Returning a rental car is normally a straightforward affair. A guy walks up to the car, points his scanner at a barcode, asks a couple of questions, prints the receipt, hands it to you and you’re on your way. However, my recent customer service experience with Avis at the airport in Munich was radically different.

I pulled my car up in the return line and extracted my luggage.

Car Rental 2

Shortly after, the gentleman in the dark vest approached and addressed me by name, “Mr Illman is it?”, and then put his hand out to shake mine. Of course it’s almost impossible to refuse a handshake, so I reciprocated.

I’ve rented many cars in my lifetime and NEVER has someone in this gentleman’s position ever greeted me with a handshake. It took me completely by surprise and with that one simple gesture, our relationship changed. He went from “service provider” status to “friend” status.

Having disarmed me, he then went on to ask me what I thought of the car and noted my feedback, and after he handed me my receipt, he asked, “Now where are you heading?” I replied, “The BA terminal”, after which he explained in detail where I needed to go.

I walked away thinking that was completely out of the ordinary and so I headed back to ask him if I could photograph him for this blog. He gladly agreed.

Something as simple as a handshake can make an enormous difference to the way customers perceive you. Perhaps there’s an opportunity for you to change the way you interact with your customers.