Enterprise Rent-A-Car Gets Customer Loyalty Right

We’ve talked about loyalty programs in this column for years. Today, we’ll look at one company that’s successfully implemented a customer loyalty program. Its success relies on buy-in from every customer-facing employee, and clear communications policies.

Business travel keeps me on the road for a large part of the year. I drive rental cars for at least nine weeks every year. Over the last 12 years, I’ve rented hundreds of cars indiscriminately from every major company. I don’t have loyalty to any rental car company, so I look for the cheapest rates available when I book my travel.

Last week I rented from Enterprise in Arizona. I think it was my first time renting from them. Everyone just seemed nicer. Are people just nicer there, or is it the Enterprise corporate culture? I’ll certainly need a few more data points before I know.

They offered me a bottle of water (it was really hot outside), and took their time with me. When I got the car, the woman asked me if I was on business, and if I travel a lot for business. I said yes and gave her my card when she asked. She told me they had a no-obligation business program and (with my permission) would pass my card on.

When I picked up the car, the attendant also asked me if I traveled for business and explained more about the business program. I told him I had given my card to the woman at the desk. Neither of them was pushy about this. They seemed to just want to save me time and money.

About a week after my trip, Enterprise called me. The gentleman on the phone explained more about the program, and listened carefully to my needs. Instead of fixed price, my company is on a percentage off program based on the available rates (which makes more sense to me than a fixed price that may or may not be lower than street prices). He told me I’d be receiving my package in the mail.

I received that package two days ago. Then I received two e-mails yesterday: one was a PDF version of the mailing, the other was information on how to register via the Web site.

The program costs nothing. The basic value proposition: I get a percentage off of list prices for car rentals. The value proposition to Enterprise: from now on, my business travel will most likely include a car rented from Enterprise.

So What?

What’s the big deal about this? Is Enterprise’s loyalty program groundbreaking? Definitely not. Are their incentives more interesting than any other company’s? No. Did they carefully balance continuous reward schedules, ratio reward schedules, and interval reward schedules to come up with a profit-maximizing formula of rewards? I doubt it (though I’m too new to the program to know).

However, Enterprise empowers its employees and gives them clear language to use when talking to customers. It also makes the customer contact chain transparent to the user: the woman at the desk started the conversation and the attendant at the car reinforced the message. A week later the man on the phone got the details and put together a package for me. This was followed by a multi-channel marketing effort in which snail mail and e-mail were synced with each other, serving as delivery mechanisms for the registration package.

I haven’t spoken to anyone at Enterprise to know if this coordination is by design, or if the people I spoke to in Arizona were simply taking initiative into their own hands, regardless of company strategy. It doesn’t matter to me, the end user. It should matter to you, the business person.

Having a loyalty program isn’t enough. Your customer-facing employees must really buy into it and understand it. They need to be empowered to bring these services to customers in a way that isn’t “salesy” or pushy. They need to understand their role in the sales cycle, and what the complete sales cycle is.

During my conversations with each of the people at Enterprise, I was fully aware that I’d be receiving a call, and when I would be giving details to someone. The process was completely transparent, and I felt good about it (and looked forward to speaking to someone when they called).

Again, some might wonder why I’m so enthused about a simple loyalty program, especially because I’ve written so much about the science behind loyalty programs (and this one isn’t sophisticated at all). As I said in a column long ago, loyalty doesn’t come from a program. It comes from great customer service and personal connections.

I was never averse to joining a loyalty program for rental cars. It’s just that no company asked me to join such a program before, or even seemed to care if they got my business again. Enterprise seems to care, and because they impressed me, they’ll get my business.

Questions, thoughts, comments? Let me know.

Until next time…


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