This is about a recent customer experience I had with Avis which has cost them my loyalty.

This is not just a rant, annoyed as I am. I’ve started capturing this kind of story as a way of illustrating what good or bad customer experiences look like for my new eBook / trend report. Its unfortunate I had to be the one experiencing it but I’ll put it down to research costs 🙂

The ironic thing is I am a Preferred member (to their loyalty scheme) and have given them my loyalty for many years. No longer. You could see this as an outcome of my experience – impact on customer loyalty. Another is the fact I’m so incensed I’m writing about and sharing this.

I used to hire cars at least every other month for work purposes over a period of 1-2 years about 4 years ago. Thats when I signed up to the Avis Preferred scheme. I’ve been using it less since then but at least a few times a year (work and personal) and had stuck with Avis throughout.

The Experience

I went on holiday to Italy for a week on the 26th of August this year with my daughter.

I rented with Avis as I do countless other times – I use their online booking platform. I’ve often had problems with it functioning as expected but not this time which anyway is not the point of this story.

I had to book to return the car at a time when the returns office was not open as my flight back was too early.

I picked up the car in Venice. It was busy. The wait was really long and my Preferred status was of no use. When I eventually got to the counter to process check-in, I asked about dropping the car off at such an early hour. I was assured it would be no problem and I could pop the keys off in a box outside the office.

I scanned the car before setting off as I always do and could see no untoward damage apart from some standard scuff marks as I had often found. I had waived additional insurance as I typically do so always check on these things.

I had a great holiday. My daughter and I arrived early on the 2nd of September and dropped the car off. Again I walked around the car with my daughter and the car looked exactly as I had found it. I dropped the keys in a box outside the closed door of the office where there was someone inside cleaning – he noted me and carried on cleaning.

The picture below was taken from the business class lounge and you can see how early it was.

venice airport.png

We landed and while waiting for baggage I checked various messages. Two were emails from Avis. One apologised for my wait on first picking up my car and offering me an upgrade the next time I hired a car.

The other told me they had found a scuff on the car that allegedly was not there before they had given me the car and that they would be charging me € 293.02 for the damage. Below is the evidence they produced which I struggled then and now to make head or tail of – check alternating positions between zoomed out and close up.

Avis damage 1
Click to enlarge
Avis damage 2
Click to enlarge

I immediately (still waiting for luggage) tried to call them but the various options all said they were only available during weekly working hours. I then replied to the first mail apologising for the wait saying I had no problem with the delays but I did with the accusation of damage and the charge. I strenuously denied I had caused any damage AND refused to accept the unreasonable charge.

Moments later I received a response from the same person that had apologised saying he would look into it for me.

On the 26th of September after getting back to work and a busy period where I forgot about the issue I received an email to say that the amount had been charged to me. I confirmed that after looking at my bank statement online.

I immediately called up and after an interminable wait got through to someone. I questioned why I had been charged without being given the chance to go through a due process and after not hearing back at all on my first mail.

They asked me to mail through my initial mail which I did and that they would come back to me within sixteen days with an answer.

Sixteen days came and went and still nothing. On the 21st of October I called again and after another very long wait I got through to someone. They acknowledged they had failed to reply within their stipulated time and again apologised for this and that I had to call them. They promised a response within 48 hours.

I received an email within that time and the response was basically that they would not refund me the amount and that was it.

Why I have such an issue and this is a bad experience:

  1. Their lack of due process which presumes me guilty and takes my money before I’ve been able to resolve the matter – I have still not been able to discuss and dispute this properly. I’ve not been able to speak to anyone other than a call agent who did not deal with my case. And I was only ever pointed to email as a means of communication.
  2. Their disjointed response management – I communicated with the hiring office in Italy, the UK call centre and the damages department. There was no single thread of communication between Avis and I and these three entities which is what they point to for delays and lack of response on my first dispute. This is their problem not mine yet I suffered the impact.
  3. The time it took to get to an answer.
  4. The fact I had to chase them.
  5. The unreasonable cost. If I concluded the fault was mine which I have still not, surely Avis must be able to get this repaired at far lower cost? I assume they have many of these cases and cars needing to be repaired at once so must be able to get better rates – why have they passed this exorbitant cost onto the customer?

Avis does not try harderI remember when I did my Masters in Marketing we studied Avis as an example of masterful positioning – their “We Try Harder” campaign which they still use. Its a pity they no longer live up to that claim, if they ever did. Well at least they won’t have to try harder for this person who is no longer a customer.

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