Friday, February 17, 2012

Zipcar smashed my enthusiasm

How should a company react to a customer's suggestion?

Since I am only staying 6 months in Washington, I don't want to buy a car. Renting for the duration is expensive. Furthermore, I live on the border between Washington and Maryland -- we won't even talk about the joys of trying to park when two different jurisdictions are involved in policing on-street parking! But life without a car is difficult in the US. So this led me to choose Zipcar - a car sharing service.

Zipcar is really cool: you pay by the hour or by the day. You have a broad selection of cars parked nearby. Just reserve, walk to the car, swipe you smart card and off you go! Couldn't be easier. And you can even use your smartphone as a remote control to unlock the door. The geek in me smiles from ear to ear.

Now they have many models to choose from, but my favorite model is not close by, so I asked them if they could position one to a nearby parking location. Here is how they answered me:

Dear Peter,

Hi! Thank you for the time you have taken to offer your thoughts and suggestions. We sincerely appreciate this, and do take suggestions and input seriously. While we can not act on every suggestion immediately, we compile them all for future reference and planning. If you have any further suggestions please feel free to forward them to us here at Zipcar. If you have any further questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Thanks and have a nice day!

Regards, (name)
Zipcar Member Services

What are people thinking when they write answers like this? This is classic Management 1.0 with a lot of sugar coating on top! It's quite friendly, but the meaning is clear: It ain't gonna happen. Ice water. Disappointment.

Now, I have really don't have anything bad to say about Zipcar. But my inner self is saying, 'yet another soulless corporation'. In my eyes, Zipcar's NPS rating has gone from 10 down to 7.

Let me tell you another story: I was an early adopter of Target Process. I had an idea for a feature which I communicated to TP. It was simple and made TP much easier to use (at least for me). They put the suggestion on a site where their customers could vote on the suggestions they liked best, and in each release they implemented a few. In the next release, there was my feature! They may even have skipped the voting process - it was a real win. In fact, in happened so fast, I am not sure they did it for me. But who cares? I spent the next two years telling people about 'my feature' in Target Process and how cool TP was that the reacted so quickly.

A suggestion is an opportunity to delight a customer. A suggestion is an opportunity to win an evangelist.

Since then, I have always encouraged Product Owners to include some 'sweets' for their customers in each release, just so that the customer can proudly point to 'their' features in the product. It does wonders for your customer delight ratings.

When you take the time to make a suggestion, what answer would you to receive? Here's what I would like:
Dear Peter,

Thanks for you suggestion! Delighted customers customers are top priority at Zipcar. I have checked on availability, and we can put your favorite car at a nearby location within 30 days. We'll leave it there for three months, and if the demand justifies it, it can stay there permanently. I hope you enjoy the car!
If you have any further questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Thanks and have a nice day!

Regards, (name)
Zipcar Member Services

You can bet I'd be telling everybody about 'my zipcar' for months there after, and I would be motivated to drive it a lot. If that happened to you, how long would you be singing the praises of Zipcar?

It is anybody listening at Zipcar? Why don't you try that answer again?

Update 28-Feb: Once this article came out on twitter, their DC Office reacted very quickly and with a smile. Within a week, there was a BMW at my nearest location. Thanks, Zipcar!