Enterprise Rent-A-Car story is truly an extraordinary customer experience, and one that will be hard for any other company to beat (at least personally). So, when I travel and I’m presented with several options for rental cars, you bet I go with Enterprise every single time I can. I don’t think twice. In addition, I also recommend Enterprise any chance that I get, and coincidentally, this is typically during the meetings that I’m traveling to!…so it’s darn targeted. :-)

So, have you experienced extraordinary customer service like I did? I’d love to hear your stories (and they don’t need to be as crazy as the one I listed above!) I know the stories are out there…

GG

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