So, I received a letter in the mail today from National Car Rental, who wanted to charge me $1.00 (plus a $10.00 "Administration Fee", of course) because, apparently, I missed a toll at the Orlando airport. Of course, "in accordance with the terms of your rental agreement, you are responsible for all violations and toll fees".
First of all, I wasn't even at the Orlando airport on the date of the infraction.
Second of all, IT'S $1.00!!
Third of all, don't get me started about this $10.00 administration fee.
So now I'm steamed. I'm thinking about all the arguments I will make, how angrily I will speak with them, how I will destroy their reputation on my wildly influential marketing blog! But first, a call to their appeals department. Mostly because I don't remember running any toll gates, but also because I'm going to tear a strip out of them!
Well, the most unexpected series of events transpired next. For one, they answered the phone right away - no tedious recorded-voice menu labyrinth. But even more impressively, the person I spoke to on the phone - presumably someone fairly junior among the National ranks - immediately reversed the charge. It took maybe 14 seconds. I'm not saying anyone can just call up and get their charges reversed, I'm just saying that in this case, she quickly realized that the best outcome for everyone was to just get rid of it. And she had the authority to do so.
Well done National. You probably should never have sent the notice in the first place, but you stepped up and did the right thing.
TAKEAWAY FOR YOU:
1) Try to imagine how your policies and customer service processes affects your reputation.
I'm sure National's policy and process is to automatically send notices to all customers that incur external charges. Makes sense, but doesn't help their reputation in a case like this. How hard would it have been to include a sub-process that eliminates all notices of, say, $5.00 or less. Just pay it. They save all kinds of administrative time and money and avoid any possible brand damage.
2) Try to give authority to the lowest level possible.
I know it's hard to delegate responsibility and authority without jeopardizing control and compliance, but imagine how I would have felt if some bureaucratic appeals process was necessary to get my $1.00 back.
In short, keep your customers happy, not your COO.
Comment with some of your customer service nightmares / success stories.