Hertz On Demand: You’re Why People Fear New Technology
I don’t use DVWLR to publish gripes about bad personal experiences with companies, but I’ve had three experiences with Hertz On Demand that directly relate to the importance of excellent execution in technology businesses.
- Sign up for free. They send you a credit card-sized card.
- Reserve a car online
- Wave the card over the car’s windshield and the car magically opens
- Pay for gas using a credit card that’s kept in the car
- Problems? Use the hands-free device in each car to contact support.
The pitch is great: using technology, Hertz simplifies the car rental experience so it’s faster, simpler, and cheaper. Go tech!
And here’s what went wrong.
It unreliable. It usually takes 10 - 20 seconds of waving it over the windshield’s sensor to lock/unlock the car. Once, it stopped working entirely and I had to wait until I could get a customer service rep on the phone to unlock the doors.
In the year between my first and second usage of Hertz On Demand, I lost my card. My mistake, but I can’t imagine that’s massively unusual.
Hertz’s rental offices don’t have new cards. In fact, only one office in Manhattan can give them out, and that’s reliant on a kiosk. When I hiked up there, the kiosk was broken, but an employee gave me one anyway, telling me I had to call customer service to activate it.
Customer service said only a kiosk could activate it, then yelled at me for asking for a manager (“What part of ‘only the kiosk can activate it’ don’t you understand?”), and then finally relented and activated it. For $20.
Each car has a device that calls customer service and connects to the car’s sound system for hands-free talking. In my last rental, the device froze. This had two consequences:
- it played on-hold Muzak for nearly my entire time in the car
- I couldn’t use the device
Because I couldn’t use the device, two things happened:
- I couldn’t retrieve my PIN to use their gas card (the PIN is not in my account info online, nor is it emailed). I had to pay with my own money, which kills the cost savings realized by using this service.
- I couldn’t end my reservation when I returned the car. They called me at 12:30am accusing me of not returning the car.
Good luck getting anyone on the phone. I wait for 57 minutes before giving up yesterday. They do have an option where you can opt to have them call you back without losing your place in line, but when I did that, they just put me on hold again.
They also beat customers up with policy nonsense. For the lost card, a rep (different from the one mentioned earlier), chastised me for not knowing it’s impossible to have two cards synched with one account, as if that’s somehow intuitive.
On my second experience with them, they texted me 10 minutes before my reservation began to tell me that my car was no longer available and I had to go to another part of town to get one. When I called about this, the woman lectured me about how they “can’t control everything,” then cancelled my reservation, and then finally reinstate it (at the new location, still).
Okay, So What’s My Point?
Typically, I’d put this into an email and send it to the company. So why publish it here?
Experiences like this scare people away from change. It makes people say things like, “that new thing doesn’t work. What’s wrong with the way it was?” or “I don’t trust those new services.”
And that irritates me. I’m obviously a strong proponent of progress through technology (so brave!) so when a big company gives lots of people a solid reason to resist change, that’s a problem.
Separately, it illustrates why great execution is crucial when asking people to adopt a new behavior. I think many people are happy to try something new, but their patience is limited. After a couple bad experiences, many people will stick with the tried and true method.
The lesson for startups and big companies alike is that execution matters and details matter. Hertz copied the good parts of Zipcar’s model, invested in massive infrastructure to create this service, and deployed it to much fanfare. However, the mediocre execution tanks the service.