And the Prize for Erroneous Information & Arrogant Call Centre Operators Goes To . . .
RentalCars.com!

Before banging its drum about its rentalcars.com subsidiary’s “great level of service”, the Priceline Group’s management should, anonymously, get themselves on the other end of their call centre staff’s “service”. I wanted to alert this aggregated rental car booking service to a situation I thought its management should absolutely want to know about and to – on principle – seek a refund for an undelivered service.

Summary of Company (from www.rentalcars.com website)

rentalcars.com is the world’s largest car hire booking service, arranging over 4.7 million rentals a year in 40,000 locations worldwide. . . . Plus, as part of the Priceline Group (Nasdaq: PCLN), we’re a member of the world’s leading travel group, which also includes Booking.com, Priceline.com, Agoda.com, KAYAK and OpenTable.

rentalcars.com deals with all the major car hire companies around the world checking which local supplier is offering the best prices for the car you want on the date you need it whilst ensuring everyone we deal with offers a great level of service. . . .

Rating out of 10: – 5 (i.e. Negative 5)

After several aborted attempts (due to unacceptable in-queue-waiting times), and one ignored email on (July 7), I finally connected, on August 2, 2015, with the www.rentalcars.com call centre.

I wanted to alert this aggregated rental car booking service to a situation I thought its management should absolutely want to know about and to – on principle – seek a refund for an undelivered service.

I’d booked a rental car for a trip I’d made to New Zealand in early June i.e. two months previously.

I’d been told by the call centre operator who took my booking that I’d need to pay for a “Meet and Greet” service, because the rental car company in question was located away from the immediate airport building environs.

When I arrived at Dunedin Airport, there was no sign of any “meet and greet” representative. After waiting at least half an hour, and the arrivals lounge having long since cleared of all fellow passengers from the flight, it was obvious there wasn’t going to be any meet and greet.

After enquiring of several different airport staff, I learned that the company from which I was hiring the vehicle (i.e. via rentalcars.com), was represented by a completely different rental car company at that airport. The customer service desk of that rental car company, however, was (like all the other rental car companies represented at Dunedin International Airport) located under the same roof (albeit through a separate external doorway) as the main airport arrivals and departures lounge.

No ‘Meet & Greet’ . . . So I Paid for What?

When I arrived at that company’s service desk I was assured that, not only was no meet and greet ever organised, but that the company doesn’t conduct them at this airport. I was instructed to call rentalcars.com and advise this online operator that its people were disseminating erroneous information – and also to request a refund for the meet and greet fee I’d been charged.

Full circle back to today. After explaining the above scenario, in the requisite detail, to the young-ish male call centre operator, it was evident he hadn’t listened particularly well. I suggested that he listen more carefully as I repeated my experience.

He asked for my booking number and began by denying that I had been charged a meet and greet fee – that it was part of the overall rental fee. I challenged him on this. He then – without apology – told me (as though I had been in error) that I’d been charged a fee for the service but informed me that it had a different name.

‘You’ll Have to “Apply” for A Refund’

He put me on hold whilst discussing a refund with his superior. Upon his return, he advised that I’d have to write in through the rentalcars.com website, re-stating my experience and “applying” for the refund.

Deciding that the hassle wasn’t worth my time, I suggested that he should amend the company’s information to avoid giving customers erroneous information in the future as regards this particular airport, and also to avoid erroneous charges.

He began immediately debating the situation with me, stating that the scenario was purely a matter of my own personal opinion. I endeavoured to correct him, stating that we were not discussing a subjective matter, but an objective one i.e. the company that owned the car I’d hired was represented not under its own name but by another, completely different and differently named, rental car company at the airport in question. (Objective Point No.1) And that that company did not provide meet and greet services. (Objective Point No.2)

‘That’s Just Your Opinion’

He repeated in an even more demeaning and escalated fashion, speaking over top of me, that this was only my opinion and not a matter of fact.

After I suggested in no uncertain terms that he actually listen to what I was attempting to convey to him (rather than speak loudly over top), he superciliously and arrogantly (as he had clearly been throughout) announced his intention to terminate the call.

My rating of rentalcars.com and its service centre operator:

  • Integrity: Nil (Erroneous information; erroneous charges; long queue waiting times for customers calling about past contracts; large gap between my experience and rentalcars.com’s website promise of “a great level of service”.)
  • Knowledge of product: Lacking / erroneous.
  • Customer service standards: Nil.
  • IQ of operator: It’s my belief that listening skills and the related humility to exercise them are an indicator of intelligence, and that the lack of them is indicative of low intelligence.
  • EQ of operator – Appalling.
  • Concern for customer experience – Nil / contemptuous.

How should www.rentalcars.com and the call centre operator in question have handled the situation?

1. www.rentalcars.com should stipulate, as a key component of its call centre training (or a key component of training given to operators in any outsourced provider scenario), effective listening skills (which include adopting the requisite humility, interest and retention/focus to take in all detail conveyed by the caller).

2. Before responding to the caller’s concern with a denial of the accuracy of the caller’s facts, in each instance of dispute, the call centre operator should take the time to review the existing information and/or to conduct his own research.

3. When the caller is found to be correct, the call centre operator should offer an apology on four separate counts: One on behalf of rentalcars.com for the erroneous information given to the customer, one for the very obvious inconvenience experienced by the customer as a result of the erroneous information, one for the erroneous charges made to the customer’s credit card, and (in my case) one for the fact that the call centre operator first denied that such a charge had been made.

4. Having confirmed that a charge had been made for a service not delivered, www.rentalcars.com should organise immediately, without instructing the customer to undertake further inconvenience in the form of letters of application for refund via its website, the reimbursement in full of the erroneous charge.

5. A follow-up email of apology from www.rentalcars.com should be sent to the customer, which should include an expression of gratitude for the customer having taken the time and effort to draw to www.rentalcars.com’s attention the erroneous information being disseminated – along with an assurance, by its management, that this information will be corrected, forthwith, in order to avoid a repeat occurrence and inconvenience to other customers.

And, before banging its drum about its rentalcars.com subsidiary’s “great level of service”, the Priceline Group’s management should, anonymously, get themselves on the other end of their call centre staff’s “service”.

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