Does Membership Have Its Privileges?

While on a recent business trip, I had the misfortune of suffering through a deliberately designed customer experience gone awry. Let me describe the situation. As I step off the plane in Boston, I’m excited that my early morning flight arrives on time. Having decided to fly out Membership privilegesMonday morning rather than Sunday evening, my schedule is pretty tight to get from airport to office for my first in-person meeting of the day. So far, I’m on time and dragging my carryon luggage behind me to catch the rental car shuttle.

As those of you who travel through the Boston airport know, the rental car facility is located off-premise and you have to take a 10-15 minute shuttle between the two locations. Sitting on the bus, I think to myself, “Morning’s going great … ontime flight (check), shuttle bus ontime (check) … make it to my first meeting ontime… no problem … I’m a loyal member with my rental car company and can walk straight to my car.”

Cue foreshadowing music … Dun Dun Dun.

I should have known better than to jinx myself but carried that good feeling with me as I passed the rewards board showing my car was in stall AA. No sweat. Head down the row to find… No car. How can there not be a car in the spot? What now?

Quickly, I run through my options:

  1. Take another car? No, that won’t work it will just mess with someone else’s trip and I won’t likely make it out the gate.
  2. Wait to see if my car hasn’t shown up yet? No, I need to take action as I’m on a tight schedule.
  3. Head back to the rewards customer service desk. I’ve had to talk with them before and they can help me out.

Option 3 it is, and I head to the customer service desk. Fortunately, I’m only the second person in line. I quickly move to the front of the line and explain my situation. The attendant tells me to take any of the cars in a specific section of the garage as they are “free game." Great, a simple answer. I’ll certainly still be on time.

As I approach the”free game” section of the garage, I quickly realize there are no cars in this section and see another person who’s in the same situation. Quickly, I go through my options again: Option 1, Option 2, or Option 3. This time I choose Option 2. I’ll wait to see if a car shows up in the “free game” section while monitoring the stall where my orginial car was supposed to be. Five minutes go by and nothing. Time to pick another option.

I choose Option 3, again. New service representative who I explain my situation to and she says… “We’ve got a car for you in stall BB.” Great. Proceed to stall BB and find… no car in stall BB.

Choose Option 3, again. Must get a solution fast as I’m running out of time. Same representative… “I’m really sorry and since you’ve had such trouble and have waited so long here’s a travel voucher.” While reading the voucher I think, “I don’t want a voucher, I want a car. Why are you wasting your money when all I really need are 4 wheels?”

Representative now says, “We have a car for you in stall CC. Let me walk with you to make sure it’s there.” Wow, I truly appreciated her personal touch and concern for getting me into a car. This action made the experience less painful and was way more important to my satisfaction than the voucher.

Finally, in a car and off to my meetings. Fortunately, I made it on time but not without great pains.

Which brings me back to the original question: Does membership have its privileges? Unfortunately, not this time. Many other times, my membership and the deliberately designed rental car experience provided by this company worked seamlessly. This time though, I watched many others who didn’t have membership fly by me from the customer service desk into their cars and roll away.

For me, this unfortunate example highlights a couple of important lessons. Lessons I lean on while redefining some of the customer experiences we provide at GE’s Intelligent Platforms business:

  1. An experience for a customer with pre-defined high expectations is easier to disappoint than a customer with no expectations.
  2. If a pre-defined experience exists, it must have people, process, and technology guard rails that keep it on track. Without such measures, you’re guaranteed to underwhelm your customer’s expectations. In this case, thanks to the second attendant who saw my pain and stepped in when the technology and process broke to make it a little more bearable.

As I continue to advocate for and redesign experiences, it’s my goal to set clear achievable expectations that require less effort on your part and enhance reliability with us at GE's Intelligent Platforms business.

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