Turn Customers Into Raving Fans

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Companies that want to create a lasting bond with customers might look to Enterprise Holdings, the parent company of Enterprise Rent-A-Car, National Car Rental, and Alamo Rent a Car brands, for inspiration. With more than 70,000 employees in 40 countries and annual revenue that exceeded $15 billon last year, the private family business that was started in 1957 continues to see accelerated growth.

Enterprise, which acquired Alamo and National in 2007, tops the charts for customer satisfaction, and was rated highest in airport auto rental satisfaction last year by J.D. Power and Associates. Kirk Kazanjian, marketing and brand expert and author of Driving Loyalty: Turning Every Customer and Employee into a Raving Fan for Your Brand, gave Associate Editor Kelly Liyakasa a few secrets to driving the kind of company culture that focuses on customers and employees foremost, based on his professional relationship with Andrew C. Taylor, chairman and CEO of Enterprise Holdings.

CRM: A major theme of the book is customer loyalty. Why do companies do it wrong?

Kirk Kazanjian: I think a lot of times companies say, "[We] can drive loyalty if [we] just have a loyalty program or...just advertise that we're really great at offering customer service." The problem [occurs when] you don't deliver on that promise. For example, if you start a loyalty program and the rewards from the loyalty program are either very difficult to get or are essentially worthless to the person who's earning these rewards, [the customer is] going to wind up being angry at the end of the day, so it winds up hurting you more than it helps. A big message of the book is before you go out and start any kind of loyalty program or marketing your ability to deliver great customer experience, you have to have the right systems and structure in place, and it really starts at the top. You have to have the commitment of the founder and CEO on down to make sure a customer-centric culture is really job number one.

CRM: What did Enterprise get right in its acquisition execution and what can companies learn?

Kazanjian: One of the things they did and one of the reasons it was so successful was that they decided to leave these three separate brand identities alone. A lot of times what happens is you'll see companies that will merge with another company and they'll absorb that company and become one company. They go with one name and one identity. You see this with airlines all the time. Enterprise said, "Enterprise serves a completely different customer from National, and Alamo serves a completely different customer from Enterprise or National." There are different ways you earn customer loyalty from all of these brands, and rather than eliminating one, they said, "We want to make sure we foster customer loyalty and market to each of these particular audiences."

CRM: Enterprise developed the Enterprise Service Quality index to gauge customer satisfaction based on survey data. How does this relate to employee performance?

Kazanjian: One of the unique things about Enterprise's model is they've been able to tie compensation of employees in with how well [the employees] are at delivering a great customer experience. They created a financial incentive for employees to exceed customer expectations because, when they do, they essentially end up making more money. One of the ways they monitor that is by doing surveys of a random sampling of their customer base or a regular basis. Enterprise has found that surveying by telephone is the most effective way to get feedback. They also keep [the survey] short. They generally ask two to three questions, and they ask [consumers] to rate their service on a scale of one to five, and try to make it as simple as possible. Based on the score that you get from the customer surveys that are done, it really determines not only your compensation [as an employee], but what kinds of promotions you get with the company and so forth.

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