Travel Needs More Bill Johnson

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“I don’t know how you do this every week” a friend of mine said last night as she sat down next to me at an evening board meeting.  “Its exhausting!”

She was just returning from a two day trip to see a supplier, one of those trips that I believe may still be the exception to the norm in her daily work routine.

Me, on the other hand – I don’t know what to do with myself when I have more than a few days at home strung together in a row.  My life is streamlined for a specific kind of productivity – the kind I catch in small doses in airport lounges, hotel rooms, or 36,000 foot high seats.

I was headed for one of those productive pockets last week when I returned my rental car to Hertz at Los Angeles International Airport.  I had swung off the 405 to grab an early dinner while I waited out traffic so productivity was on my mind when I asked one of their employees if, instead of taking the bus back to the airport and then waiting for a hotel shuttle, if there was a way to grab a ride directly to the airport.  I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask – National at LAX has been known to do that for their frequent travelers.  Sure enough, the gentleman said “let me see what I can do” and then gestured to a colleague and said “go get Bill”.

Less than a minute later, a car pulled up past the rental return lane and a smiling gentleman hopped out to help me with my bags.  Bill Johnson was a ball of energy – in that way that any “high I/extrovert” can appreciate.  On our short drive to the hotel, I learned he had retired from a full career in telecom before deciding to go to work with Hertz.  It was clear that being in front of people and finding a way to solve their problems is his fuel.

The world needs more Bill Johnson.

I have not been overly impressed with Hertz since switching my business over there a few months ago due to corporate preferences.  Perhaps its the fact the cars have all seemed a bit more roughed up than was I was used to with National.  Or it could be helped along by the mediocre experiences I had previously had – cars that didn’t meet my specified reservation, smelly vehicles, and the worst –  one Thursday afternoon at LAX a 21 minute wait for a bus to drive passengers back to the terminal.  The crowd to get on the bus that finally came felt like the last chopper out of Saigon!

But Bill Johnson turned that around for me.  I now at least have hope that Hertz can meet my expectations in the future.  It may be finding the right person or asking for what I really want.  My issue that day was small – I wanted to shave 30 minutes off my evening transfer from car to hotel.  Bill did that for me – and provided some great conversation along the way.

That second part was the “high touch” part of the interaction.  While the first let me know that Hertz could solve my problem, the second let me know that Bill (and by extension of him, Hertz) cared about me as a customer.  That kind of interaction comes down to the type of employees an organization chooses to hire – those who engage positively and enjoy interacting with others.  Hertz is lucky to have a driver like Bill – and should seek to replicate that kind of customer interaction.

My ride to the hotel was too short.  But I’ll rent from Hertz at LAX again – if only for the hope of a few more energetic and inspiring minutes sitting in Bill’s passenger seat.

About Jennifer Moody

Jennifer is a management consultant and avid volunteer. Her career and volunteer duty travels have helped her log top-tier airline and hotel status annually for the last eighteen years. In addition, she embraces the opportunity to maximize her vacation time by planning extracurricular trips that have taken her to over 60 countries and 47.5 US states. Although she averages 200 days a year on the road, she loves to return to “the homestead” in her native Fort Worth, Texas where she enjoys cooking, gardening, sewing, needlepoint, wine, and cocktail mixology.

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