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Hire Vans and Sports Cars: The Two-Way Street of Customer Service

Moving house. The death of a loved one. Divorce. A major illness. Losing your job. It’s fair to say I only wanted one of the “five most stressful life events” to happen this year.

It’s also something I thought was way out of reach. But the stars aligned. Things were forced fell into place. And that meant spending a month gearing up for our big moving day.

The last thing I wanted to deal with after a month of painful prepping was a complete and utter cockup by the van hire company.

Let me backtrack a little.

A few weeks before we closed on our house, Cat and I had packed the majority of our belongings into boxes.

While usually we fly by the seat of our collective pants, this time we wanted to be like Scouts. Prepared. Perhaps to the extreme. 😬

We took the opportunity to go full “Marie Kondo” on our life. We were ruthless.

Me: Does this random pair of socks fill you with the warm and fuzzies?
Cat: No?
Me: Bin them!
Do these books instill a sense of joy and contentment?
Cat: Not particula…
Me: Throw them away!
Cat: How about this pair of…
Me: JUST BURN IT ALL WITH HELLFIRE! 🔥👹🔥

What can I say, I we got carried away. Caught up in the moment. The purchase was progressing, but too slowly for my liking.

We wanted, nay, needed to do something. Anything to feel productive.

Thing is, at the time what we thought would be an intense but joyful life detox turned into a violent KonMari-fuelled purge.

Bootload after boot load found its way to recycling centers and charity shops. Whatever survived remained was crammed into suitcases, trash bags and boxes ready to be thrown into the van we’d eventually hire and unloaded with great ease.

It was stressful, but we were being our future friends.

Well, that was the plan.

Needless to say, the purge hadn’t resulted in the KonMari’d living space we were hoping for. When you cram the contents of a combined 59 years worth of life into boxes and suitcases, things tend to get a little... messy.

Even post “unwanted crap reckoning”.

But at least we were prepared for every eventual outcome. Weren’t we? 🤔

Some Time Passed

Weeks later and boxed living had paid off. Sort of!

I'll try to remember it with fondness, because I'm making a conscious effort to be more positive. 😏

The trouble with buying a genuine fixer-upper type home is that you find yourself needing to purchase a lot of stuff you didn’t have before. 🏚

Our new home was kitchen-less, in the most literal sense of the phrase. There was barely a floor! I shit you not!

Cat had gone on a manic Facebook Marketplace spree. Bargain after bargain found its way into our boxed living space.

Huge household appliances. Furniture. More empty boxes to store the boxes. And more boxes for those boxes.

We’d spent weeks eating from camping plates. Using travel mugs and a limited supply of utensils. Rotating through 3 changes of clothes. Just to stay prepared for the big day.

It wasn’t long before we’d become pro at vaulting appliances as part of our morning routine. I swear if they ever bring “The Washing Machine Jump” to the Olympics, we’re guaranteed a gold.

It’s fair to say we’d added to the life-crap a little. But all it meant was that we’d have to be time-savvy.

It’ll be fine. We get the van at 9am, and can just blast through trip after trip.

Yeah…right!

😢

I’m so Sorry, Your Van’s Not Here!

There are a few things you don’t really want to hear when you’re picking up a van on a time-sensitive moving day.

That warning light’s nothing to worry about.

Oh no, the price didn’t include keys or doors.

And

The last person who hired it had some problems with the brakes, but I’m sure it worked itself out.

Are all up there.

For me, the kicker was when the unlucky employee, Siobhan, delivered this wonderful nugget of service gold:

I’m really sorry. I know you don't want to hear this, but it looks like your van is at our Broadstairs depot.

Apologise. Check ✅
Show empathy. Check ✅
Explain the situation. Check ✅

Weeks of frugal living and hardcore preparedness. Hours of manouvering around bubble-wrap filled cardboard traps. MY WASHING MACHINE VAULT RECORD!

All for nought, with the utterance of a few words.

Our organisational skills foiled by a text-book service response from a management trainee in a dull grey and white office.

The one thing I couldn’t control had been utterly screwed up.

It’s fair to say I wasn’t pleased about this.

Actually, inside I was fucking raging. 😡 And it didn't look like anyone was going to do anything.

Now, regular readers of this ‘ere blog might be expecting me to go off on a tirade. Those of you who know me, even just a little, might be gearing up for a rant against shitty customer service in van rental companies.

