Important Notice:
This site has moved to, please update your bookmarks. If you were looking for a specific post, you can use the site search option or archives at the new domain to find it. Thank you!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

How Important is Your Front Line?

We just got home from vacation. We had to rent a car. Which meant we had about a zillion places to choose from. We flew into Las Vegas (we don't gamble, but we sure can eat, and the food there is quite good). (Side note, we stayed at the Palazzo which we got for a cheap price on Priceline and it was fabulous.)

Anyway, the Las Vegas airport has a central car rental garage. Everyone takes the same shuttle over and then each car rental company has a space in a multi-story garage. There are security features set up to prevent you from stealing a car from this place. These include a large metal bar and tire shredders. In order to leave, you must take your rental car contract and scan the bar code on it. Then the metal bar raises up and the tire shredders go down and you can drive off.

Unless, of course, the front line person forgets to put a bar code on your contract. And by the time you have your car seats installed and your luggage shoved into the trunk, he has gone home, turning off the lights and locking the door. So, there we were: 12:30 a.m. Pacific time. We're East Coasters, so our body clocks were saying 3:30 a.m. I have one screaming infant and one helpful almost 5 year old saying, "what can I do to make you happier?" and my husband and I are dead tired and we are trapped in the garage. We call the car rental place's 800 number and the following conversation ensues:

Husband: We’re trapped in the garage in Las Vegas. We don’t have a bar code so we can’t leave.

Car Rental Customer Service Person: Why would you need a bar code?

Husband: You have to scan a bar code or you can’t get out. Everyone has gone home. So, we’re trapped.

Car Rental Customer Service Person: Just go ahead and exit, then. Don’t worry about the bar code.

Husband: We can’t exit. There’s a huge metal bar and tire shredders.

Car Rental Customer Service Person: Well, I guess you’ll just have to wait until morning when the workers come back. Sorry! Click!

My husband walked over to another company's booth and explained our plight. They gave us a bar code so we could exit.

Now, when we returned the car, 12 days later, the manager said, "How was your rental?" My husband explained. The manager took $150 off our bill. Even so, I would be very hesitant to rent from them again.

I didn't mention the name of the company on purpose. Why? Because while I was explaining this drama to my sister, who also flew from the east coast to the west for this reunion, she mentioned she'd rented from the same company, although she had flown into Salt Lake. She gushed with how wonderful everything had been. "They gave us a free upgrade! Provided cold bottled water for us! Carried our luggage! We're customers for life!"

Now, the original rental guy didn't leave us with any warm fuzzies--he made the mistake of not giving us a bar code, and he left before we did. That's bad customer service. The phone person was worse. Even if there was nothing he could have done, he made no effort to escalate the issue.

He probably figured, "hey, I'm only making $X per hour. What do I care?" He didn't care. But that is precisely why you need to be careful in hiring your front line people.

And now back to regular Evil HR Lady stuff.


HR Godess said...

Great post! You couldn't be more right on with this one. My current company doesn't have voice mail (I know, unheard of!) We have a wonderful receptionist. She is complimented regularly by vendors, customers, prospective employees etc. If you worked in the office, she isn't always accurate with your phone messages and really can't handle much else besides answering the phone. I bring this up because she always makes people feel great when they call here. Even when they yell at her. She never has an off day. So when I don't get the right phone message, I remember that the person who calls back will soon forget she's mad when she talks to the receptionist. The first point of contact is the most important and leaves a lasting impression, good or bad!

Rachel - Employment File said...

Wow. Why wouldn't you want to sleep in a car locked in a parking garage?

This goes to the point that everyone in a company matters right down to the cleaners.

Dataceptionist said...

Ugggh pet hate #45890
When staff that are meant to help you aren't aware of specific details at specific locations, leading them to talk to you like you're an A grade moron.
"why would you need a barcode?" GAH! I just need one!

jaded hr rep said...

In many years of recruiting, often for niche positions like actuaries, industry analysts, specialized techies, etc. the one position I find the most challenging to fill is the receptionist job. You can find anyone to answer the phone, but to find a really good one who can be the face of your company to all your visitors is tough.

Infamous HR Guy said...

HAHA!!! I would have driven the car across the spikes and rode the rims to my hotel and called a tow truck the next morning to pick it up and take me to get a new one.

Glad another agency could help you out. Could you give the name of that company?

Original Lee said...

Our last contact with a car rental company was not a good one, but we usually rent from them because we get a union discount and they have a facility two blocks from my office, which makes returns easy if we need to have a car locally for some reason.

The brakes failed on my regular commuter car on a Saturday afternoon. I was fortunately only a few blocks away from our regular mechanic, so I very gingerly drove the car there. But, it was late Saturday afternoon by that point, so he was obviously not going to be able to fix my car before Monday morning, and I needed my rental. I called Usual Car Rental Company. They close at 2PM on Saturday and don't re-open until 8 AM Monday. Um, what? Nobody rents from them on weekends? After several calls, I finally manage to reach a real live person. If I can get to Nearby Airport, I can pick up a car. OK, fine, I can get a neighbor to drive me over there, or maybe (worst case) take a cab. I go to Nearby Airport to pick up the rental. I give them my bank card.

Clerk: Sorry, can't use that because it's a debit card. You need a credit card with an available line of credit of over $5,000.

Me: Um, I wasn't told this when I made the reservation.

Clerk: Well, if you have some kind of proof that you live where you say you do, such as an electric bill, we could run a credit check and then maybe you can use the debit card.

Me: Grrrr. Here's my credit card. I don't know what our available credit is at the moment, though, because my husband is in Japan right now and the hotel always grabs a big chunk of our balance.

Clerk: (after some typing) Oh, it looks as if you have enough to secure the rental, but you don't have enough left on your balance to pay for more than 2 days. Would you like to use your debit card to pay for the rental?

I leave the rest to your imagination.