“What is customer service?” Dick Radzis, president of Ace Rent A Car, submits this story to answer the question.

“It was the first time ‘Susan’ had ever rented from us. While processing the rental agreement Tom, the location manager of our Chicago O’Hare store, noticed that she started to tear up at the counter. He asked her if everything was okay. She responded that she had just received a call from her son's doctor and the most recent test showed he was clear from cancer for the first time in years. They were tears of joy.

Tom finished her rental agreement and asked if she would like to sit down for a while and compose herself before driving out. Tom sat with Susan for more than an hour and let her share her joy about battling cancer with a special needs child. Having children himself, Tom knew what it meant to reach milestones with children and the importance of telling a story, even if it’s to a complete stranger.

Service is not always the heroic efforts or being fastest; sometimes just being there for someone is enough.”

How can you foster exemplary customer service in your employees? Come to the Auto Rental Summit, Oct. 29-30 at the Hollywood Beach Marriott in Hollywood, Fla. to find out.

Do you have a story that exemplifies outstanding customer service in your car rental company? Email Chris Brown at chris.brown@bobit.com.

You can also nominate yourself or a colleague if they exemplify customer service excellence for the first-ever Auto Rental Honors award.

Read another "What is customer service?" story below.

From Sharon Faulkner, former franchise owner of Dollar/Thrifty Car Rental in Albany, N.Y.:

There are a number of selfless people in this world and excellent customer service representatives are always among that number.

I had a great shift manager who was finally on a well-deserved weeks’ vacation. He was in a cabin in the Adirondacks as far from people and customer complaints as he could be, fishing, canoeing, hiking and spending leisurely time with nature instead of the constant bustle of travelers in a hurry to get to their destinations.

But, car rental never takes a break; 24/7, 365 days a year. A call came from an elderly couple who found themselves with a flat tire on their subcompact rental car. They called the office and said they found a large nail in the tire and the tire could not be repaired or replaced because they were in the Adirondacks and nowhere near a service facility. They refused to drive the vehicle on the donut spare, insisting it was unsafe. They also said they didn’t have the physical ability to change the tire themselves.

The counter employee on duty asked for their exact location and realized it was in a town not so far from the shift manager on vacation. That shift manager didn’t even hesitate to help. He left his lakeside paradise and drove an hour to the couple. He gave them his personal rental Jeep, put on the donut and drove the subcompact for the balance of his vacation – with his family, two dogs and all the luggage that goes with a mountain or lakeside vacation. 

The elderly couple was amazed at the exemplary service and kindness of the employee. What they didn’t know is that this employee always put the customer’s safety and comfort first all the time. This wasn’t an isolated instance. Good customer service representatives can be trained to be helpful, but the great customer service reps are bred to be selfless.