Everyone sells! I was reminded of this several times while conducting business with my now-favorite company for the business traveler. That company is Enterprise Rent-a-Car, whose folks exemplify what I call "Accountability Service."
During a recent Florida vacation, the greeter in the rental car lot met me to help me with my car. As we walked to the aisle where my reserved car was located, he offered me a sporty upgrade. After I confessed that I am an old man and drive big cars, he quickly shifted focus and offered me a premium Cadillac CTS for a mild $15 per day upgrade. It instantly created a vision of a special drive to the Florida Keys with my wife. Sold!
A few weeks later, Chris was the Enterprise desk agent in Manchester, N.H. He greeted me with a smile and took the time to address me by my correct name: "Do you go by Rich? Rick? Richard?" In the car lot I was sure a greeter would try to upsell me. Instead, Jake was waiting aside an open driver-side door to my immaculate white Dodge Charger–already running! He suggested we walk around the car and make sure there was no damage before offering me a bottle of water and preparing to send me on my way.
Jake circled his and Chris' names on the rental form and told me I should call one of them if I had any problems. In a world in which we feel frustrated by bad service, voice mails, and take-it-or-leave-it customer service attitudes, that act stood out.
Still, I figured that two good deeds could just be an accident. So I put the company to the test at the Philadelphia airport, where I frequently run into awful service, particularly from one car rental company that does not try harder. After I disembarked from the Enterprise van, Dustin greeted me at the door and took a heavy bag from my shoulder. Then he invited me to join him at the counter. I have rented hundreds of cars, but never have I had an agent from behind the counter greet me in front of the counter. That is not "thinking outside the box;" it is literally stepping outside of the box!
The manager came out to shake my hand and thank me for my business. Another associate brought me a bottle of water. Dustin walked me out to my car and helped with my luggage. When I returned the car two days later, Dustin remembered my name! As I looked back while waiting for the airport van to return me to my flight home, the staff of four Enterprise rental agents stood near the door waiting with smiles for the next customer.
Building material dealers would be wise to steal a few ideas from Enterprise:
1. Hire the right people Enterprise puts every rental agent through three interviews and requires a four-year college degree and one year of customer service experience. It hires staffers who are friendly, caring, and interested in helping you.
2. Make everybody accountable The benchmark of success is when associates in your organization are willing to sign their name to their work.
3. Keep it fun It is obvious at Enterprise that the associates are having fun. Work can be fun. It should be fun. Serving our clients is a privilege we all should relish.
To those ideas from Enterprise, let me add one of my own: Give everyone in your organization business cards . Business cards are inexpensive but make people feel valued. They create accountability, and a good title helps people take pride in their role.
It is easy to differentiate your company from the normal expectation of impersonal service. Teach your people accountability service for the customer experience. Turn every person in your organization into an enterprising associate.
Rick Davis is president of Building Leaders Inc., an LBM advisory firm specializing in sales management training. He is an international speaker and author of Strategic Sales in the Building Industry, a BuilderBook publication. 773.769.4409. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org