The other day I needed to rent a car in France, and as I needed it for greater than 31 days, none of the websites would let me do it online. I had to call the service center.
So based on the information on the aggregator websites (Priceline, kayak, Travelocity etc.) I found the best deals available and proceeded to call the first company who seemed to offer the right package.
I don’t want name the company, as I suspect this story is equally applicable to all of them. I called the free phone number for Budg$t (see I clearly hid the company name). And here’s how the call went:
Rep: Good afternoon sir, how can I help you (imagine this with a very pleasant Indian accent)?
Me: Hello, I’d like to rent a car in France please.
Rep: Certainly sir, can you please tell me what State that is in.
Me: Err no France is a country in Europe.
Rep: Yes sir, but what state is that in.
After several iterations of this, I asked to speak to one of his colleagues that maybe had a better grasp of world geography. I was put through to their resident geographical guru, and the conversation continued.
Me: hello again, I’d like to rent a car in France please.
Rep2: certainly sir, what state is that in?
Me: okay listen France is a country, its part of the European union, and while I believe France has states in it, it’s not actually in a state. France is a country in it’s own right, had an empire once, and still has a foreign legion.
Rep2: okay sir, I understand, what city in France to you wants to rent a car from.
Me: great, the city is called Nice.
Rep2: very good sir, Nice, okay, and what is the zip code of Nice.
Me: seriously, you know that Nice is a city in France. How about this, I want to rent the car from Nice Airport, does that work for you.
Rep2: oh jolly good sir, I have it now. When do you want to rent the car from and for how long?
Me: I want to from when I arrive for 35 days.
Rep2: oh I’m sorry sir we cannot rent cars for more than 31 days, you will have to return it to the rental office and re-rent it for the remainder.
Me: you cannot be serious, how about I just call you and extend it.
Rep2: oh no sir you have to bring it back to us.
Me: well that will not work, forget it goodbye.
Now I was very proud of myself during this call, I didn’t rip the reps head of and crap all over him verbally (as I felt like doing), but instead went to the next company on the list and called again.
Me: hi there, I’d like to rent a car in France please.
Newrep: okay sir, can you please tell me what state France is in….
This is the issue with service centers, helpdesks and their entire ilk, they are only as good as the scripts the reps are given. And no script can be all-inclusive. The people you speak to on the phone when you speak to call centers are generally very nice, but have absolutely no idea how to solve any issue that hasn’t been already thought through.
And lets face it, in this day and age you will try absolutely anything to avoid having to call a call center and be told “your business is very important to us” and “our options have changed so please listen carefully”.
You would have gone to their website, asked your friends on facebook and even visited product help groups and reviews online. So the chances of you calling for something that they can help you with have been greatly diminished.
So why are they still so crap?
BTW, if you haven’t seen it, I recommend the movie “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”, I really lovely film, and it talks to this rant.