Few things bother me more than unscrupulous business practices. As a Customer Experience Analyst with decades in the CX industry, I thought I’d seen it all. But a recent experience with Fox Rent a Car showed me a new way to game a customer survey — resulting in ONLY the data they want to see and discarding the rest.
I typically rent with a brand like Avis or Hertz, but Fox’s low advertised prices caught my eye, and I figured on a recent trip, I’d give them a try. The trip went well, and I returned the car at O’Hare airport without any trouble: parking it in its designated spot and handing the keys to a Fox employee at the Fox counter who verbally confirmed that the car was parked where it should be.
That was the end of my interaction with Fox — or so I thought.
Fast forward a few days, and I noticed that my credit card statement included a charge from Fox for $67.21 more than the price listed in the contract.
Confused, I called their 1-800 number, and after lots of dialing number prompts and holding, I finally got in touch with a human. The call center employee informed me that there was a $50 surcharge plus taxes because I’d parked in the wrong lane when returning the car.
This was absolutely incorrect. I had parked in the Fox section of the lot, and the Fox employee had confirmed that my car was parked correctly, I told the woman on the phone.
That’s when things started to go downhill.
A Waiting Game
The employee on the phone promised that she’d investigate my issue and would contact the local Chicago O’Hare office where I had rented the car. But she told me that she couldn’t call the local office; she could only email them, and that I should expect a two-day wait before I would hear back from her.
Although Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876, the invention has apparently not yet reached the Fox Rent a Car at Chicago O’Hare airport.
The Ubiquitous Net Promoter Survey
While I waited to hear back from the woman at Fox’s corporate offices, I received an email from the local O’Hare Operations Manager introducing a Net Promoter Score Survey along with this note:
“We are aiming to get 9’s and 10’s from you on this survey so if your experience was anything but excellent, reach out to me prior to doing the survey so that I may assist you and make the 9 and 10 score deserving for us.”
Th email above is the exact one I received from Fox Rent a Car—nothing has been modified, including the inexplicable yellow highlights.
“Your feedback is important,” claimed the survey.
I held off on filling out the survey and responded to the email with a full explanation of my issue. I expected to hear back from the local office within a day or two.
I followed up with three additional emails to the local office and never heard back.
And despite the call center’s promise to get back to me in two days, I never heard back from them either.
I searched online for the number to the local O’Hare office. Despite trying multiple times, I was never able to contact a human there. Perhaps they really just don’t have a telephone in the office! I tried the online chat option, only to be informed that the chat was closed for the day — at 3:00 p.m. Eastern time!
From Bad to Worse
After four weeks of waiting, the issue was no longer about the initial $67.21 overcharge.
It was about the Fox Rent a Car’s failure to follow through with their promise to get back to me. It was about the local office’s promise to “correct any inefficiencies,” followed by radio silence when I contacted them with my problem. It was not about money; it was about the ethics of the issue.
Finally, in desperation, I decided to use my last piece of leverage and answer their Net Promoter survey with a zero. I clicked on the survey link they’d sent earlier and received this message: “Sorry, this survey is now over. Thank you anyway!”
My jaw dropped.
Fox Rent a Car had just given a clear demonstration on how to game customer surveys and avoid accountability.
How You Can Prevent Survey Gaming
Here’s what Gerardo Bermejo of Europcar Mobility Group, the company that owns Fox Rent a Car, can learn about customer surveys. Other companies can use these tips to prevent customer survey gaming in the first place:
- Don’t close a customer’s survey when an interaction is still in progress. Give a customer the chance to complete the journey with your company before ending their opportunity to give feedback.
- Don’t let associates and operations managers negotiate for and specifically request 9s and 10s.
- By closing customers’ surveys early, you only receive feedback from people who did not have any issues with their experience. And issues can take a few days to surface – I did not know I had a problem until I looked at my credit card statement a few days after my trip had ended. This produces data you can’t trust.
- Don’t let your survey be the ONLY open communication channel with customers – especially if you close it midstream.
Every day, companies send customers billions of surveys, pleading for their feedback. Don’t waste customers’ time or your company’s money on gamed surveys that result in inaccurate and unactionable data. It’s never worth it.
Gerardo Bermejo, are you counting on your customer experience data to make decisions for your company? Do you want objective facts about how your customers are doing, or do you want gamed data that tells a skewed story? It’s time to start improving your customer experience surveys. Here’s a helpful guide.
How Consumers Can Protect Themselves
The experience left me pondering how I could have avoided this situation from the beginning. Here are my takeaways:
- Record everything! Any time a company has your credit card information and can easily add surcharges, be sure to make records. Take photos and record audio and video. If I had taken a photo of the car where I parked it, I would have had proof that I had left it in the correct spot.
- Fill out the survey ASAP. Respond to customer experience surveys quickly and issue the necessary score. Don’t wait, because they may close the survey window before you have a chance to send your feedback.
- Write honest reviews like this one. Too often I think we are overly complacent and decide to give companies a pass for their bad behavior because we don’t want to make a fuss. But it’s the right thing to do if it means someone else will be spared from a horrible customer experience.
- Lastly, stick to trusted brands that care about their reputations, and don’t get seduced by tantalizingly low prices. I typically rent with Avis or Hertz, but Fox’s low prices piqued my curiosity. How bad could it be? Quite bad, actually! Unusually low advertised prices often come at a later cost – like mistaken surcharges and zero corporate accountability.
Fox Car Reviews
By now, I’ve looked at online reviews for Fox Rent a Car and learned that my experience was far from unusual.
Customer reviews accuse the company of being a “criminal organization,” a “poor customer service company,” and a “huge scam” with “horrible business practices.”
Gamed survey data sounds like it’s just one of many things wrong with this company.
It’s been months, and I am still working with United Explorer Chase Credit Card to get this sorted out. Will Chase rectify this situation? Will they have good customer service? Will they send me an objective survey when this is all over? To be determined!
To find out how to run objective surveys, get in touch.