What´s this problem with manual transmission cars?

An American tourist at Keflavik Airport called the car rental company. He was extremely unhappy with the car he was driving. He claimed he had requested a car with an automatic transmission but had been given one that was manual. As a result he was having problems driving. In addition he had been charged twice when he booked the car online and had to both call and send emails in order to have the matter sorted. Upon checking, the car rental employee sees in his records a car with an automatic transmission had actually been requested. He could feel himself panicking. He wasn´t sure whether a mistake was made when filling out the form or somewhere else in the booking process. The customer was insistent and angry and called numerous times to see what was being done. This served only to interrupt the employee in his effort to find a speedy solution. The customer said that he intended to contact the car rental´s customer service department the following day and complain. The employee carefully checked to see if it were possible to get a car with an automatic transmission in a cheaper category. It wasn´t, He then decided to upgrade the car but at no extra cost.


Was the customer satisfied with the solution offered? What can be done in situations where the customer is still dissatisfied? Name three useful things that could have been done to calm the customer? How could the car rental employee exceed the customer´s expectations? What sort of attitude do staff have to adopt when dealing with this type of customer?

There´s only one first impression!

Jóna needed to fly to a town in Iceland on business and had booked a car rental for when she got there. When she landed she went straight to the car rental to collect the car. Inside the office the state of the place reminded her of some back street café, dirty cups were on every table. Four well dressed employees were behind the counter, all chewing gum. Two were in a lively discussion and another was staring at a computer screen. The fourth individual addressed Jóna without looking up or approaching her. She immediately got the impression that he considered her a nuisance, which annoyed her. She walked over to him and said in a decisive tone: “Excuse me, could you help me?” The man silently stood up and said, “Just a second” and then walked away. Frustrated, Jóna looked around to catch someone´s attention.


What impression does “tidiness” in the workplace have on a guest or customer? How do people look when they are annoyed? Could you demonstrate? Act out the interaction between the people in this case. What sort of impression does the reception in this case have on a customer? How should Jóna interpret the response “Just a second”?

At your service!

There was an element of suspicion in the expression of the car rental employee who greeted Jóna. He neither went over the contract nor told her when the car should be returned. He did however carefully run through the insurance side of things. He didn´t make any mention that she could upgrade the car and insurance. Damage to the car he only showed her on paper, which he kept. He quickly added, “Here’s some damage, if you spot something more then let us know so we don’t charge you for it. The car is a Volkswagen Polo and should be parked by the petrol tank.” As he turned to leave he added, “You shouldn’t have any problem finding it.” Jóna couldn´t find the car despite the directions given. Rather embarrassed, she went back to the office. The employee looked at the tag on the key and told her the car was brown, adding that usually people had no problem finding their car. He went out and Jóna followed. He handed her the key when he could point to the car, which was about 20 meters away. He walked off without saying goodbye. One could see the disappointment on Jóna´s face.


How many instances concerning communication between customer and employee need to be improved in this case? What do you think Jóna´s opinion of the car rental company is after this experience? Consider this case, first from the car rental employee’s point of view, and then from Jóna´s. Why do you think the car rental employee behaves like he does? How does the customer detect an element of suspicion in the employee´s expression? Try it.

Cars only for the slim and agile?

As she approached the car Jóna immediately noticed that it was spotlessly clean. However it was parked in such a way that Jóna, who´s of average build, couldn´t open the driver´s door without banging it against the car parked beside it. She had to get in the passenger´s side and climb over the gear stick. The driver´s seat was in the most forward position so it was with considerable difficulty that Jóna could adjust it and sit down. She turned the ignition key and the radio blasted music at full volume. Jóna was startled but managed to turn it down.


What would have happened if Jóna hadn’t been so agile? • What would have been the situation if Jóna had been a tall Dutch person? What effect could a radio suddenly blasting at full volume have under these circumstances? How would you rate expression and the communication of information in this workplace?

Not my problem!

Jóna noticed that there was a warning light blinking on the dashboard of her rental car. It caused her some concern. She parked the car in front of the car rental office and popped inside to ask about the matter. Jóna could sense that the employee was irritated when she asked him to come outside and have a look. He dismissed her concern by saying that most likely it was a sensor indicating that the tyre pressure was low. With a superior air, he walked around the car and kicked each tyre and then said: “The garage will check it out later.” He then went inside without even bidding her goodbye. Once inside the office, his boss sarcastically asked what problem he had now managed to create.


What does the phrase “the garage will check it out later” tell us as to service? What sort of a business potential do you think this car rental company has with such an employee and manager on its staff? What does this case study tell us about showing respect in human interaction? How do you think Jóna feels as she drives off? How do think the manager and the employee feel in this work place? Act out the employee as he displays his self confidence, superiority or sarcasm.

Staying calm when dealing with a difficult guest

A Spanish visitor driving a seven-man car rental has an accident and the car is no longer road worthy. No seven-man vehicle is available until after 5-6 hours. The guest is stressed and bad tempered and vents his anger on the employee: “It’s totally unacceptable that when one needs a solution here you do nothing!” The employee grits his teeth and his shoulders stiffen. Nevertheless, in a calm and sincere tone he answers: “Do I understand you correctly that you’re dissatisfied because as yet no solution has been found? I can appreciate that you’re upset. I also can get frustrated when there are no immediate solutions. There’s no seven-man car available right now, but I can offer you two smaller cars, if that helps.” The customer shouts: “There’s only one driver!” The employee then enquirers in a sarcastic tone: “What suggestion do you have as to a solution and how long do you think it’ll take to find it?”


