I have worked with several insurance clients over the years, and continue to reiterate in every visit that their “relationships” with their customers really begin when they have a claim! It’s not in the initial courting process, it’s not the referral, and it certainly isn’t the nth degree of the details about how your policy, features, functions, benefits are better than the last guy’s. You see, many relationships we all engage on a daily basis want to believe us in the early stages of any interaction or transaction, but need to believe in us, as a viable, dependable, and credible asset to invest in (buy from, work for, supply to, refer, etc.) – in essence, develop a long-term and ideally, a transformational relationship with over time.I read an interesting article on LinkedIn about becoming more customer centric and commented that:

Respectful to Dr. Gottschalk, become more “customer-centric,” as woeful as it is for many organizations, is right up there with motherhood and apple pie. Unfortunately, in many organizations, it’s also wall-art! Until the organizational structure and governance matches the customer lifecycle, few companies can be nimble enough to move with the velocity and veracity that feedback from smart touch points will demand. Said another way – entirely too many companies and their leaders are sitting on the next Kodak, and they simply don’t know it!

Which brings me to my disastrous experience with @Hertz this past weekend. As many of you know, I travel roughly 200 days a year. In many instances, I rent a car to get to my desired destination. They are 99 percent through Hertz which classifies me for their loyalty program: “#1 Club Gold Five Star.” One would think that loyalty elevates you to a premium level of responsiveness, service, and high-touch, high-care attitude. Yet the inconsistency in which they engage even their most “valuable” customers is mind boggling.

What’s fundamentally broken @Hertz and many other brands is that the promise doesn’t match the experience. When you call “Emergency Roadside Assistance,” you expect responsiveness and an exceptional level of relationship investment, not indifference, delays, or sarcasm. What’s broken @Hertz is a culture disconnected from the corporate marketing mantras and as I replied to the LinkedIn post above, an organizational structure and perhaps a broader culture that is disconnected from smart touchpoints customers use daily. In the high mountain amidst several feet of snow where I needed their help, I had terrible phone reception. So I tweeted and emailed with no replies.

So, what’s the answer. How can @Hertz and other brands begin to think differently about how they engage and influence their most valuable asset: their most loyal customer relationships? Here are several points to consider:

  1. Not all customer are created equal, so profile your most valuable customers and begin to learn key insights about them; sociologist refer to this as being “ambient aware.” The more knowledgeable you become about your most valuable relationships, the more proactively you can nurture them. @Hertz could’ve asked where I was headed for the weekend and recommended a 4WD vehicle more suitable for my destination, when I made the reservation, checked-in to get my car, or when I was leaving their lot.
  2. Segment your customers based on their needs with unique trigger points across each stages of their lifecycle. We all have preferences, so why can’t @Hertz see that I travel to the same locations for the same period of time, and anticipate the experience most relevant to me – see point #5 below.
  3. Align your capabilities by each segment of the lifecycle and create a roadmap for the capabilities gaps. I’m fairly tech-centric, so why not create a mobile app that keeps up, remembers me and my preferences, and makes the reservation-to-service-to-return that much more efficient?
  4. Create smart touchpoints to get and keep your finger on the pulse of not just what they’re saying, but what they’re doing, their likes, dislikes, preferences, tastes, and that which influences their thinking and call to action. If you follow your customers on Twitter, or at a minimum, link their social presence to your CRM system, you can learn a great deal about them!
  5. Anticipate their needs based on actionable insights from your analysis of multiple data points – you have them in various pockets in the organization. Why not use them for their benefits?
  6. Measure and reward employees based in win/win not we win. @Hertz hasn’t figured out yet that you can’t train intelligence and from my experience this weekend, they’re clearly not investing the time, effort, and resources to attract and retain the most intelligent employees in key customer-facing roles.
  7. Transform their lives! It’s not about you, it’s about how your customers are better off because of you! Only when their situation is dramatically improved, will they become advocates of your brand. Dear @Hertz – putting my life at risk doesn’t exactly lend itself well to me raving about my experiences with you!

By far, the most challenging part of the above game plan is one of organizational structure. If the structure, performance metrics, and compensation aren’t aligned with the customer segmentation and lifecycle based on their needs, brands like @Hertz will continue to confuse all that they promise with the inconsistency that they deliver.

“There’s Hertz, and then there’s ‘not-exactly'” is their most recent ad campaign that I can recall. After this past weekend’s lackluster experience, I think I’ll do more business with the guys who “try harder!”

As always, I welcome your comments.

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