Stop the Insanity! Avis Did

Insanity is often described as doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different outcome. How is that different than what we've been doing in the email space for the last 10 years? Well, just when I had lost all hope and thought the madness would continue, Avis swooped in and saved me! So, thank you, Avis, for making me smile! 

So here's the setup.  A few years back, I was an Avis Wizard member. I traveled frequently for business to Atlanta and always rented from them. I was with a different company at the time, and since I traveled for business, I used my business email address for my transactions. Fast-forward a few years (and a few jobs), I am still traveling for business but don't rent nearly as often. So my relationship with Avis went stale. 

Recently, I was planning a long family weekend and needed to rent a car (an absolute must when you need to drive around a family of five), so I dug out my old Wizard number and logged in to the Avis site. I browsed, priced and then got busy and forgot to finish it up...saved for another day. This is where the ray of light shines through my window and angels sing...



A few days later, I get a postcard from Avis. It says that the email they sent me bounced and, if I log back in and update my email address, they will email me a free upgrade! Genius! So what did I do? I logged in and updated my email address...three days later, but whatever, I did it.  

I kept that postcard on my desk as a reminder, every day. And guess what? Avis delivered. They emailed me my free upgrade, and I booked my car! I could have easily gone with another provider, but Avis was able to stand out in the crowd and that is something I will remember for a long time to come.

So what can we learn from this? Yes, email is the channel that keeps me working, but I can recognize its shortcomings, and one of them happens to be that if you don't have a good email address you can't message to your customers.  

Avis embraced a true multi-channel opportunity, bridging web, direct mail and email to communicate; leveraging the right mode of communication and in a timely manner that kept the entire experience relevant. I am still beaming about it! 

Thanks Avis. I am inspired!

7 comments about "Stop the Insanity! Avis Did".
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  1. Matt Ruzz from Hiring? Let's talk!, February 3, 2011 at 3:55 p.m.

    What's most impressive about this isn't the great consumer experience Avis created. Or even the multi-channel strategy. What's flat-out awesome is the nuts and bolts of the flawless operational implementation and execution across teams, vendors, agencies, and technologies. Boring stuff for most, but I'm sure many readers of this column have worked on a similar initiative that fails to connect all of the dots for one reason or another, and terminates in a CSV file sitting in someone's inbox waiting to be imported into a system. Succeeding in this multi-channel world requires focus and an unwavering commitment to breakthrough organizational barriers!

  2. Rita from FreshAddress, Inc., February 3, 2011 at 3:57 p.m.

    Isn't it nice to not only be remembered but to know that others miss us? I liked your story! You might also be interested in another method that retailers and others are updating their email records - Email Change of Address, a patented technology.

  3. Roanne Parker, February 3, 2011 at 4:03 p.m.

    That's inspiring. I'm going to send a link to your blog to all of our 450 clients and ask them to call me with their own ideas so we can make this kind of systemic 'common sense' thinking happen for them too in a way that's relevant for them, and able to be tracked and reported.. I would LOVE to know the conversion rate that Avis enjoys from that eDM/DM initiative. Thanks so much for taking the time to share your observations Kara.

  4. Sandy Pochapin from Renewal by Andersen, February 3, 2011 at 4:25 p.m.

    I got the same postcard you did and I thought it was interesting that Avis would spend a lot of money (creative, printing, postage, etc) to collect email addresses when they could do it so much more cheaply utilizing ECOA (Email Change of Address) service. The postcard idea was really cute but somebody is definitely not up-to-date on technology at Avis!

  5. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, February 3, 2011 at 4:53 p.m.

    Nothing. Absolutely nothing can take the place of someone or company that takes the time to say you are important than to drop a line or a card in the mail. Combo time.

  6. Kara Trivunovic from Epsilon, February 4, 2011 at 1:44 p.m.

    This is a terrific program and I agree with Paula that it enhances the experience.

    Sandy, while I see value in ECOA in some situations, I don't agree that it is the only solution to this plight. I would argue that it is more cost effective to retain a customer than to acquire a new one. So the minimal cost to drop a pre-printed post card in the mail, at a time they recognized I have reignited interest as a customer by logging in to my account, is a smart approach. Additionally, I don't think I would have been as apt to engage had they just appended a different email address to my account. There are any of a hundred reasons I could have gone inactive and to just assume that I wanted to continue that relationship could have ended very differently. You know what "they" say about assuming...

    And Matthew, I have to agree. I was skeptical that I would actually get the free-upgrade, but they delivered on all counts. VERY impressive!

    To all others that have commented, thank you! I am glad I could inspire some thought around this topic. I know it inspired me.

  7. Dwight Sholes from Travel Impressions, An American Express Company, February 8, 2011 at 4:40 p.m.

    I think what is important to remember here is not whether ECOA would provide a more efficient means of updating a customer's email address, but the fact that Avis successfully re-engaged Kara as a customer by sending her a postcard in the mail. Just today I received a phone call from another car rental company, Budget, in response to some negative scores I gave them in a satisfaction survey about a rental just last week. The fact that someone was listening and called me to get more information has completely revived my engagement with Budget. (And I don't really care about the discount coupons they promised to send me.) In my case, the technology Budget used (the telephone) was some of the oldest out there, but they were successful in re-engaging me. It isn't about the technology, folks; it's about how people use technology to connect with their customers.

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