Creative Commons License

Unf*cking Car Rental

Monday, August 24, 2009 at 09:19 PM EDT

The oldest case for VRM is one that has not improved since: car rental. Few business categories do a worse job of meeting specific customer demand with matching supply. Or a worse job of doing even the very limited range of services to which they limit themselves.

For example, Enterprise. I had a car booked for this evening in Santa Barbara that I would drive for the next week and return to the same airport. Price: $205. Nice deal. But, thanks to the common difficulty of getting from Airport A to Airport B, I’m arriving at 11:45 this evening, after Enterprise is closed. So I called the company from the airport in Denver, where I’m sitting now.

The robot asked if I’d like to answer a one-question survey if I stayed on line after the call. I pressed 1 for yes. The reservations agent explained that I couldn’t change the reservation for pick-up tomorrow morning, but would need a new reservation. This one would be $245. No explanation worth repeating. You can guess.

So the survey robot asked me to say whether I was satisfied with the agent’s service (not the company’s, meaning the agent gets penalized, I would guess). On a scale of 1 to 5 (where 5 is most satisfied), I gave punched in 2. The robot expressed electronic unhappiness that I was not completely satisfied, and told me to leave a detailed message. When the promt for that came, I started to talk and the robot instantly interrupted with a “Thank you,” and hung up the line.

So I want to take this opportunity to appeal to anybody in a responsible position anywhere in the car rental business to contact me and work together with us at on a customer-based solution to this kind of automated lameness. It can’t be done from the inside alone. That’s been tried and proven inadequate for way too long.

Let’s build Then Intention Economy — based on real, existing, money-in-hand intentions of real customers — rather than the broken attention-seeking and customer-screwing system we have now.