Do you want your brand to be known for having a creepy, annoying customer experience strategy?

Cleveland-DowntownI asked myself that question repeatedly after renting a car from Hertz last week in Cleveland. I was visiting Cleveland to speak at Content Marketing World and meet a variety of friends in nearby Akron. It’s a trip I made many times in my corporate days.

Back then though, we had a corporate car rental account with another car rental brand so I never had to stop at the car rental counter. Instead I could breeze out to the cars, pick whatever car I wanted, and go on my way.

Annoying Car Rental Questions and Customer Experience Strategy

Now, however, I use an online travel site to shop car rental prices. That means stopping at the car rental counter and going through the annoying car rental questions each brand chooses to ask. While Enterprise drives me crazy because its customer experience strategy seems focused on creating an unnecessary personal connection with customers, it’s better than the creepy, annoying tone Hertz chooses to use in its car rental questions.

Question number one in Cleveland was why I was there, and what I would be doing. I answered I was going to a conference in downtown Cleveland and then driving to Akron. The counter agent’s response was, “Oh. Then you’ll be doing a SIGNIFICANT amount of driving.”

“SIGNIFICANT amount of driving” became the theme for the remainder of the car rental customer experience.

The counter agent’s first pitch was for comprehensive insurance, as in “Since you’ll be driving a SIGNIFICANT number of miles, I strongly recommend the ‘blah, blah, blah most-expensive’ insurance coverage.”

I told her, “No, I’m covered.”

“Well, then I would at least recommend the ‘blah, blah,blah other expensive insurance coverage’ since you’ll be driving a SIGNIFICANT number of miles.”

“No thanks, I’m covered.”

After some more time, we got to refueling. “Since you’ll be driving a SIGNIFICANT number of miles, I strongly recommend the ‘blah, blah, blah refueling option blah, blah’ because if you don’t do that, and we have to fill your car, it will be $9.67 per gallon.”

“No thanks, I’ll fill. I know where gas stations are.” Maybe because I said I knew where things were, she didn’t hammer me on GPS to navigate through the (in)SIGNIFICANT number of miles I’d be driving on the trip.

Customer Experience Strategy Questions You Should Be Asking

My question for car rental companies is, “How many annoying questions do you want or need me to answer to justify renting me a relatively low-mileage, air freshener-drenched automobile?”

Another question I have? “Do you really want to create such an annoying customer experience by framing someone driving possibly 160 miles in three days as a ‘SIGNIFICANT’ amount of driving?”

While the counter agent may have put her particular creepy tone on the annoying car rental questions, I stood in line through enough other people renting their cars to know the questions were standard. Everyone was getting them. The net result is you don’t feel trusted, and you do feel constant attempts at manipulation.

The big question for all of our brands is, “Why would you ever want to fashion an annoying  customer experience strategy where your customers don’t feel trusted?”

If any brand is doing business with customers it doesn’t trust, maybe it has grown too large. Perhaps it needs to trim its customer base to doing business only with people it CAN trust in some SIGNIFICANT way. Try developing that customer experience strategy and get back to us. – Mike Brown



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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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8 Responses to “Customer Experience Strategy – Annoying Car Rental Questions”

  1. Bradley Woody Bendle says:

    Ahh… the difference between a company / up-sell driven strategy and a true customer-centric strategy. No customer empathy in the corporate / up-sell strategy. It’s not about you as the customer but rather them as the harvester of your money! Bad strategy orientation.

    • Mike Brown says:

      Very true, Woody. Plus for some reason, they couldn’t print my receipt when I checked the car in so I had to go BACK inside to get a receipt from the same crew that rented me the car. I held my tongue though, and tried to get out as fast as possible!

  2. Rental car service is a commodity. Your post points out why. Good one. Mike.

  3. auntiestress says:

    You bring up some timely points, Mike. Rental car agencies need to get with the times, not behind them.

    Another annoying point – the amount of time all that blathering takes out of the time you have in that particular location. It seems that you could have minor surgery faster than it takes to rent a car. 🙂

  4. Jackie Adams says:

    I rent cars almost every week. It is an annoying experience.

    First of all, I always book a compact car. That’s what I want. Every single time I get the upsell for “only $5 day more I could have a mid-size car”. Well, if I had wanted a mid-size car that is what I would have booked.

    Equally annoying is often the car rental agency does not have a compact car and they end up giving me a mid-size that I don’t want or it’s a major hassle to somehow scrounge up a compact car.

    Then you get a hard sell about taking their insurance. And buying a full tank of gas. Or GPS. None of this that I want.