Alas, you’re sure to be disappointed. 🤷🏻‍♂️

You see, the van had been booked to be collected from the company’s Canterbury branch. Broadstairs is a 40-45 minute run in the opposite direction, which would eat into at least 2 hours of the already stretched moving day schedule.

Don’t get me wrong. I too was gearing up to be my usual pissy self. But I took a moment and stepped back to think about what I was being told.

The van wasn’t here. But this was news to them, too. They were expecting it, just as I was. It's not like this was some massive consipiracy to get me to their office and torment me.

I mean it felt like it might have been. You can never be sure who's watching, after all! Hey Google! 👀

The thing is, the rental company doesn’t have a local stock of vans. Whenever one’s booked, they request it from a kind of area hub.

It made sense. It’s more efficient. It avoids having a bunch of vans sat at each of their depots collecting rust.

While they were expecting my van to be delivered to the Canterbury depot that morning, the last customer had decided to drop it at Broadstairs.

Add to this the fact their internal software had gone haywire and you have a recipe for an A-grade rental balls up.

The Resolution will not be Televised

What happened next was unexpected, to say the least.

To be honest, I was raging so fiercely inside that I expected pushback. Some excuse.

Fobbing me off with some fall back in their terms and conditions that says they don't have to actually provide you with the vehicle you've booked because fuck you (I’ve no doubt there’s a clause that would save their asses in this situation).

But without missing a beat, Siobhan apologized.

Instead, they took responsibility and presented me with two options

Options with a caveat that neither of the options were ideal. Both kinda sucked, but it was a shitty situation. They knew it and I knew it.

They knew I knew it.

I knew they knew I knew.

We were all knowing.

Option 1: I can go get the van from Broadstairs and bring it back here. It’ll take around an hour and then we can run through the paperwork and get it all sorted.

Option 2: We can both go get the van from Broadstairs. We can do the paperwork there and you can leave there with a van. It’ll take less time to get the van, but there’ll still be the drive back.

There was, of course, a third, elephant-in-the-room-shaped option of “Leave. Get a van from someone else and fight with the company for a refund.”

I chose option 2.

It seemed like the quickest way to get my hands on the keys, and from there I could do as I pleased. 🤷🏻‍♂️

After confirming with their boss, we headed outside to jump into a car and head out on our service-driven adventure. This is where the resolution really took on a life of its own.

As we scoured the lot for an available car, I expected to hop into a worn-down, run-of-the-mill hatchback. Siobhan had other ideas, making their way past the standard-level rentals in a b-line toward a glistening red saloon. 🚗

Let’s take this one. We might as well get you there in style!

I have no doubt Siobhan knew I’d be pretty stoked to jump into the brand new Jaguar XE. As I did, my complaints slowly melted into the soft leather of the passenger seat and purred into the rearview mirror as we began our journey to Broadstairs.

Above and Beyond

I’m not the most confident of people, so the idea of 45 minutes stuck in a car—even one as plush as the Jag—was enough to make my stomach churn.

The journey was not as terrible as you might imagine it to be.

Thankfully, the conversation was open, apologetic and friendly. And was accompanied by the occasional stomach tensing and arsehole clenching reminder of riding in a turbocharged Jaguar.

By the time we reached our destination, I wasn’t too bothered about the 2 hours that had been swiped from my day’s schedule. I hadn’t been thinking about the fact that we’d have to be super organized to get everything done in time.

I was content that the company and their employees had done all they could to resolve the issue in as easy and pain-free a way as possible.

Of course, the paperwork process wasn’t as smooth as I might have liked. It never is. But this time it wasn’t helped by the company’s entire network of software crapping out. ⚠️

It was just really shitty luck and I certainly wasn’t looking for someone to blame. Nevertheless, Siobhan offered a final peace gesture and waived the requirement to bring the van back with an equal fuel tank.

As I reflect on the service, I’m conscious of the many ways the morning could have gone after the initial screw up.

I could’ve been angry. No doubt I'd have been justified. But that would've made the resolution a lot harder to come by.

‘Cause let’s face it, would you offer to drive someone 45 minutes if they’d been abusive toward you? I know I wouldn’t.

Being on the delivery side of support has given me some much-needed perspective on what makes good and bad customer experiences.

Coupled with my interaction with Siobhan, I’ve realized great service is a two-way street. Both the customer and agent have equal influence over whether an outcome is positive or negative.

…Or maybe I was just won over by a cheery persona and a ride in a shiny new sports car. 🚗

Hire Vans and Sports Cars: The Two-Way Street of Customer Service
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