Sometimes it’s just too hard to do business | FP Advance

Sometimes it’s just too hard to do business

BY brett

Man sitting on an arrow with money flying away

I flew to Sydney recently and experienced an epic fail from three (yes three) car rental companies. 

Here’s what happened. 

I had to fly to Australia recently at very short notice. In the rush to get on a flight I didn’t book a rental car to pick up at Sydney Airport, before I left. 

“No problem” I thought. “I’ll just get it sorted when I arrive.” 

How hard can it be?

Plenty hard as it turns out.

I approached the first rental car company. Not one one I’d used before, but  one I was interested to try after reading good online reviews. 

I asked to rent a car for two days and was given the price. I thought to myself, “Jeez that seems like a lot of money for two days.” I told the person on the counter that I’d go and check out a rate online.

That was lost sale number 1.

I wasn’t in a hurry to leave the airport as it was rush hour in Sydney. So I went and grabbed a coffee and tried my usual car rental company with an online booking. All sorted and considerably cheaper than the rate I’d just been quoted. 

I booked the pick up time for 90 minutes hence, giving the Sydney traffic time to clear. 

When I went to pick up my car, the  sales assistant told me they had no cars ready. One of their staff was bringing across two cars for other customers from somewhere else. She said I could be waiting some time. I said, “Like half an hour or an hour?” And she replied gravely; “No, much longer.”

That was lost sale number 2.

At the next car rental counter (a third company), I’d seen two different people happily renting a vehicle. So I went online again and booked a car with them. Even cheaper than the second price. “Here we go, I thought.”

When I approached the counter I was told my online booking wouldn’t come through to them for maybe 30 to 60 minutes. 

I showed this person my online booking, which they acknowledged. 

I said, “Why don’t you just book me a car directly then? I’m here and ready to hire one.” She made a booking and quoted me the rate. 

Yep, it was much higher than my online rate. 

I couldn’t take it anymore.

That was lost sale number 3.

I gave up on car rentals and caught a taxi to my sister-in-law’s place, where I was staying.

What are the business lessons from this experience?

Lessons Learned FP Advance
  1. Management thinker Peter Drucker is often quoted as saying that “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.”

    Nowhere do these car companies seem to collect data on my attempt to purchase their services. This was not a close call. I was there, I wanted a car (badly) and I was ready to buy. This is a pretty dismal failure and it’s not going to show up in their management information anywhere.

  2. I wasn’t annoyed with the staff at the counter. Clearly they had no authority and no options

    Management have created the process and they are the only ones that can change the process. Do the executives in these companies ever try to buy from themselves, or their competitors?

  3. By charging extra for walk-ups (as opposed to online bookings), how much money do you reckon they actually make as extras each year?

    Even if I had paid the higher price, I would now have learned my lesson and, in future,  booked online in advance (like I normally do). So I’m thinking the lifetime profit from this crappy approach is not actually very large. But the lost business side of the ledger could be much, much  higher.

    They’ve certainly not built any loyalty or relationship. Yet I bet their marketing programmes spend hundreds of millions globally each year to try and do just that.

What great looks like

Here’s a different client experience.

A family leaves the Ritz Carlton hotel and several hours later realise they’ve forgotten Joshie The Giraffe, the favourite toy of one of their children.

They call the hotel who promise to see if they can locate it. 

The loss prevention team at Ritz Carlton go into action. 

One of the team goes to the hotel laundry and goes through all of the dirty linen, eventually finding Joshie. 

Packaging him up and posting him home would have met expectations. But that’s not what they did.

If you look at the photos below, you’ll see they took a bunch of snaps of Joshie having an absolute ball at the hotel, before being sent home. 

  • Sunning himself by the pool
  • Working with the security team in the security room
  • Getting a massage
  • Driving a golf cart

The photos and a short note from the loss prevention team were included in the box that Joshie returned in. 

Do you reckon that family will remember the service they received from Ritz Carlton?

Do you think they might feel like they have a relationship with that hotel chain?

How hard would it be to stay with another hotel group thereafter?

How much care, support, training and autonomy does Ritz Carlton give its staff? (A lot more than car rental companies it seems).

If you spot it you’ve got it

It’s easy to be critical. But do we do any of this in our own businesses? 

Where do you make it difficult for people to buy from you?

In the 21st century these issues are often referred to as friction, and people just won’t wear the levels of friction that might have been acceptable even 5 years ago. 

Maybe it’s time to take a look at the engagement and onboarding process, just to be sure that you’re not putting too many hurdles in the way of people looking to buy your services.

Let me know how you go.


It’s easy to be critical. But do we do any of this in our own businesses?


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ABOUT BRETT DAVIDSON

When you work with FP Advance you work with me, Brett Davidson, directly. My motto is ‘advise better, live better’ and I practice what I preach. I’m straight talking and get to the heart of an issue quickly. There’s no beating about the bush, just a focus on helping things improve. Ask my clients – what I teach works.