Last week I made a brief trip to Orlando, Florida as part of my book tour and came across a classic mistake made by customer service reps at the Dollar Rental Car counter. I’m not picking on Dollar here. A lot of companies make this mistake.
The line at Dollar snaked 12 – 15 people deep at nearly midnight. I couldn’t figure out why Dollar had such a long line so late at night when none of the other car counters had more than a person or two waiting. When my turn to walk to the counter—45 minutes later—finally arrived, I figured it out quickly.
The customer service reps rattled through a lengthy list of upsell items, like extra driver, automated toll booth payments, long-winded pitches for additional insurance coverage, etc. to each person who came to the counter after that person had waited for the better part of an hour in line. It’s a classic communication mistake. Sure those upsell items could, in theory, make Dollar more money. But in reality no one was taking up the service reps on the upsell attempts because the service reps had made everyone wait so long while they rolled through their lengthy, cookie-cutter, approach to customer service. That can cost Dollar—and any other company that uses that approach—more money in lost business than it makes trying to sell added features at the wrong time.
After midnight, travelers want to get in their rental cars and head to their hotels. They don’t want to wait in line and after waiting in line listen to a long list of options they don’t want to buy because they don’t trust the service rep trying to sell them.
There is a time and a place for upselling, but that time always comes after you have met the customer’s primary need and objective. Dollar—along with many companies—should consider modifying its training program to empower customer service reps to better understand the path to influence.
Effective customer communication involves more than following a script. It also involves following instinct and knowing that until you meet a customers basic expectations you shouldn’t try to sell that customer on additional features.