Avis e-mails to an unhappy customer: From flawed to perfect?

E-Mail from AvisWell, maybe not perfect, but much better. After my friend Steve’s abysmal car rental experience with Avis, he gladly completed an online customer satisfaction survey. He wanted Avis to know he was a most disappointed customer. Little did he know that he was about to become a more disappointed customer.

First e-mail from Avis: Lots of errors!
Here’s the e-mail Steve received after he submitted his survey.

From: Smith, Ms. Anne <anne@budgetgroup.com>
To: SteveJones@aabbcc.com
Subject: Your feedback about your recent rental (Reference: -123456789)

Thank you for taking the recent survey from your past rental.  I appreciate your feedback; it helps us serve our customers better. I sincerely apologies for you not being satisfied with your rental car experience, at your convenience if you have need to further discuss any other items or any future rental needs; you may reach me at 860 627 3700 ext 1234 or email asmith@budgetgroup.com

Yours truly,

Anne Smith

Oooh, Anne, you have got to proofread before you send. Your second sentence is OK, but all the others contain errors:

  • Write about your past rental not from your past rental.
  • Change apologies to apologize.
  • Brush up on your punctuation. You’re misusing the comma and the semicolon.
  • Tighten your wording. You wrote if you have need to further discuss any other items when to discuss any other items would do..


Second e-mail from Avis: Trying harder!

This e-mail is much better:

  • Personal. It uses Steve’s name twice and the pronoun we several times. It restates exactly where and when he had his unsatisfying experience.
  • Positive. Avis assumes it can keep Steve’s business and that he will book another Avis car. The e-mail uses phrases like look forward and your next experience.
  • Proofread. In contrast to the first e-mail, this writer has spelled and punctuated correctly.

On the you-might-want-to-rethink-that list:

  • The banner photo is odd, just odd. I am not sure what Avis is trying to convey by pairing the words We Apologize with a shiny black Chevy, but I am pretty sure Chevy won’t be happy.
  • We’re in the business of treating people like people. As opposed to what?.

I’m interested in your thoughts. What do you think would be the effect of the first, flawed e-mail on an unhappy customer? In your opinion, does the second e-mail’s offer of an upgrade, $10 coupon, or bonus award miles offset the damage done by the first one?

Comments

The first email sounds like an insincere apology, and it makes me think about how annoyed I am--and whether I want to call Anne and give her a piece of my mind. The second email should come FIRST. It feels like I've been heard and yet it doesn't allow me to call or email a real person with questions or complaints. Also, the image of the car makes it look like the car is apologizing or that they're too afraid to face me. I don't expect a stock photo of a person, just the AVIS logo would do. But don't push a shiny new car at me - is it supposed to distract me from my feelings of irritation?

Posted by: Colleen | January 17, 2012 at 11:59:37am

Customer service reps who respond to these complaints are poorly paid non-copywriters, and many even have English as their second language. Not to excuse the poor quality of the e-mails, but I know from experience most customer service reps who respond to customer complaints at this level receive very little guidance, and there is usually no one checking quality on these types of exchanges. Often, the folks in charge of monitoring these channels don't know any better themselves. Until companies realize that their customer service folks are in the front line with regard to their customers, they will continue to try to do these things as cheaply as possible. You see the result. The second e-mail is obviously a template that has been written by someone a little higher up on the food chain, as it is supposed to be from a “Director”. It’s no doubt been vetted by some managers somewhere, a rep from the legal department, and even a brand person. It is an improvement on the first, even though it too has flaws. I guess the main thing I want to say is--don't blame Anne Smith.

Posted by: Pat | January 17, 2012 at 02:38:30pm

If I received the second email, I'd feel like I was being bought off. The "Our gift to you" is too stock; adding wording like, although we can't undo the mistake, please accept one of the following as or way of saying "Sorry, we'll try not to let it happen again." And why can't They be consistent and say "Terms and conditions apply" under both offers.

Posted by: Rob | January 17, 2012 at 03:00:14pm

In response to the question about why the two phrases about Terms and Conditions are different, it looks the one below the body copy is a link that takes people to the T&C, but on the right, they are just calling out that there are terms and conditions for the items above, so it's just informative. They serve different purposes, so perhaps the different wording.

Posted by: Pat | January 17, 2012 at 03:52:50pm

I am very unhappy with AVIS. I rented a vehicle from them at the Minneapolis Airport on Friday, August 8, 2014. We prepaid for an economy car. When we arrived, the representative had upgraded us to the full sized, most expensive. An addition, they have not re-credited/returned my $100.00 deposit.

Posted by: Eric Mathews | August 13, 2014 at 03:49:18pm

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