Last week I gave the keynote talk at the Big D conference in Dallas Texas. (It’s a great conference and I suggest you check it out next year.) The conference was Friday and Saturday, although I could only go to the very beginning of day 2. I had to leave in the morning to go to the airport and catch my flight home.
Problem #1: I’m one of these “nervous” travelers, so I always make sure to leave plenty of time to get to the airport. I left the conference building on the deserted campus of Southern Methodist University, and walked to the parking garage where my Avis rental car was parked. As I went to get in I saw that I had a flat tire — completely flat. The question now was, could I deal with the flat tire and still get to the airport on time?
Thus began an hour and one half long very frustrating journey into voice interface hell. I called the number on my Avis paperwork, and went from voice tree to voice tree to voice tree. I was trying to get help with the tire, as well as find out if I could leave the car and get a cab to the airport. I would try one branch of the voice tree be on hold for 15 minutes. I would call another branch and talk to someone who would transfer me back to the same place I had been 30 minutes ago. I made at least 15 different phone calls and talked to at least 12 different people.
I will admit that there were times when I was sobbing into the phone, and although a few of the people on the other end sounded sympathetic, there appeared to be no way they could help me. At one point I decided to change the tire myself and just drive to the airport, but then discovered that, although there was a spare tire and a jack, there were no other tools (lug wrench?) in the trunk.
After 90 minutes of this, I did manage to talk to someone who was going to come tow the car. I gave him directions to where it was, hoped he’d be able to find it, left the keys in the car, and called my hotel (that I had already checked out of) and asked them to send a taxi. The taxi driver obliged my request to drive really fast, and I even made my plane home. I have no idea if Avis ever got the car. I sure hope they did! Of course I have not heard from them.
Apple vs. Avis: Let’s contrast that experience with what happened when I discovered that I had a large crack in my beloved iPad screen. I’ve had the iPad for a few weeks now, and am definitely attached to it. Imagine my dismay upon discovering a huge crack. I called Apple (I always buy apple care for my apple products) and was transferred to a person in about 2 minutes. He actually wasn’t sure what to do (said it was the first time anyone had called in with a cracked screen to him). After first asking if the crack was sharp and would hurt me (it wasn’t, but I appreciated his concern), he asked if they could call me back. Which of course they promptly did. We then discussed options (go to a store, but there is no store near me, or send it in by fedex, or have them send me a new one and then I send it in etc), I picked an option, and the whole thing was taken care of in a matter of minutes.
I know that an iPad is not the same as a rental car. But the real difference here is that Apple wants to take care of problems and has created a support system to do so, and Avis has not. I pay to have “apple care” and they do care. Apple has put the customer/user experience high up on their list of priorites. Avis, on the other hand, is a confused conglomeration of support around the world. I’d pay extra to have “avis care” but there is no such option. At this point, the slogan, “we try harder” is merely a slogan without any teeth behind it.
Apple will continue to get my business. Avis will not. Assuming I rent a vehicle once a month for $250 each time, that’s about $3000 a year. Over a 10 year period that’s $30,000. You’d think that Avis would not want to lose $30k of business from a single customer.
It’s all about the customer experience. It’s all about what happens when something goes wrong. Things always go wrong. Have you researched your company? What happens when something goes wrong for your customers? Have you experienced what it’s like from their point of view? Have you put time and attention on customer care when there are problems? Your true business is not just the product or service that customers initially come to you for. It’s the relationship you have with them. It’s when things go wrong that you find out who your friends really are. And it’s when things go wrong that you find out which businesses you want to continue to have relationships with. People make decisions about what companies to work with, and they make those decisions largely unconsciously. They will decide to work with companies they trust. How you handle problems and mistakes has a huge impact on trust.
What is the trust quotient of your organization?
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