The Challenge

In the “sharing economy,” this car sharing company is rapidly emerging as the leader in the marketplace. You can think of it as Airbnb for cars. Starting from a single location at the Denver airport, they have now opened fifteen airport locations. Expansion is expected to double next year.

This client gives car owners the opportunity to earn cash through sharing. Borrowers get a markedly lower cost, a personally cared-for vehicle, and free damage insurance. A win-win for all. Conceptually it’s a simple idea, connecting car lenders and renters, but the operational logistics can prove more formidable and complex than traditional car rental companies.

As with any nascent industry, customer questions and concerns were more numerous than established businesses. This was a startup in need of comprehensive customer support built from scratch. Everything from general information to reservation systems, renter verification, employee and agent training, conflict resolution, fraud alerts and more needed to be designed, built, tested and optimized.

Maintaining consistency proved to be a monumental challenge. As different locations opened, it was essential that disparities in service, availability and vehicle inventory were minimized. Inconsistency breeds frustration. Irritated customers vent. And the last thing an emerging brand needs is social media sabotage.

Our Insights

An auto sharing company built on a progressive new business model seemed to have as many moving parts as a car itself. It was essential that early adopters wrapped up their first experience with a high degree of customer satisfaction. In a social media world, their advocacy was essential to attract the subsequent, much larger, early majority demographic. Accordingly, a vigorous and accelerated training regimen for all staff, both on-premises and online, was essential.

Continuity was equally critical. An inability to replicate customer experience across all locations or the dissemination of conflicting information from customer care agents could lead to brand confusion, which in turn could depress trial and repeat purchase.

We prepared to address customer questions and concerns as if we were undergoing an interrogation. Clearly, as a startup in an entrenched industry, it was necessary to prepare for a whole new set of inquiries and potential customer grievances. What happens when an owner leaves his car but it remains unrented? What if a vehicle is used for a nefarious purpose? What if a car is not returned at the prescribed time? We considered hundreds of scenarios, both obvious and obscure, and developed thoughtful responses that would culminate in a best-case resolution.

Our Approach

Clearly, with this degree of complexity, we needed a macro enterprise solution, which we ran on a Salesforce CRM platform.  This enabled full integration of all parts of the company—operations plus customer care and support.

We created a CRM ticket system to alert our centralized customer care center so our trained agents could deal directly with customers, creating systematic protocols and managing all customer engagements with absolute professionalism, avoiding escalations and increasing positive outcomes. Breakdowns, towing, theft, damage, ride-share reimbursements and all other negative situations were routed to a highly experienced customer care team, and when necessary, on to the client’s “trust and safety” group.

Our sophisticated ticketing system also addressed the needs of the long-term car lenders—those car owners who allowed the company to rent out vehicles for three to six months. Scheduled maintenance and repairs were catalogued into the system and effortlessly handled to eliminate hassles for the owner.

The system allowed us to track quality control issues on a micro scale as well. All calls were categorized by topic and location, allowing us to determine issues before they became problems. In every instance we were able to quickly identify the specific problem. In one location, poor intake measures led us to the culprit — a parking lot covering that distorted intake photos of scratches or minor damage to vehicles.

And of course we provided all the enhancements you’d expect to deliver the best customer experience possible. Directions to shuttles, airport navigation, questions regarding sharing procedures, points of interest—any and all customer requests across fifteen locations. Our knowledge base was vast, but instantly accessible and agent-friendly. Happy agents and satisfied customers equaled higher revenues.

Harte Hanks handled all customer calls and interactions. If the client was the car body and design, Harte Hanks was the engine.

The Results

In 2019, we began working with the client out of a single location at Denver International Airport. Today we manage customer care and support across fifteen airport locations.

The client has an ambitious goal to double location count next year. They are on track and Harte Hanks is scaling up with them.  We are cascading best practices and HH-developed content across the broader organization.

Our agents have provided the epitome of customer care — so much so, they are often called out in positive reviews by name.

“Noah helped me with a huge issue. I am now a user for life.”

“Toni was very nice, patient and helpful. She is probably the best customer service rep I’ve encountered.”

To better manage growth and costs, we are now in the process of implementing social media management, as well as a robust chat channel with the goal of moving 80% of email to chat. Our chatbot has been developed to embody the client’s brand personality traits—engaging, helpful and empathetic.