I had an important customer service experience a few weeks ago with Thrifty, the car rental company, when I rented a car from them for 3 days in Tallahassee. As I was checking out, the Thrifty employee said to make sure I fill up the car before I return it, and I said I would. During my trip I drove up into Alabama for my meetings, and then back down through southern Georgia before filling up the car with gas and returning it to the Tallahassee airport. I put about 250 miles on the car over the 3 days. When I arrived to return the car, the Thrifty employee checked out the car, noted the mileage and fuel level, and asked me how the car was. I said it was fine. And then he asked me if I filled it up with gas. I looked at him skeptically, as I wasn’t sure if he was kidding or not. I had watched him note the full tank. I said, of course, I did – the tank is on full, and I put a few hundred miles on the car. He then asked me for the fuel receipt.
Let’s stop for a second: I’m the customer, and I’ve told him that I filled up the car with gas. I know there are some people who will rent a car and drive a few miles to their meeting and back and return the car without filling it up, because the tank still says it’s full. However, he knows the miles that I put on the car during my trip, so I would have to have filled it up for it to be on full. I said to him, “Don’t you trust me?” He said, of course, but his company policy is to ask for the receipt. I showed him my receipt, and I suggested that in the future he should really trust the customer. Good relationships are all about trust. So what does this experience say to me about Thrifty, and how much they trust me?
I recently ran across a great quote by Antoine De Saint-Exupery: “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the people to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” In other words, inspire your people and trust that they will figure out the best way to make it happen. Trust is a key characteristic of best in class companies.
Truth Number 6 from The Truth About Leadership (Kouzes and Posner, copyright 2010) is Trust Rules. Keep in mind, in this case the word ‘trust’ is a noun and ‘rules’ is a verb, not the other way around.