Why does the employee ask: “What suggestion do you have as to a solution and how long do you think it’ll take to find it?” Why do you think special mention is made about the employee being calm yet sincere? What aspects of the employee’s behavior and choice of words might provoke the customer? What effect do you think the employee’s last question will have on the customer?

Calming an angry customer

An angry customer stormed into the car rental office. I immediately noticed him and was somewhat uneasy because my colleagues nearby were enjoying a good laugh about the latest suggestion for the annual staff outing. Once the customer had vented his anger I invited him into the office off the reception area. There it would be possible to talk privately and find a solution. I offered him coffee and a chocolate, which to my surprise he accepted. We sat down and I started to ask him some questions. I repeated what he had told me and asked him to verify that I had correctly understood what he had said. This technique worked perfectly and we finally were able to find a solution to the problem. Before long we were laughing together. As he left the office he apologized for how angry he’d been.


What might have been the reason for the customer initially being so upset? Why was the customer invited into the office off the reception area? Why was the employee nervous about his colleagues laughing? What purpose did it serve to invite the customer into the back office? Name more than one. Go over the case and identify what it was that resulted in the problem having a positive outcome. What did the employee do that had the most influence on how the problem was sorted out? Support your answer.

An inferiority complex, bullying or … ?

When I was a university student I worked for a small company and got a permanent job there when I graduated. My boss had far less education than myself but had considerably more job experience and was 10 years older than me. We got on well together and the atmosphere at work was good. However once I graduated from university it was like everything changed. At the time I was in my twenties and couldn’t quite understand why I no longer felt comfortable at work. I also found that my boss didn’t trust me as he had done before. By nature I’m very honest and certainly not used to being distrusted. Little by little projects were quietly taken from me and I wasn’t asked to attend meetings. I was suddenly denied access to various information. I discussed this matter with the personnel manager but got no real response or explanation. I heard that my colleagues had become aware of what was happening and were very unhappy. Things went on like this for six months. Eventually I found another job. However this experience certainly affected me in a negative way. This incident left a bad taste in my mouth. Thirty years later I came across a brochure from the Administration of Occupational Safety and Health in Iceland (AOSH) entitled: Bullying, Harassment and Violence Should Never Be Tolerated in the Workplace. It was then that I finally understood the reasons behind my boss’s behaviour many years previously.


What could the employee have done? What could his colleagues have done in this situation? What effect does such behavior have on an employee’s confidence? What effect does this kind of behavior have on workplace morale and production in a company? What sort of information and help is available to workers finding themselves in such a situation?

A willingness to help

We were both hungry and tired when we collected our car rental at the airport. At first glance it appeared the staff weren’t too happy to see us – all of them seemed busy doing something else than dealing with customers. However the atmosphere quickly changed when one of the staff greeted us with a warm smile. He enquirer as to where we were going and provided us with a map showing us how to get to our destination and gave information as to traffic and weather conditions. At this point his colleagues were having a lively conversation among themselves. We asked if there was a reasonable restaurant nearby. He seemed surprised at first but quickly understood. He said there was one in the neighborhood and that he could call and see if they had a table free. He walked us to our car, assisted us with putting the luggage in the boot, showed us how to use the GPS, punched in the address of the restaurant and pointed out what radio station was in English.


Why did the couple feel they were not welcome when they entered the car rental office? What effect does it have when a customer senses that staff are ready to do everything for them? List all the things that exceeded the customers´ expectations. What effect does it have when over an extended period the work load ends up being taken care of by the same employees? Car Rental

Safety is everybody´s concern!

John was in Iceland for a business meeting in winter and needed to fly to a location out in the country. He went straight to the car rental desk on his arrival. He asked a well-dressed but clearly stressed uniformed employee the best way to get to his destination. The employee was able to give clear instructions. The car was spotlessly clean, a new model and easy to locate. It was also easy to follow the route instructions given by the employee. After the meeting when John intended to go to the airport, there was a problem. There had been sleet followed by frost. When John got in the car the front windscreen had a layer of frozen ice on it. It was getting dark as John searched for the scraper in the car. However no scraper was to be found and there was only an hour until his flight left! The people John had been meeting with were all gone and so there was nobody he could borrow a scraper from. He managed to loosen the wipers and used a lot of anti-freeze to melt the ice on the windscreen. All of this took time before he could eventually drive off. Because he was pressed for time he took the chance of driving with just a small gap on the windscreen to see through. When he got to the airport there was only a box where to drop off the car keys, so there was no way to inform the company about the problems he’d encountered and that the car needed a scraper.


  • How would you describe John´s experience of the service provided?
  • What was John´s opinion of the car rental company after this experience?
  • How did the customer sense that the employee was stressed?
  • What does this example tell us about quality control?
  • What effect could this oversight have on the company and/or thecustomer?

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