Customer Experience Case Study: PHX Rental Car Edition

Last week, I had the pleasure of traveling to Phoenix for work and always have a good time there.  It was wildly hot, but definitely worth it.  Just about the only downside I see with any trip to PHX is the inevitable cluster that is the rental car process.

Let me start out by saying I generally have relatively minimal expectations for these types of experiences.  I’m not a very demanding consumer when it comes to the logistics of obtaining a rental and navigating navigating the process at airport XYZ.  I understand that there are many factors that fall outside of their control (land availability/price, volume of transactions, weather, etc), and usually chalk it up as something that will add a 15-20 minute tax on my trip both ways coming and going.

Sky Harbor airport in Phoenix though?  30 minutes.  MINIMUM.  I’ve even had times that it took 1 hour from the moment I got off the highway airport exit returning my car to when I was getting in the security line at the actual airport.  Absolutely nuts!  It’s basically like you pass the airport – “Oh hey, there it is, we’re pretty close!” – and then a calamity of errors and awful processes will make you want to just walk the rest of the way.  The car compound is at least 5 minutes past the airport (if you drive quickly) and only reachable by awful access roads.  Once you’re in line to return your vehicle, every agency I’ve tried has a maximum of two employees working to check cars back in (mind you – there is a constant traffic of about three new cars coming in every couple minutes – you do the math).  After that, you’re at the mercy of the shuttle buses to get back to the airport.  Those things have no predefined schedule but I swear I’ve waited outside in 110 degree heat for at least 20 minutes for a bus.  Last week I saw four Terminal 4 buses come by before I saw one Terminal 3 (of course, my terminal).  Then, it’s 10 minutes back to the airport drop off location because the bus drives 5 miles per hour.

You get the idea.  Listen, I’m no Customer Experience expert by any means.  But I do understand the do’s and don’ts of it.  And the airport rental car process at PHX Sky Harbor is a total mess.  Shame on them.  But, you know what?  They’re the only option.  So I doubt it’s changing any time soon.

Til Next Time,


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