Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group Inc. Responds Quickly to resident parking issuesDollar Thrifty Automotive Group, LaGuardia Airport, NY
Written with Keith Adams, Station Manager
|98% of unhappy customers come back because Dollar Thrifty addresses issues immediately. Unhappy customer alerts are automatically e-mailed to management.|
Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group is one of the top rental car companies in the US, but many people don't know we are also the fourth largest parking service company in the country. Most of our parking customers are business executives who use our frequent parking programs at airports.
I had a dilemma in 2006. The demand for parking at LaGuardia Airport was shrinking, price increases were necessary, our competitors there had larger facilities with more buses and lower prices, and still I had a goal of growing sales 20% in 2007. Several things had to be in line for us to hit our goal: all of our people needed to be onboard; front line workers had to be empowered to make decisions; and we needed to speed up delivery of cars to arriving customers.
Real-time feedback allowed us to set feedback thresholds
One of our problems was that we had no real-time customer feedback, which is critical for identifying problems, responding to them quickly, and locking in repeat business. We teamed up with Survey Advantage and integrated a short survey into each customer's e-receipt. One of the features we like best is our ability to set feedback thresholds. If any survey response falls below that threshold, it is automatically forwarded to the manager(s) we designate, complete with contact information, so they can follow up with the customer that same day. That has really "wowed" some of our customers.
With our new system, we can track problems back to the actual event or ticket number, which allows front line managers to pinpoint problems and take corrective action. Another nice feature is the online report I receive daily via email. It contains a link to all of the previous day's survey results. I can look for trends, read all of the comments at once, or click into individual surveys to read individual comments.
Exposed weak points and allowed for immediate correction
Within days of implementing the system, we started getting a clear picture of where our weak points were. For instance, complaints consistently pointed to unusually long waits on Sundays and Mondays. We identified one common denominator on both days, made some changes, and the long delays went away immediately.
Feedback on other delays provided us the opportunity to educate our customers. Customers complained that while they waited at the terminal, they might see our competitors' buses several times before they would see ours. Well, that's sometimes true - but it gave us the chance to explain that we are a smaller company, and while we don't have as many buses, our size allows us to keep rates competitive and to provide more personalized service.
Educated customers on how to better use our services
With our better understanding of where and when delays occur, we are also able to educate customers about what they can do to help speed service. We now encourage customers to call us only after they have their baggage and to give us their ticket number so we can have their car ready. Feedback helped us understand the problems that result when the car a customer is using is not the car in his/her profile. As a result, we are changing our system to accommodate multiple cars in the user profile and enabling our customers to indicate which car they are using - that way we can find the right car and have it waiting when they get off the bus.
I am candid with customers as we discuss Dollar's strengths and weaknesses and how we can work together to improve our service. Customers have told me that our willingness to hear and respond to their needs is a breath of fresh air. And the results speak for themselves: even with a shrinking market and lots of competition, we have raised revenues 24% year over year, and our complaint ratio dropped by 9% in just a few months."