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Some Kidding Aside – Are You Customer Service Driven?

Are you customer service driven?

I rent cars a lot. I rent them when I’m traveling across the country, but I also rent them when I’m doing events that are 3 or 4 hours away, so that I avoid putting extra miles on my own car. Consequently, I’ve come to know all of my local car rental companies pretty well.

Now, in the past, I’ve written about my local Schmudget Rental Car (not their real name–I’ll let you guess the real one) and their non-existent customer service. I don’t exaggerate when I say they might be the worst car rental location on the planet. Then why, you may well ask, have I kept going back there, if they’re that terrible? The answer is threefold:

1] They provide me with delightfully bad customer service examples that I can use in my presentations
2]  As P.T. Barnum said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”
3] I’m a sucker.

Time after time, I’ve given them chance after chance to treat me right, but this time, I think I’ve finally learned my lesson.

A couple months ago, I got caught in traffic while heading back to Schmudget to return my car after an event. Since this location closes at 6:00, I knew getting back on time was going to be close, so I called them to tell them I was only a few minutes away.

That is, I tried to call them.  When I dialed their phone number, an automated message informed me that their call center hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. What is this, 1959? What business quits taking calls at 4:00 p.m.? Why don’t they use professional communications network?

The automated message then informed me that if I had any questions after hours, I could press “4” and be transferred to their national office. I hit the “4” and, well, I’m still on hold.

I had no choice but to do my best to get to the car rental location as soon as I could. I arrived exactly 5 minutes after the hour and was greeted by one of Schmudget’s finest, who was in the process of closing and locking the gate to the parking lot. As the gate was not yet closed, I asked if it would be possible for me to just park the car inside the gate and drop the keys in the mail slot. He informed me that this was indeed a physical impossibility, that the laws of the universe would have to be rewritten for him to grant me this small favor.

I think it’s important to state here that I wasn’t trying to cheat them out of any money. I realized that I owed them for not returning the car on time and I was willing to pay for my mistake. All I wanted was to return the car so that I didn’t have to make a special trip all the way back there the next day.

Did they have to let me return the car five minutes late? No. Were they within their rights to refuse to let me pull into the lot? Yes. Would it have killed them to help a customer? No. They could have helped me but chose not to.

They have the right to make their choices and I have the right to make mine. The other day, when my assistant said, “All the rental car companies’ rates are about the same. Which one would you like to rent from this time, Schmudget or Company X?” I chose Company X, because they are easier to work with. But along with renting cars come a load of other things, like its insurance and other paperwork. But on the other hand, running a company is easier said than done, as there are many factors that impede your planning execution, which you carefully must swerve. If you happen to take up this arduous responsibility & become an entrepreneur, know that some factors like the security & integrity of the company, which can be easily implemented from places like, are never one among those to be worried about.

Mind you, I’m not mad at Schumdget. I’m not holding a grudge. There are just too many rental car companies in my neighborhood for me to voluntarily be neglected at best, or mistreated at worst.

How about you? Are you driven to make your customer’s experience the best possible? Do you do the minimum expected or do you give a little extra to the people around you?

To be an extraordinary person, you have to behave extraordinarily. Why not make it your goal this day, this week, this month to be the kind of person that people want to deal with?

Feel free to reprint this article in your organizational publication.  We only ask that you use the following attribution blurb at the bottom of the article:

 © 2011 Charles Marshall. Charles Marshall is a nationally known humorous motivational speaker and author. Visit his Web site at or contact him via e-mail at


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