I’m currently doing some work in Flordia. I flew in yesterday, picked up the rental car and headed to my hotel. My client uses Enterprise Rent A Car. I’ve used the rental giant over the years and have never been impressed. The last few experiences leave me “wanting” even more. Frankly, it’s a hassle to rent for Enterprise.

Here’s the side note: Enterprise is often highlighted as a great success story in the rental car business. I know they have a major presence in the UK and perhaps that is where they shine. Perhaps I just hit all the wrong “moments” with Enterprise. But, I believe there is one step, just one, that Enterprise needs to take, or they could see their fortunes shift. It’s a small step and a “human” one–which makes it hard but so critical.

Change the tone of the interaction (between customer and customer service rep. at the car): 

Here’s the deal: Enterprise does what I’ll call “the walk around.” In an attempt to assign appropriate culpability in the case of an accident or fender bender, Enterprise walks around the car with you. You and your customer service rep. have to agree on what dents already exist on the car. If there are any dents, they are circled on a chart and then both you and the rep. sign the contract.

In theory this is probably a good idea. The cost of fixing dings and dent can be enormous when you factor in the size of the Enterprise fleet. The problem is the way in which the walk around is done. I always feel like I’m being read my rights. The interaction creates the feeling that Enterprise wants to wash their hands of any responsibility and I’m screwed if anything happens. Again, I suppose, in actuality, that’s true. But, the way in which the message is delivered is deflating–particularly after arriving at the airport, perhaps tired, and thinking about work or vacation related issues. It’s like a cup of cold water in your face on a, um…cold day.

When the guy, yesterday, asked me if I wanted to decline Enterprises insurance and use my own, I said, “Yes, I have Geico, so that’s fine.”

Guy at Enterprise: OK sir, initial these three lines.

Dave: OK

Guy at Enterprise (in the tone of a lawyer on Law and Order): OK sir you are now 100% liaiable for the car.

Dave: Gee thanks

Guy at Enterprise: (Awkward laugh)


We all need to save money and take responsibility–two reasons why Enterprise does the walkabout with you. OK, that’s fine. But, what Enterprise is missing is how critical small interactions can be, and how they add up. Dell lost its number one position because of customer service interaction. It matters. I’ve seen people “grilled” at Enterprise for ridiculous things. And, I’ve watched them lose customers because they seem to have forgotten something: they are not in the rental car business, they are in the “making transportation easy for travelers business.”

When the car becomes more important than the exchange, something is askew. Hmmm that’s true for you and me as well. When our “thing” becomes more important then the people we serve with that thing, we’ve lost focus–the reason we do the thing in the first place.