The note reads "For our friends at Avis Budget." - Photo courtesy of Bill Packard.

The note reads "For our friends at Avis Budget." 

Photo courtesy of Bill Packard.

We recently lost a Customer, and we’re OK with it. (A note to readers:  I always capitalize the word Customer to stress their importance to my business and Auto Rental News readers.)  In an earlier article, I mentioned SBA numbers as to why Customers leave a business and 5% find an alternate solution. That’s what happened here — but let me go back to the beginning.

Our Customer has business clients all over New England. While he has a dependable vehicle with some age on it, he would rent to meet clients further away than they wanted to drive old reliable. Lots of Maine folks are in this same situation. They have a great car for daily driving, but long trips make them uncomfortable.

Because he rented so often, we gave him the best pricing we could and sometimes it would seem that his rentals were not that profitable, but when we looked at what he spent in a year, they were awesome.

So, all was good. Until I read a news article in the local paper about a fire that started in a car in a garage at a house and I recognized the address. “Old Reliable” had caught on fire in the garage and was destroyed. One person went to the hospital for smoke inhalation.

Giving a couple days, I called up to see if my Customer was OK. We chatted about the fire, his trip to the hospital, how the cleanup was going. I was glad to hear that he was OK, and he appreciated my call.

He had other transportation so he could get around — a killer mid-Sixties Cadillac convertible. What a sweetheart boat that is! After the insurance process got underway, he called for something to replace Old Reliable when he visited clients. Sometimes he would rent to go car shopping. These things take time.

Then one morning, it happened. He returned the rental for the last time. This note was on the steering wheel. Inside it read, “We finally found a car! As always, we appreciate your kind service.”

So, he’s gone, and I’m sad — not for the loss of business but because I won’t get to see some folks that I truly enjoy interacting with.

A couple of lessons: For several years we solved their problem, which was a dependable vehicle for a longer trip. That’s what we do in this business. We don’t rent cars. We solve problems. When you build relationships with Customers, you get notes on the steering wheel when they’ve found alternate solutions.

When you don’t build relationships, the Customers leave in the night, never to be seen again. And you’ll never know why.

Bill Packard is an Avis Budget Agency Operator with a long history of entrepreneurship focused on customer service. Packard also coaches small businesses how to increase their retention rate. He can be reached at