Last night I made a car rental reservation at Enterprises’ website. It all went as expected. I entered my dates, chose my location, picked a type of car, and confirmed my reservation by logging in to my account with them. I then received a helpful email confirmation of my reservation.
This morning my phone rings, it is the local Enterprise office. There has been a problem. Some sort of computer glitch made it seem (and is making it still seem) like they have cars for rent when in fact they don’t. The lady on the phone was very nice and put me to the “top” of their waiting list and told me to call back at 11am.
I called back at 11am. Still no update. She told me to call back at 2:30 (I was supposed to pick up the car at 2). I did. There was no answer after two phone calls. So I called their competitor and I’m getting a car from them. I called back at 3:00 and was able to speak with a manager. When I asked for details on what happened he said “we were not prepared for your reservation”.
This is all very reminiscent of a great Seinfeld skit.
I’ve been involved in a reservation based business for the past 25 years. We rent accommodations, not cars, but a “unit” is a unit. We are not experts by any means but we have learned a few things about reservations:
Mistakes happen. With dozens of units, 3-5 people taking reservations, and 3 online manually updated systems it is only a matter of time before a mistake happens and we double book or over book our property.
People understand that mistakes happen. For the most part people completely understand when you make a mistake.
People rarely get very upset about the initial mistake. It’s not usually the double booking that really upsets a guest.
It’s everything that happens after the double booking that upsets guests.
We define a mistake as “ours” as anything outside of our guest’s control. If a third party reservation site messes up, that is our mistake, not our guests.
Any mistake that is ours is 100% our responsibility to remedy. We juggle other reservations to make room (free upgrades, etc), we book accommodations with our competitors (our rule of thumb is to book the nicest accommodation we can to compensate for the mistake). We pay the bill. The guest only pays a maximum of what they agreed but never more and often less.
Over communicate. For people wondering where they are going to sleep tonight even a “we’re still working on it” is comforting and lets them know they still important. When dealing with guest services no news is always bad news.
Say you are sorry. Even if it’s not really your fault, apologize.
Follow up. Call them at the other hotel and ask if there is anything you can do for them.
Really, it’s all very simple taking-care-of-people stuff.
So what could have Enterprise done today? It’s very, very simple. This morning when they realized their mistake they could have called Budget (only 2 blocks away), and booked me a car. They then could have called me to let me know there was a mistake but that they found me a car and I was taken care of. Yes, a loss of income for Enterprise of $162.00 but they would have one very satisfied customer.