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Win Customers With Writing

Can you imagine a rental car agency earning customer loyalty through writing? It happened on Sunday.

I flew into Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on my way to teach business writing to sales managers in north suburban Chicago. After baggage claim, I was off to pick up my rental car. I usually find this a difficult experience because (1) the car will be one I have never driven, with bells and whistles in unfamiliar places and (2) when I leave the parking lot, I will be an accident waiting to happen because I will not know exactly where I am going.

But Enterprise Rent-a-Car eliminated both those challenges.

First, they eliminated the challenge that has nothing to do with writing. Without my asking, the rental agent walked with me to the car (a 2007 Buick) and showed me all the relevant features–lights, windshield wipers, trunk latch, etc.–so I would have no difficulty handling this new car.

Second (this is the one that has to do with writing), the agent handed me a page of directions that told me exactly where to go on my travels:

Did I want the north suburbs and Wisconsin? Then I should turn left out of the parking lot to Mannheim Road and . . . .

Did I want the south suburbs, going toward Indiana? Then I should turn left out of the parking lot and . . . .

Did I want the far southwest suburbs? Then I should follow the directions for 294 south.

There were 11 such choices on the neatly typed page.

In all the times I have rented a car, I have never before received a piece of paper that spelled out my options. Often I have received a map, but the map has never told me where to turn when I leave the parking lot. Usually I have had a kind but hurried rental agent wave an arm and point a finger to give me directions. These directions have nearly always been unsatisfactory.

The title of this post is “Win Customers With Writing.” I chose it because Enterprise won me over with its written directions. More than that, a couple riding in the Enterprise airport shuttle (on my way home on Tuesday) told me that they too had liked the directions and would use Enterprise again.

Now it is your turn: Find inspiration in this Enterprise story. Think of something you can write that will win over your customers and clients. Then write it. It may make all the difference in someone’s travels or in the future of your business.

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

3 comments on “Win Customers With Writing”

  • My name is Jeremy Lande and I am the manager of this Enterprise Rent-A-Car. This is what we strive for EVERYDAY to make sure our customers can leave COMPLETLEY SATISFIED.

    I want to recognize the employee that helped you out. The rental did not seem to be under your name. Do you remember who helped you?

  • Sorry, Jeremy. I don’t remember that far back, but the rental should have been under my name. Why not just share this blog post with the entire team? Maybe they are all doing it!


  • Hi, this article inspired me a lot, I got some fresh idea’s about my future customers. Thanks, it’s really very helpful.
    TITLE: Win customers with writing
    BLOG NAME: Manage Your Writing
    DATE: 08/06/2006 07:45:38 PM
    At her Business Writing blog, Lynn Gaertner-Johnston, reports being given by Enterprise Rent-A-Car an extraordinarily effective piece of writing: a set of unusually clear directions on leaving the O’Hare lot and getting to any of eleven popular destina…

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