Zipcar's Philosophy On The Power Of Profuse Apology In The Face Of Customer Complaints

Zipcar's Lesley Mottla shares why you need to accept and own up to problems that crop up when service goes wrong.

"Why did this happen?"

Lesley Mottla, executive VP of product and member experience of Zipcar, knows this question—a question that no business executive wants to hear, but certainly will.

So how do you respond to tough questions when a service has gone wrong? Be frank, according to Mottla, and then work to fix the problem.

Lesley Mottla

"What I try to do is just be very very transparent and honest with them," she says. "I obviously apologize profusely and try to do what I can do to make that situation right."

"My role is to get people together to figure out how to design that problem out of our service. And so I tell them very honestly what I'm going to do about it. If it is a problem that we caused, I acknowledge it."

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9 Comments

  • Katy22

    Has everything been perfect with my Zipcar membership? No. However, I will tell you that by being persistent when something was not handled as I felt it should be, and being polite but firm, I have developed a rather nice ongoing relationship with Zipcar. The rates for me, are oftentimes, comparable as I do not own a vehicle and thus would have to pay additional for insurance. I have found that when I need the car longer than a day, the it is just as expensive as most regular rentals. When I needed a vehicle in Atlanta, Zipcar actually proved to be more expensive, so I was forced to rent with another company for the duration of my visit. I do wish my $50 membership was allowed to rollover. By not having this feature for all the monthly prepaid memberships, it (1) sends a message that a customer spending $50 a month is not as valuable and $50 is not a significant enough amount to the company; (2) it means even if you don't need the car that month, you have to plan something so your money is not wasted. I had to take a taxi to get from one Zipcar to another; I told the rep this, and was informed the only way I could be reimbursed was if I sent them a receipt: mind you, the rep and I were speaking when I called the taxi and while I was in it - and I told her this. So, yes, Zipcar does have some issues, but most companies do. What's important is that they are trying to make things better.

  • Jay Gotlier

    Zipcar sucks. For the two years I was a member, it was one headache after another. Lots of incorrect charges, vehicle reservation changes, and endless hold times when calling customer service. Zipcar was never honest and transparent with me, and they never apologized or made up for their numerous fuck ups. Buyer beware and shop around. Zipcar by far is not the only carsharing company out there. Some of the others offer free memberships, better rates, and better service.

  • With regard to rollovers of credits if you have a $75 plan or higher, did you know that if your reservation goes beyond into the day the credit expires, Zipcar will not consider by default that your reservation was made the day prior to the day of credit expiration? So, in my case, the credit was expiring on the 13th, my reservation went into the 13th, 1 AM. Hence, I was not able to use my credit even if the great bulk of my use was on the 12th.

    My complaint is:

    (1) The lack of disclosure of the use of credits with regard to the expiration date. Zipcar only says "If Beethoven had been a Zipcar member (yeah, we know that's not possible) and he chose a plan with rollover, he wouldn't have to worry about using up all his driving credits during the month."

  • (2) Customer Service strongly implied that it was my fault for not knowing this undisclosed provision of the use of credits.

    I asked to speak to someone who had better sense. Instead of passing me over to another person, she said, "I confirmed that I was correct but we are giving you credit for one more month for $75."

    I commented that she is making me feel that it was still my fault to which she said that she did not say that. She simply said that she confirmed that she was correct in interpreting the use of credits - that the use should not go into the day the credit expires. The call could have been better handled. Zipcar appears to have neglected training their front office.

  • If there were a competitor of Zipcar in my area, I would open an account with the competitor. Zipcar's policies are undisclosed and unfair in application. One has to get angry and complain and have the good sense to appeal. There are comments on the internet on the need to complaint, e.g. the car was damaged after it was returned in tact but the person was charged $750 for unreported damages (NYTimes, January 2011, Steven). This complaint process appears to be part of their business model given the accompanying lack of disclosure.

  • Kevin 'Demortes' Dethlefs

    Their rates seem to be just in line with Enterprise and the like... Enterprise looks at the car before you, cleans it before you and makes sure gas levels are at the proper amounts... I like the idea of rent by the hour stuff, but eh? Too many things that can go wrong with picking up a random car.

  • Eugene Kim

    I cancelled my zipcar membership two years ago because of their lack of service. I never received this profuse apology that she is referring to.

  • RuinedByAvis

    Zipcar just tried to scam me for damage to a car I rented from them two months after the rental!