The Power of Agnes

Posted by Julie Glassman on August 3rd, 2011 at 9:47 am

What if I told you that the success of your brand comes down to a woman named Agnes? Would you believe me?

Well, in theory, it does.

I met Agnes this past weekend, in SanFrancisco. She was working the National Car Rental counter at SFO. Why do you care? Because, until I met Agnes, I had no loyalty, to any car rental company, whatsoever. I'd booked a reservation with Payless online, based on a comparison-shopped rate, on Expedia, and nothing more. When I made it to the car rental depot however (which, I have to say, is about 3 miles too far from the Virgin America terminal--but that’s a whole other brand story SFO), I realized that Payless was nowhere close to the airport (where on earth is Brisbane anyway) and that I was a girl, without a car, on Memorial Day weekend, who was already about a year or three late for wine tasting, fine dining and spa treatments in Sonoma.

After considering my rental depot options, I decided to avoid the too long lines at the big name car rental companies like Hertz and Avis; choosing instead the queue less taken at National Car Rental… Normally, as a consumer and brander, my gut would tell me to steer clear of the no name, no line brand. However, as a wanna-be-on-vacationer, this seemed the perfect choice for me.

Enter Agnes.

Agnes. My hero, my angel appeared to me like a dream. The perfect National Car Rental brand steward with the power to make my vacation possible…. or not. A woman with the polish of a true professional; the compassion of a grandmother; the bright smile of a pageant queen; and the sincere promise to do her best to find me a car. She listened intently to my sob story about an exhausted mother, on the verge, in desperate need of a get-away—the couple that had not spent quality time together since the birth of their 5-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter—the agony of a 2-hour flight delay that put that very same, very weary duo two hours behind the perfect Verite Bordeaux and Cowgirl Creamery cheese plate… you get the picture.

Heard, understood, catered to, cajoled, cared for… Agnes booked us a “premium vehicle”, on a holiday weekend, at nearly the same rate as our economy car from the nowhere to be found car rental place. She even let us pick our vehicle, up close and personal, from a long line of cars; allowing us to choose the one we wanted for our soon-to-be adventure in California Wine Country. Who knew a steel-gray Dodge Charger (of all things) was the key to happiness?

My point? Yes I have one thank you very much. Agnes delivered on a brand promise I never knew existed or cared anything about… Car Rentals are car rentals, right? Wrong. Agnes is the National Brand. And who she is, what she represents, and what she did matters very much. Regardless of what their actual positioning may be…  My guess is that it has a lot to do with service, satisfaction, choice, flexibility, and kindness… And, that, my friends, is a brand spot-on in the world of the exhausted, disillusioned, tired of being kicked around traveler.

I lived the National brand ideals and promise through Agnes. The very same tenets, beliefs and behaviors that will make me forever the National Car Rental brand loyalist and will bring back fond memories, every time I book a car… Or embark upon another, endless, 3-mile, godforsaken journey to the SFO car rental terminal.

One Response to “The Power of Agnes”

  1. Steve Curtin says:

    Julie, your testimonial reinforces the truth that a customer's perception of a company/brand's service is influenced more by the one-on-one interaction she has with a frontline hourly employee than the organization's publicized service culture. That's why, regardless of their stellar customer service reputations, brands like Nordstrom and Disney must relentlessly reinforce their service standards in company processes ranging from recruiting to performance management. Bravo to National Car Rental and, of course, to Agnes.

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