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Bad Service Experience

Written By: Robert Moran

Blog 5 in series: Our Customer Service Stories and the Lessons that they Teach

It was a smooth morning at the tail end of a business trip heading back to Chicago from Orange County California. On my way out of the hotel, I reached in my pocket for the rental are keys, but they were not there.  I checked everywhere – went through multiple acts of retracing steps in the hotel room and in my suitcase – but had no luck. I had officially  lost my rental car keys. It was unfortunate that I had to go to client meetings and to the airport on a very tight schedule.

After 25 years of business travel this is one scenario I have not yet experienced. I called Budget roadside assistance assuming they could help me out. As it turns out the options were:  1. Budget comes to unlock the car but leave no key to drive it, 2. Have the car towed and re-keyed. Since I had no keys with which to drive the car, the unlock option was no option at all. So I had to bite the bullet have them tow the car.  As I hoped in the taxi to head to my client’s office, I worried about the huge towing bill I would likely be facing.

At home the next morning I was unpacking and guess what? I found the keys! I immediately called Budget to let them know.  The roadside service line suggested I mail the keys in and call the local Budget office in Orange county. I dropped the keys in the mail and called the local number several times but unfortunately, they did not answer.

I reached out again to Budget three days later to confirm that they had received my keys. I tried all the local number I was given to the Orange county airport location to no avail. The customer service person was nice enough and listened to my story and explained that he could not help me but would escalate the case and I would receive a call and an email within two hours.

It was two full days until I received a call…from loss prevention?!?!  The woman on the other end of the line asked me when I was going to return my car.  I explained what happened and with sincere skepticism about the validity of my story, she told me they have no record of the calls, tow order or key return.  They lost their car, but they were trying to blame me for it.

I pressed her to find the information to validate my story, and after a few minutes she explained that she could not help me.  She planned to escalate the case and informed me that someone would get back to me in the next few hours. She closed the call by saying that she really hoped I could solve this problem and said, “good luck.”

The follow up call she promised never happened.  And now a week has gone by and the problem of Budget finding the car they towed was weighing heavy on my shoulders. So I made another attempt to call customer service and I told my story again.  I was shocked to hear the exact same response – the rep said she could not help me and would have to escalate the call.  I explained how many promises I had been given already – she assured me someone would call me back within the next few days.

This time she delivered.  I received a call from a supervisor who had my case.  She listened to my story and with a confident and reassuring tone (this was finally going well) she explained to me that roadside service is outsourced and they would not have their information to access the initial service call. (Nevermind.)  In the midst of my explaining how difficult and time consuming this entire experience has been – she cut me off and placed me on hold. (?!?!) After being on hold for quite some time she came back and said she was reaching the local manager.   Before I could respond I was back on hold.

An eternity later, she came back on the line and said they never received my key, but they would keep checking the mail. Then she reminded me of the pending charge for every day the keys were missing, suggested I pay to have the car re-keyed and finally explained that she was going on vacation.  I got the name of her colleague who would be handling my case and hung up the phone to wait for the manager to “call me back within 2 hours.” The call back never happened.

I did receive a ghost email with a case number and a phone number to the local manager, but the number just rang busy and the email clearly stated “do not reply”.  So there I was nine days, six calls, and hundreds of dollars in charges later, with zero answers.  I couldn’t give up.  I placed another call to customer service, and inconveniently their systems were down. I tried back again and the agent suggested I call the local office.  Since I had tried so many times before to get ahold of someone in that office, I was skeptical to try.  I gave the number a ring and there were options I did not have before.  After trying several options, I finally got a live person…at the AVIS desk. Why would I be calling Avis when I rented from Budget?  Because Avis recently purchased Budget.  She could not help me but promised to pass this on to her manager who would (wait for it) call me back in a few hours.

The call back happened the next day. The manager assured me he was working on my case and trying to reach the tow company to see where they placed the car.  He also mentioned that they had found the keys I mailed in.  Later that night he called me back to inform me they found the car and that it was never towed – the car was still sitting at the hotel parking lot where I left it. The manager assured me that I would only be charged for the two-day rental.  Finally, my situation was resolved!

Until the next day when I received an email from the customer service department letting me know that I would be charged for the tow and the re-key of the car.  I burst out laughing when I read the email.  It was all I could do not at that point – I was exhausted from this experience.  I forwarded the email to the Budget manager who assured me in his quick reply that he would take care of it.  And he did.

Throughout this entire situation the Budget customer service team had nearly a dozen opportunities to take responsibility for their process failure.  Yet every person continued to blame me – the customer – for the issue at hand.  A service team views the customer as the enemy and has to deal with broken systems which prevent them from solving problems, will not provide any level of service worth returning for.  I spent about 10 hours of my time solving their problem which stemmed from broken processes and poor communication within the Budget organization.