Categories: Founder's Blog


Sam Bayer


When websites go down

Every so often I have a customer service experience that provides me with a “learning moment”.  Either I’m so impressed with the experience that I want to figure out how to emulate it at b2b2dot0, or it is so weird or abysmal that I’m left wondering how things got that bad for that company, and I wonder how I’m going to inoculate us from that same disease.

This learning moment is brought to you by the Hertz Corporation.

It all started earlier this week when I tried to reserve a car for a quick trip up to Sterling, VA from my home base of Raleigh, NC.  I’m a Hertz Gold Member so going to their website is usually the fastest way to make a reservation…except on this day when my first couple of login attempts served this web page:


To Hertz’s credit, I did retry a few moments later and was able to login and make my reservation.  But the words they chose to use in the third line of this message really struck me as odd.  If you read it carefully, their implication is that using the Hertz website is not a “direct” way of communicating with them.  Only phone calls or emails get to them “directly”.

Say what?

From a reservation perspective, the database that the website updates IS Hertz.  The customer service reps that you speak with (or email) are only intermediaries to the reservation system. I know I’m getting a little picky here, but words matter.  In 2010, our expectations are that eCommerce websites are a direct channel into our supplier’s systems.  Using a website to transact normal business isn’t a backup system for when people aren’t available.  It’s the other way around.  We prefer to reserve our conversations with humans for when either our transactions are too complicated for the website to handle or we’re trying to resolve an issue that only yelling at a human being would provide relief :-).

Anyway, I finally got through, made the reservation and picked up the car at the airport on Thursday morning.  As soon as I got out of the Hertz parking lot I knew I was in trouble.  The first time I accelerated I was overwhelmed by a loud groaning sound and when I applied the brakes I was placing bets as to whether the car would actually come to a full stop in time.  (Where are the Car Talk guys when you need them?) I probably should have turned around and gotten a replacement car right then and there, but I was running late and decided I could put up with it for my 500 mile round-trip.

Fast forward two days and I was back at the airport returning this clunker.  I was resolved to make sure that no one else would be allowed to rent this car until it got serviced.  The Hertz agent that greeted me started playing his memorized spiel.

Agent:    Was everything OK with your rental?
Sam:       No.  This was the worst car that I’ve ever rented.  I don’t think it’s safe.
Agent:    Sorry to hear that.  Would you like to leave this on your credit card?
Sam:        Yes.  That would be fine.  But I really don’t think anyone else should rent this car until a mechanic takes care of it.
Agent:     OK…ripping my receipt off of his portable printer… Your total today is $162 and thank you for renting from Hertz.
Sam:        That’s it???? … Am I not going to get a discount?  Are you not going to mark this car as disabled?  Shouldn’t you enter something into the computer? Did you hear what I just said?…Please do me a favor and make sure noone else rents this car.
Agent:      Thank you sir…as he walks by me to process the car that just pulled in behind me.

And there you have it!  I have zero faith that this car is going to be taken off the road.  My only hope is that the next person that gets it is in less of a rush and issues his complaint at the beginning of the rental process.  I’m certain that that will instigate the appropriate response from the local rental agent.

As for b2b2dot0, I’m just thankful that we’re no Hertz.


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