Don’t Ask If You Don’t Care!

Enterprise Rent-A-Car customer service question they do not seem to want answer toI did a blog on my love-hate relationship with Enterprise Rent-A-Car a couple of years ago (Now THAT’S What I Call Customer Service! Rock On Enterprise!), and I thought I'd give you an update from our most recent car rental. 

We often rent cars to drive to speaking engagements, especially if they are more than a couple of hours away. Last week, I spoke to a group in Swansboro, NC on Thursday, and another group in Charleston, SC on Friday. All told, we drove around 800 miles in several days. Bill, my husband, feels that it is better to rent a car for this kind of trip. In his opinion, we can rent a fairly new car (limiting the risk of breakdown – and possibly missing/arriving late for a speech) while not driving our own car into the dirt.

We generally rent from the local Enterprise location on North Main Street in High Point, NC for the simple reason that the location is convenient. Bill normally handles travel arrangements for our business. For a while, he was perturbed enough at the consistently poor service at this location that we were going to the airport to rent cars. At the airport the service was usually better, and we had numerous rental companies to choose from. However, going to the airport means a 20 minute drive to pick up, and then drop off, the rental car. The issues that I mentioned in my previous post about Enterprise persist to this day:

  • The car type we reserve is seldom available. We normally have to accept another type of car. Often this means an upgrade for no extra charge, but even the upgrade is sometimes not a better choice. For example, for our last rental we had reserved a full sized car (which Enterprise defines as "Ford Fusion, Nissan Altima or similar"). As usual, they didn't have what we reserved. Instead, we were offered a Jeep Patriot – an upgrade to a small SUV. Yes, the Jeep Patriot was nice. Sure, it drove well. To Bill's delight, it got around 30 MPG on the highway (Bill actually calculated this – did I tell you he is kind of a geek?). However, the reason Bill reserved the full sized car was for trunk space because I was bringing product to sell. The Jeep just  didn't have the same dedicated cargo space.
  • Our rental is almost never ready when we get there. Again, that was the case this time – 15 to 20 minute wait to get the car. Funny, how long did I say it takes to drive to the airport? 

This past Saturday, we had to wait 20 minutes to return our car! After the 20 something "management trainee" checked the Jeep, and gave Bill the receipt, she asked "Were you completely satisfied with our service?" Everyone in our family knows not to ask Bill a question unless you're ready for the answer. So Bill responded "I'm not really satisfied with having to wait 20 minutes to turn a car in", to which the Enterprise employee answered "We're short staffed today, there are only two of us here on Saturdays". It came across as an uncaring response to a perfunctory question.

I want to be careful not to paint a picture of mean spirited employees looking for ways to abuse hapless customers. That wasn't the case. The two young women working were friendly and pleasant. Horace, the car detailer, was hustling to both get cars ready to go out and to help customers with check-ins (BTW – Horace is the only person who has been at this location consistently over the years. I expect that the inside staff who were here Saturday will be gone if-and-when we go back to this location, but Horace will still be there helping customers with a smile).

Getting back to my original premise – should you ask a customer their opinion of your service if you really don't care about the answer you get back? In this case, I'm certain that Enterprise Rent-A-Car employees are trained to ask this same question of every customer. As a motivational speaker who often speaks on customer service, I have a few tips on how best to answer this question. However, I think it would be more interesting to hear what you have to say – so, how 'bout it?



Motivational Speaker Kelly Swanson - called one of North Carolina's funniest women by Our State Magazine. Kelly lifts the spirits of audiences from coast-to-coast using humor, storytelling, and lives of the characters from Prides Hollow - Kelly's make believe small town. This unique approach to motivational speaking allows Kelly to break through communications barriers and connect directly to the audience's imagination.
Her powerful stories and wacky wit will make you laugh, remind you that you matter, show you how to see beyond your obstacles, and teach you how to stand up and stick out in a crowded market.
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  1. Dave,

    That story, and the fact that Enterprise is getting so many complaints in Texas, is chilling. Bill is insistent about not leaving any cars we rent after hours. He's afraid of the car getting damaged (or not), and then getting charged. Great tip on making a quick video when picking up and dropping off. I'll start doing that.

  2. That's actually perfect, Kelly. Perfect and simple. Do not ask me what my experience was like if, when I give you an answer you don't want,  you ignor it.  And yes, it's a matter of training.  I keep forgetting that those early 20 somethings are clueless on what great customer service should look and sound like.  Great post, Kelly.

  3. Here's a tip – ask what your purpose really is?  I went to a Bed, Bath and Beyond where a young person was posted at the entrance.  (There was a mat there for the comfort of her long-standing feet I'm sure.)  She welcomed me to the store!  Yay!  Then, I asked her a question.  I didn't know where to find something and she stood there and made waving motions.  "Go down that aisle, then cross over to that section and look down, it's probably in that area."  Really?  I was confused at "Go down that aisle." She didn't move one inch off of her mat.  I thought, why is she there? To make customers feel welcomed?  Why? So customers come back and spend more money?  If that's the reason why you are there, how about actually showing a customer where to go?  Just my tip of the day. Ask what your purpose is, and figure out ways to fulfill that purpose.

  4. Great tips! We should write a book. Because that's certainly what we have time for!


  5. It makes me wonder if the same question applies to everyone (myself included) who asks, "How are you?" All we really want is "Fine" as the answer so we can move on. 

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