Hertz Survey Flawed

[See March 5, 2008 Update below]

Are companies ever going to “get it”? I like Hertz. But, boy this email I got from Joseph Nothwang, made me really wonder whether they have a clue. He claims to be the “executive vice-president and president of vehicle rental and leasing for the Americas and the Pacific”. Huh? Is that the most ridiculous and overly lofty title you’ve ever heard? How can you be the Executive Vice-President and the President at the same time? I’m not sure I even want to know. What irritated me most about his title is that Hertz apparently dumps the good ol’ U.S. of A. in with all the other “Americas”. What? Is the USA just a mere player in “the Americas”? Hey Hertz! Don’t send me email like this from your stinkin’ globalist department. I’m not part of your one-world NAFTA thinking.

As a valued customer, we would appreciate your taking a moment to complete this brief four-question Customer Satisfaction Survey regarding your recent rental at XXXXXXXXX. Your comments will help us gauge how well we performed on your rental and will enable us to enhance your rental service.

If you have already completed this survey by calling the telephone number, or accessing the website noted on your rental receipt, we thank you.

Use the following link to complete the Customer Satisfaction Survey.

Please do not reply to this email since such responses are not reviewed. If you need customer assistance, you may contact us by using the “Contact Us” link on hertz.com.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to serve you.


Joseph R. Nothwang
Executive Vice President and President
Vehicle Rental and Leasing
The Americas and Pacific
The Hertz Corporation

Of course, worse is that I can’t reply to the email directly because “such responses are not reviewed”. So, basically, here’s my interpretation of Mr. Nothwang’s real message.

Dear customer,

Give us some free information. We need it for our own reasons which, well, you wouldn’t understand. We can’t promise you anything will come of it and we certainly won’t compensate you for it directly. We thought about at least offering some chance at winning a free prize like everyone else does, but that seemed, well, just too American and capitalist. Being that I represent all the Americas, we thought that we’d take a more dictatorial stance and just pretty much hope to make you work for free. That way we won’t offend other countries in “The Americas” where freedom and capitalism are less respected - like Venezuela, Columbia, and Canada. Well, the French part of Canada anyway.

As you can see, being the executive vice-president AND the president is very busy for me, so unless you fill in some little bubbles and let our third-party survey company Mindshare just compile all your responses in the aggregate, will be managing blindly, so you need to help us. Besides, we gave you a pretty good rate, so don’t you owe it to us to help us out?

That’s pretty much how I read it. And this is pretty much my response to it. Get it together, Hertz.

UPDATE March 5, 2008: Apparently, after I posted this, some ne’er-do-wells started using the link from the email, which I had unknowingly included by way of cutting and pasting. It turns out that the link still worked, so these numbskulls went ahead and filled out gripes about their personal rentals - from Ohio, Alabama, wherever.

The company that does the surveys for Hertz, Mindshare, apparently didn’t disable the links, even though it was explicitly tied to my rental agreement number. So, guess what? Suddenly, my local Hertz office starts getting all these bad surveys which cause them to rank poorly within their district.

How do I know all this? Because Jeff Scarincio, the location manager in Melbourne, took the time to call me, a bit confused how he suddenly started getting bad surveys from all over the country on a single rental agreement. I initially thought he was kidding. He wasn’t. A few weeks later when I went to pick up another rental, he showed me some of the surveys they had been receiving.

Here’s what I find really stunning. Not only did Mindshare allow the surveys to be submitted repeatedly for the same rental agreement (that’s just plain lazy programming), but then Hertz accepted them, prima facie, and passed the poor surveys onto Jeff’s office and lowered his office’s score. Worse, when Jeff originally told management it was an error, they didn’t immediately yank the obviously false surveys, but began an inquiry to look into it. Well, this is my two cents worth that someone at Hertz needs to show a little more respect toward the local offices that make or break the company.

What’s particularly stunning is that the surveys I saw were about people whining about their individual cars (didn’t like the vehicle), or other such sundry nonsense - and yet the rental offices are the ones getting dinged negatively for comments that, at least in some people’s cases, are the fault of Hertz corporate. What’s more bizarre is that Hertz doesn’t seem to be looking at the information in bulk to determine where flaws within the company exist. They instead pass them down to the local branch and just let the chips fall where they may. Allstate used to try and do that as well - and we all know how well they’re doing these days.

If top corporate management doesn’t get daily statistical breakdowns of these surveys with trend indicators and historical charts, it’s pretty much useless data. “What gets measured, gets done.”

A few good managers like Jeff probably take it personally and try and resolve all issues. But since many issues at Hertz (like many companies) stem from policies and decisions created above the branch level, those will recur on survey after survey, never being corrected, except by the whining and complaining of the employees who see it day-after-day. That shouldn’t be. A company’s employees shouldn’t be burdened and annoyed by having to be the voice of the customer, essentially having a shouting contest to try and get things fixed so they don’t get their branch hit for negative points.

I really wonder how much Hertz is paying for these surveys to go out. They are not providing the quality data that the company needs, they are being delivered erroneously and to the wrong people, and aren’t causing the needed change for the company to be profitable and successful. Considering how narrow the profit margins are in the rental car industry, and considering Hertz’s own rocky history as of late, you’d think the company would place greater stock into turning themselves back into a great company. Unfortunately, I’m just not seeing it. It’s really too bad for all the employees that have invested such time in building the company. To see the company treat precious customer feedback so poorly must really discourage them.

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