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Hertz Doesn’t Hurt: Why Your Customer Experience Matters -

Sometimes being a process improvement expert is a curse, especially when you’re the customer receiving bad service from an organization. In the midst of experiencing the bad service, do you ever start to analyze why the process is so poorly designed?

I want to share a story from my own experience that contrasts two process designs delivering the same product. The process is: rental car pickup. One of these processes has Non-Value Added (NVA) steps. NVA steps are steps that customers don’t care about, that don’t deliver value. The other process has mostly Value Added (VA) steps. Value Added steps are steps that a customer is willing to pay for and are valued by the customer.

NVA steps are steps that customers don’t care about, that don’t deliver value.

I will refer to these two rental car companies as Hertz and Company B. An important fact to know, is that I have frequent renter status with both companies. So, the processes I experience are designed for their most frequent users. Let’s keep that in mind.

The process for placing an online reservation is relatively simple and easy for both companies. But that is where things stop looking the same. Let’s go through the good process first. The good process is with Hertz. Ironically, Hertz doesn’t hurt when it comes to renting cars!

Ironically, Hertz doesn’t hurt when it comes to renting cars!

Comparing Car Rental Processes

Hertz’s Process Doesn’t Hurt

When I arrive at Hertz, My name’s in lights! I walk to the car. The trunk is usually popped and if it’s a summer in Phoenix, they turn the air conditioning on! Wow, that is a delighter! Next, I throw my luggage in the trunk, get in the car, drive to the exit, show my ID, and drive out.

So, let’s process map this:Hertz Process Map

All of this consistently happens in about 10 minutes. The process is very predictable, and I can dictate very easily what time I will arrive at my client location. Especially if I’m flying into a city earlier that day and the client is my first stop.

Company B’s Painful Process

Now, let’s walk through Company B’s process. You have probably guessed, with the anonymously assigned name, that this process is more painful and contains Non-Value Added (NVA) steps that customers don’t care about.

When I arrive at Company B, I wait in the VIP line. Is that an oxymoron? A line for VIPs? They don’t go together. At Company B, this line is my first unpredictable variable that affects my cycle time. I never know how long it will take to get the rental car keys until I arrive and see the line. I might wait behind 1 person or 20.

When I get to the front of this line, they ask for my ID and credit card. They print a contract that is six pages long. I have to sign in six different places. I often think to myself, “I wonder why Hertz doesn’t make me do this?” Somehow Hertz figured out a better way to get what they need without causing more work on my part. Once I sign the contract, I get a copy of the contract. Then, they hand me a piece of paper with a picture of a car on it.

Guess what I have to do with this? I have to check the car for damage. If there is damage, I have to mark it on the car picture and then wait in line to turn it in. Great. I’m praying that I don’t find any dents so I don’t have to wait in the VIP line, because then I’m really delayed. Annoying!

Now I put my luggage in the trunk and drive to the exit. But, before I leave the lot, I have to pull out my ID again to verify that it’s me, again. In small Company B locations, I’m showing my ID to the same guy that checked my ID to get my contract! Well, at least he’s following the standard process. Finally, I get to leave! We’ll take a look at this process with the Non-Value Added Steps in red.

NVA Process Map -
Company B’s process has more NVA steps in it than Hertz:

  • Wait in line
  • Pull out my ID and credit card
  • Sign a contract
  • Open the trunk
  • Check the car for dents
  • Show ID (for the second time!)

I don’t care about most of these steps! They are Non-Value Added to me. Hertz has managed to eliminate these NVA steps from their process. I wonder when Company B will?

Not only is there a lot of NVA activity, there is lots of variability in Company B’s process, so picking up my rental car can take anywhere from 10-30 minutes instead of 10 minutes consistently with Hertz.

When I was at Hertz once, I asked a worker there, “How come you don’t make me check the car for dents?” The worker said, “We don’t rent dented cars to customers.” Oh, that makes a lot of sense. I wonder what Hertz does with their dented cars? Apparently, they are sending them to Company B!

I wonder what Hertz does with their dented cars? Apparently, they are sending them to Company B!

These two companies deliver the same service, but the steps and processes are very different. One is designed to deliver as much value as possible. Thanks Hertz!

The other process was designed for someone else’s requirements. Thumbs down Company B!

How Are Your Processes Designed?

So now let’s reflect on your own organization’s processes. Are your processes designed to maximize value to the customer? Or are there NVA steps in the process that annoy or bug customers? Tools like the Value Cycle Time Analysis template makes it easy to assess any process.

Here’s a call to action: Be innovative about minimizing, reducing, or eliminating NVA steps from out of your processes. If you do that, your customers will be happier, and employees spend less time on wasteful NVA activities.

Tracy O'Rourke

Tracy is a Managing Partner at, the co-author of The Problem-Solver’s Toolkit and co-host of the Just-in-Time Cafe. She is also a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Instructor at UC San Diego and teaches in San Diego State University’s Lean Enterprise Program. For almost 20 years, she has helped leading organizations like Washington State, Charles Schwab and GE build problem-solving muscles.