Auto rental disaster has some lessons for Bajan tourism

car_rental barbados

Social media can be deadly for business

Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner - now selling!

Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner – now selling!

Since time immemorial, it has of course always been important to protect a brand. A successful brand not only makes promises, but matches them with consistent delivery. From a tourism perspective, we protect the brand regardless of whether it is an individual hotel, chain, destination or other singular or group entity.

Years ago, it was far more difficult to inflict damage on an image and reputation that could have taken generations to build. Nowadays it can be destroyed in seconds just by using the social media, at absolutely no cost to the customer.

Let me give a small example…

Last June I flew to Boston and collected a hire car from one of the world’s leading vehicle hire companies located close to Logan airport. There were long queues at the agent’s desks and it took nearly an hour to complete any outstanding paperwork even though I am a member of their loyalty programme and had pre-registered most of the information required, like driving license and credit card details.

When we found the car at a numbered bay, it was frankly filthy with badly stained carpets and seats – together with an offensive interior stench that pervaded the vehicle for a full week even though most days the windows were kept wide open.

The sensible thing to have done at that time would have been to return to the office and point out the defects. But, we did not want another prolonged wait, our hotel accommodation was a three hour drive away and it was pouring rain considerably restricting visibility.

Upon our return to Barbados I reported the experience to the Customer Relations headquarters and received an automated response. Months went by and even after sending several reminders by email, nothing more was heard. Eleven months later I was almost ready to forget the issue and had resigned myself  to never (through choice) use the company again even though I had been a regular client for at least two decades.

One more try perhaps – so I posted my displeasure on the company’s FaceBook page. 

Within seconds (literally) a polite and apologetic repose was received, with the added bonus that some upgrade vouchers for future use had been mailed to me. The world may never have witnessed my few ‘internal’ emails, but now it was out there for a large chunk of the FaceBook community globally to view.

And this is how we have to treat tourism today…

Any tardy ill-informed response lacking empathy can do so much damage to the business and by reflection, the destination.

Reputations are valuable assets that need to be guarded, nurtured and managed, every single day of the year.

Not only do ‘we’ have to respond, but equally crucial, we have to be seen to respond. Frankly that is where ‘we’ often fail dismally. It is absolutely critical to monitor negative comments on social networks together with other media outlets and attempt to promulgate at least a balanced and positive point of view.

I would like to finish this week’s column by adapting some words which may accurately reflect the malaise that many feel is enveloping our tourism industry, at this point in time…

It starts with leadership whose role is to inspire, direct and champion change.

Leaders lead by example.


Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism

8 responses to “Auto rental disaster has some lessons for Bajan tourism

  1. Pingback: Auto rental disaster has some lessons for Bajan tourism | Barbados Blog !

  2. 194

    FB is a very powerful tool to use as a last resort . Did it once myself. Like you say the response was almost instant . From Tesco it was.

  3. Iain

    So why don’t you and fellow operators in the Barbados tourism industry set up a “Barbados Tourism Watchdog” facebook page? Let’s have less anger and more action.

  4. Why are the stories backdated? It says 14th June yet here we are with June almost July?

  5. Yatinkiteasy

    I had a similar experience in Puerto Rico with Hertz…. Dirty car. Smelled like dustbin and ashtray. Long wait. Had it changed and replacement would not start at all! The third unit was fine and we left the Hertz yard about one hour later.
    Next trip.. Rented from Thrifty. New car, fast service, and half the price too! They are not in the Airport Terminal, but its only a 5 min bus ride away, and there are less charges because they are not in the Terminal area.
    I had complained to Hertz, about my experience, only to get a standard automated sorry letter. Perhaps I should have put it on FB or TA. I believe that poor customer service and lack of proper response to complaints are the cause of most business failures .

  6. Mia

    It’s sad that many of the service providers here don’t get that. It’s nothing to do with Tourism really, it’s just a crappy service sector on the whole.

  7. BFP

    Hi Ian,

    Robert here. Some of the stories were from when Marcus was sick and then when he passed. Some already had dates on them and others were created but l’tle bro didn’t know how to make them appear. We’re working to straighten everything out in the next days.

  8. Inbox me – my site is same as yours, I can probably help