While respect for our industry improved in the last year, the fact is that we are in a business where customers are leery and suspect of us. Recognizing and accepting that can be a huge benefit if used in the proper way. All we have to be is just a little bit better to come off as superstars!
Even difficult customers want to be happy and have a good experience, but when they come to the counter expecting a bad experience it is up to us to turn that around. But we’re busy. There’s customers lined up. There’s no time for experiences. Or is there?
I’m an Avis Budget agency operator at a small Maine airport that does a significant amount of business, and in fact, I grew my business 20% in 2018 by changing my customer’s experience. The motivational speaker Les Brown has a phrase that I absolutely love: “You can’t see the picture if you are in the frame.” In order to grow and improve, you need to step out of the frame and take a serious look at the picture or ask for help.
The first step is to have the right team.
Jim Collins, in his book “Good to Great,” says in order to have a successful business you need to get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats. If your people don’t like people, they need to get off your bus.
Like all rental offices, we have a varied customer base, all the way from summer visitors who rent for months, to people who need a car to get to work while their car is in the shop. We look at every one of these customers as potential lifetime customers and do our best to make them raving fans of our location.
The next step is to get to know the customer.
We’re very fortunate at our location that even during the busy season we’re not like a busy airport, but even at a busy airport, it’s easy to make the customer experience personal if you put a little effort into it.
We look for information about the customer even before they come through our door. If the address in their reservation is another part of the country, they are likely flying in and we can open a discussion about their flight, their home state or hometown, and the reason for their rental.
We’re not selling them anything, we’re asking about them. People feel good when someone shows a genuine interest in them. All this can be done while we’re entering their information on the checkout screen. We don’t have to put much effort in. We just ask a couple of questions and let the customer take it from there while we do our work.
When the time comes to discuss extras, we’ve already built a relationship with our customers and they often look to us for guidance on coverage, GPS, roadside assistance, etc.
Sometimes my coaching is mistaken to suggest that the customer is always right. That has never been a true statement. The customer always believes that they are right and it’s important to acknowledge that.
In our business, the customer often doesn’t listen to disclosures, return times, or extra charges like highway tolls, but it’s important to recognize and expect that at the onset and do our best to communicate this information. However, when it all plays out, the customer needs to be held responsible for their actions or lack of action.
Once our business is complete, if the customer feels important, we have done our job. What we do is serve, and our success is dependent on how well we served.
This approach has worked successfully for my location and might work for yours. If you would like to chat and learn more, feel free to email me. We’re in a great business with a huge potential solving people’s problems and making friends.
Bill Packard can be reached at email@example.com.