Downplay the negative. Recognize and reward the positive. It’s that simple.

Downplay the negative. Recognize and reward the positive. It’s that simple.

Photo courtesy of Bill Packard.

It’s personal.

One thing that can kill people’s enthusiasm for car rental is taking the wrong things personal. This sentiment is pretty straightforward but needs to be reinforced every day to keep people feeling good about themselves and their efforts. Sometimes it’s personal. Sometimes, it’s not. 

Here’s the difference: When a Customer (you'll notice I always capitalize Customer to recognize they're the reason we're in business) directs a comment to you personally, such as, “You’re the best!” “Thank you for all you do,” or “It’s a pleasure renting from here.” That’s personal. Those need to be celebrated. 

One thing that I believe is sorely overlooked in the rental car business is celebration of customer successes. A dozen donuts or a vase of flowers. Anything to bring attention to a positive interaction with a customer is a plus for the morale at your business or location. Recognizing an associate that received positive comments from a Customer on social media or on your website shows that you appreciate the associate and advertises to the world what’s important to your business or location. You cannot overdo this.

Now for the other side of personal which is what most people do that they shouldn’t, and many managers/owners don’t control. A Customer is upset. It makes no difference what they are upset about. Your associate is on the other side of the counter and in direct line of fire. It’s natural for your person to take the criticism or anger as personal, when it’s not. Before I go any further — if in fact, your associate promised something that wasn’t delivered or somehow dropped the ball, they need to own that, learn from it, and move on. 

My experience says that’s rarely the case. Most times at my location, the Customer rented at another location and has some issue with the vehicle or the terms of the rental. Sometimes the Customer is upset because they returned the car late or with a less-than-full fuel tank and they are unhappy with the charge. I don’t have to share other examples. You all know what I’m talking about. 

The important thing here to remember and work on is that the Customer is not upset or angry at your associate. They are upset with something in the system, the car, or themselves. If you are going to retain people in your organization, you have to reinforce to them that they cannot take these things personally.

Unless there is some business benefit, we don’t allow discussions about difficult Customers and how they act. That is focusing on the negative and ignoring the many positives. Have you ever witnessed or been a part of a discussion about medical issues? The first person mentions that they have a little tickle in their throat. Next person had a cold they couldn’t shake. That’s followed by someone who had pneumonia and topped off by cardiac arrest in the Life Flight helicopter. The same thing happens when your folks start talking about difficult customers.

Downplay the negative. Recognize and reward the positive. It’s that simple.

Bill Packard is an Avis Budget Agency Operator with a long history of entrepreneurship focused on customer service. Packard also coaches small businesses on the significant value of increasing their retention rate. He can be reached at can be reached here.