About a week ago, I had to move some furniture. This project involved driving all over the
Bay Area -- to
Renting the truck itself was easy enough. Along with a high school kid (one of my personal rules for navigating middle age is to use high school kids whenever possible – for instance, if you are having a birthday party for a bunch of 6‑year-olds, hiring two or three high school girls to help makes it infinitely easier and can actually make it pleasant) I lifted and pushed and cursed and sweated my way through the day.
At the end of the day, it was time to return the truck to U‑Haul. The deadline was 7:00 p.m. I arrived with the truck literally at 7:02. I drove into the parking lot, which was still open, stopped the truck, got out, and was met by a U‑Haul employee. It didn’t look good.
This employee, who had his arms folded, told me that because it was 7:02, all the computers in the store (which was still filled with working U‑Haul employees) had been shut down, they could not process my return of the truck, and furthermore, I would have to take the truck out of the lot and park it on the street overnight. U‑Haul would then retrieve the truck in the morning, drive it onto the lot (to the exact spot where it now stood) and then it would be officially "returned". I would have to pay for an additional day of rental.
I had no choice. I did as he commanded. I then wrote a fairly nasty email to U‑Haul's customer service , expressing my annoyance (to put it politely) at this entire sequence of events.
Right after clicking the "send" button on the web site, I received a machine-generated letter thanking me for my email and telling me they would get back to me.
Today, they did. Granted, it was over a week since the original incident, but today I received not one, but two telephone calls from the manager of the U‑Haul store where I had rented my truck. He apologized repeatedly, he offered me a 50 percent discount on my next rental with U‑Haul, he explained that his predecessor had been fired for similar customer service atrocities, and all in all, he made me aware that he regretted the incident, and would take steps to ensure it never happened again.
Whether or not it ever happens again is not the point. The amount of money the manager offered me in
recompense for my inconvenience is not the point. The delay between the incident and the phone
call is not the point. Then what, is the
The point is, that in dealing with clients, in many
situations, what matters is not the magnitude or nature of the mistake, but the
firm's response to the mistake. It does not matter how much of a mess you make, it matters how sincere
you are about cleaning it up, and how quickly you attempt to do it. Often, you cannot only repair a relationship,
but you can strengthen it.
I am still not thrilled with U‑Haul. However, I am no longer angry with them, and would definitely consider renting from them again. All because of the way they responded to the mistake – not the mistake itself.