Enterprise car rental

Yesterday I returned my rented car to Enterprise. I'd chose Enterprise because I had previously had good experiences with them and they were the cheapest for the period of time I wanted a rental. Again I left as a satisfied customer (and recommend them as a rental company).

I can't say that they 'exceeded' my expectations because it was already high. But they hadn't dropped their standards. Here are some examples:

  • There was a short wait in the reception area – I was offered a bottle of water and the manager came over, introduced himself to people in line and apologized for the wait.
  • The check in agent introduced himself by name, suggested a higher performing car in the next price bracket but did not press the point when I refused.

  • I had a question on the insurance and he made a sensible suggestion of taking the package $34 to make the trip down, and then calling in to the Enterprise local to my destination to reduce the insurance package size. (I wasn't using the car during the week it was only for the up and back trip). He provided me with the phone numbers and addresses of the two dealers closest to where I was going.
  • He asked if I knew my way to the interstate and both told me and gave me a printed sheet with directions.
  • We walked out to pick up the car. He walked around with the check sheet to log any damage. Not all companies do this. He turned on the engine and noticed a warning light about tyre pressure. He got a different car.
  • As I got in to drive away the manager came back out to check that I had everything I needed.

When I got to the Enterprise dealer at my destination it was the same approach. The desk agent introduced himself – understood the insurance piece – rang the DC office and confirmed it was 'all set'. The process worked exactly as promised: the insurance package was reduced.

Returning the car there was a longish wait (10 minutes or so), but someone came out to explain that they were running two computer systems which needed different information. I love this type of explanation – why were they running two computer systems? What he told me was that they had acquired Alamo and National Car Rental "about three years ago – it was in 2007, but it's only now that we're seeing some action on this." So, it sounded like organization design/redesign going on following an acquisition. I wanted to find out more – but didn't press the point with the agent as there was still a line of cars waiting to be checked in.

Finally the check-in agent came and again apologized for the wait. He noticed that I was returning the car with a slight shortfall from a full tank of gas but said he would not charge for this as I'd had the wait. He asked if I needed a ride to the airport and when I said I was taking the Metro he pointed out the quickest way. Finally he asked "How was our customer service in this rental experience?"

Enterprise, established in 1957, is a privately held company principally owned by the Jack Taylor family, it approach and style reinforces my view that publicly traded companies are all too often too preoccupied with shareholder value to offer good service. But privately held ones can take the manage without the pressure to conform to analysts expectations often with much better results as far as the customer is concerned.

Enterprise measures customer service and satisfaction rigorously but not with a number of questions. Just two. There was a write up of this approach The One Number You Need to Grow. Harvard Business Review. December 2003 by F.F. Reichheld, and it's well worth reading. One paragraph observes.

Taylor and his senior team had figured out a way to measure and manage customer loyalty without the complexity of traditional customer surveys. Every month Enterprise polled its customers using just two simple questions, one about the quality of their rental experience, and the other about the likelihood that they would rent from the company again. Because the process was so simple it was fast. That allowed the company to publish ranked results for its 5,000 US branches within days, giving the offices real-time feedback on how they were doing and the opportunity to learn from successful peers

The only thing missing for me is that they don't do one-way rentals. But maybe that will come.