Home > blogging for Britain, Breakfast news, marketing ramblings > Passionate about renting cars

Passionate about renting cars

Wow. On Monday I was the lucky recipient of some of the worst (but ultimately maybe best) customer service I have ever received. Bear with me…

I needed to drive to a meeting, so booked a car from Sixt at Stansted Airport, which is only five minutes from my house. As instructed on my booking confirmation, I arrived at the Sixt office in the Green Car Park at Stansted, admittedly 15 minutes before the office was due to open. And that’s when the fun started.

Outside the closed office, I met another customer who had wandered down from the Sixt desk within the terminal. “They’re a bit short staffed today,” she warned me. “I’m not sure when this will be open.” Within 10 minutes, two Sixt employees had arrived, and all seemed well with the world. However, they were unable to provide me with a car. “Have you been to the terminal? You need to go to the terminal.”

“On the sheet it says to come here.” (Hands over sheet.)

“Oh, it says to come here. ”

“Yes.”

“You need to go to the terminal. You can stand here if you want, and maybe get a car in two/three hours. Or you can go to the terminal.”

Something about the manner of these two employees struck me as odd. They both gave off a strangely carefree/couldn’t give a shit vibe, of which more later.

Now the terminal is a five minute walk from the rental car car park, but I wandered briskly along, as I needed to be away by 8.30 if I was to reach Cannock station by 10.50.

At the terminal, the queue at the Sixt desk stretched back 5 metres. The other rental car concessions were more or less empty. Behind the desk stood a single young employee. In front of her were 12 people. I phoned Sixt head office to let them know how the situation looked from where I was standing. It looked quite miniature, as I was some distance away, but more importantly, it wasn’t promising for anyone needing to be anywhere soon, i.e. me. Head office tried to call the branch manager, to no avail.

A quick calculation later, I realised that at 3 minutes per customer followed by a walk back to the car park, I was unlikely to be away by 8.30. By 8.30, 9 am was looking a stretch. And there were still people in front of me.

Eventually I reached the desk. Sarah, the employee, was shaking like a leaf. “I’m so sorry about this Sir; two colleagues phoned in sick and my manager isn’t around.” I sympathised with her; she was clearly doing her best in the face of things. “I hate giving my customers poor service,” she said. I believed her. She printed off my receipt and sent me down to the car park, but as I turned from the desk she asked me to wait.

“Hold on; I’ll check I don’t have the keys here. I’d hate you to get down there and have to come back”

The keys were not in her tray; I wandered off. At 8.55 I would still, possibly, be at Hednesford for my first appointment at 11.30.

Back to the Green Car Park. Back to the Sixt office. The now locked Sixt office.

Another customer stood forlornly outside. We’d already acknowledged each other inside the terminal; he was now on the phone to head office. I also called them again.

Slowly, other customers from the terminal wandered up. We looked at one another incredulously, and because many of them weren’t English, some of them actually talked to one another. At 9.15, one of the Sixt employees I had spoken to earlier in the morning reappeared and opened the door. I cheered. He apologised, and proceeded to inform the first customer that his car was “half an hour away.” One by one, we handed over our tickets, and one by one he told us he didn’t have the keys to the cars we had been rented.

“It’s the manager,” he said. “He’s ruined this business. We’re all leaving.”

Now, his earlier manner made sense. This – the most shambolic service I had ever received – was normal. “I can try and change your cars,” he offered, “but I have never been trained to use the system. And none of the cars have been cleaned.”

By now, I had sent a few Tweets. Unsurprisingly, the head of customer service called me immediately. “This is embarrassing and unacceptable,” he opined. He was right. All I wanted was a car, from a car rental company. And yet…

By this time, a female employee had arrived to be greeted – on her first day back after stress-related absence – to chaos. From my point of view, this paid immediate dividends, as ten minutes later, after the most needy customer (a heavily pregnant mum with another toddler) had been given a spare people carrier, the Sixt chap loaded me into his car and drove my to the other side of the airport to a Skoda Octavia, parked seemingly randomly behind a lock-up.

En route, he told me that the Sixt concession used to be the best at the airport. He loved his job, which was just as well as he worked 300 hours a month. Then a new manager arrived. His salary was cut from £1700 to £900 (do the maths on that and see how your minimum wage stands up), and now he, and all the other staff, were leaving. “We used to rent 60 cars a day. Now it’s 20.”

He was obviously a committed, caring person. His earlier attitude was the carefree mien of someone about to go over the top, knowing full well what lay in store. He went out of his way, literally, to help me, and I wished him all the best. As for the other customers, I suspect some of them may still be in the Green Car Park, waiting for Godot or a silver Vauxhall Astra, whatever turns up first.

Over to you, Sixt.

 

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  1. April 2, 2014 at 9:21 am

    Dear Mr Chappell,

    Thank you for taking the time to talk to me yesterday and highlighting the problems that you experienced at the location.

    As discussed on the telephone yesterday I have forwarded your feedback to our Head of Operations for that region who will be carrying out his own full investigation into this matter.

    The compensation we discussed yesterday has been processed as agreed.

    If you have any other questions or if I can be of any further assistance please do not hesitate to contact me directly.

    Best regards
    Steven Marshall
    Customer Services Manager
    Sixt rent a car
    Email: steven.marshall@sixt.com

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