“I didn’t start out wanting to get rich. Making a huge amount of money was never high on my list. Ensuring that customers were well taken care of and that employees were happy – those were the most important things. I figured if I did those two things well, I’d make money, because I would attract customers willing to pay a fair and decent price for what I was offering.” ~ Jack Taylor ~ founder, Enterprise Rent-A-Car
When it gets right down to it, giving exceptional customer service is not that difficult; be pleasant and courteous, smile, listen, solve problems if needed, and try to do a little bit more than the customer expects you to do. But from the customer’s perspective, finding all of those attributes rolled into one customer experience is rare. So rare, in fact, when it does happen it leaves an indelible impression on us. In a case of exceptional customer service which I experienced last week, I want to share the story of Heather from Enterprise Rental Car of Love Field in Dallas.
My story begins in Oklahoma City. I’m trying to do the impossible and complete store visits in 2 different markets in one week. By noon on Wednesday I have finished my store visits at the three OKC locations and am ready to hop down to Dallas on a 2:00 flight. I’m a bit rushed and know it’s going to be tight as I rush through my final store visit, when I receive a message from Southwest that my 2:00 flight has been delayed until 2:40. Actually, that’s not a bad thing as it gives me time to really wrap up the things I need to finish. So I finish my store visit and leave at 1:00 to turn in my rental car and get to the Will Rogers Airport.
As I’m turning in my rental car in OKC my phone goes off again, this time informing me my flight is pushed back to 4:30. This is not good news. Not only is it starting to affect what I need to do in Dallas, but there is bad weather predicted for the central Oklahoma area and I’d like to get out of here before the storms hit. It’s not looking good as the skies are already darkening over the Southern Plains of Oklahoma.
I get to the airport and check in just in time to get another update that my flight is now scheduled for 5:30. One thing is for certain, I’m not going to arrive in Dallas in time to get anything done today. There’s nothing I can do about it so I might as well have a good meal while I wait, but my meal is soon interrupted by yet another flight delay, this time to 7:30. This is when I learn about the blizzard they are having in Denver. You see, my flight to Dallas is coming into Oklahoma City from Denver and they have yet to be able to get off the ground due to the Colorado April snow storm. By now the clouds are even darker and it looks like rain any minute.
As I’ve settled in to the current book I’ve been reading, I hear an announcement that our plane is finally in the air and leaving Denver. My phone soon blasts out the update that my flight is advanced and now scheduled for 6:30. The day is looking a little better. This is just about the time the heavens opened and anxious passengers began noticing the torrential rains and strong winds outside. The weather channel being viewed by many began speaking of thunderstorm warnings, large hail, possible flooding and a litany of other doomsday scenarios.
As we near the 6:00 hour, the potential arrival time for my connection out of Denver, it looks outside like the apocalypse is upon us. There is no way an airplane is going to land in this mess. It is so bad, onlookers are starting to feel uncomfortable standing by the windows and begin moving back. Suddenly the announcement comes that our flight has gone on to Dallas and will not be landing in OKC to pick us up. A few minutes later my phone informs me my flight is delayed until 10:00 p.m. Keeping an eye on the weather channel, you can see there is no way this storm system is going to be gone by then, but what can you do? At this point, the automated update system for Southwest is basically telling me, “Good luck!” After a few more updates and delays, flight 1288 from OKC to Dallas Love Field is cancelled and the mad rush to the ticket counter begins. I’ve also learned from an airport attendant that the last restaurant, Schlotzsky’s, is closing in about 10 minutes. I’m not really hungry at this point, but it’s looking like it may be a while before the opportunity comes along for another meal so I go have a sandwich.
It’s about this time that it occurs to me that even if I do make it to Dallas tonight, I’ll be stranded. My phone blasts out another update, this time for just past midnight. I decide to call Enterprise and reach Ruby at the call center. I tell Ruby my situation, she confirms the flight delay on her computer and says she will do what she can to monitor Southwest flights from OKC to Dallas and will try to accommodate me. I don’t hold out much hope at this point.
At 2:05 in the morning, a group of very weary travelers finally board the little 737 to Dallas. Who knows where this plane came from but hopefully it was ready to make the short hop. Throughout my life I’ve probably been on a thousand flights including military hops, but don’t remember a single one as rough as the 43 minute ride to Dallas. It was like a 43 minute roller coaster ride with 100’ elevation drops through this massive storm system. The old Bette Davis line kept coming to mind, “Hang on boys, it’s going to be a bumpy ride!”
Just before 3:00 a.m., I deplane at the new Love Field terminal that just opened yesterday. Any other time this would have been somewhat of an experience, but right now it was just disorienting. I just wanted the old terminal I was familiar with, but I finally did find my way to the baggage claim area and retrieved my suitcase. At this point, I’m planning on taking a taxi to the airport hotel and calling it a day. I’ll deal with getting a rental car in a few hours when they open.
When I walk out of baggage claim to get a taxi, that’s when my exceptional customer service experience began. Right near the exit stands an attractive young lady in an Enterprise uniform holding up a sign that reads, “Monty Rainey”. Even in my exhausted state, I recognized my name. She introduced herself as Heather and was here to get my rental car set up. (The picture to the right is not really her). Ruby had called the store right before they closed at 11:30 (3 ½ hours earlier) and explained my delay. Heather volunteered to wait around for as long as it took for me to arrive and take care of things so I wouldn’t be stranded.
Heather got me through the rental process and on my way in about 10 minutes for the 45 minute drive to my hotel in Mansfield and at 4:15 Carol at the Fairfield Inn got me into my room. What a day it had been, but it would have been a lot worse had it not been for the extraordinary commitment of Heather who sacrificed her time to make it as painless as possible. Heather is definitely a customer service hero in my book.
- No News is NOT Good News in Customer Service (blogs.salesforce.com)