NEWPORT NEWS - Jamila Way wonders if good customer service is a thing of the past.

The Newport News resident is moving with her family to Kansas City, Missouri and she reserved a truck and car dolly from Budget. Three days later before she was scheduled to leave, she went to familiarize herself with the equipment. She was stunned when she was told the equipment wasn't available and may not be available later.

'I went on Tuesday to check on my reservation. My reservation was for Friday, so I went way in advance for the time it was expected and they knew at that time it wasn't going to be available. They knew already,' she stated.

Way says she was told to call Budget customer care and the inventory departments, but she said no one could assure her the equipment would be available on her reserved pick-up date.

'Why wouldn't you think that the customer is worth enough to say 'let me get that equipment from where ever and bring it because you made this reservation,''she wondered.

In the meantime, Way had to make other moving plans and, because she didn't have a truck to move, she had to pay to extend the lease at her apartment.

Dr. John Ford, the director of the PhD program for the Business Administration department at Old Dominion University, teaches customer service. He says when customers aren't happy with service, it's imperative that companies try to make things right.

'Why is that customer so important? Because in the future, they will increase the amount that they purchase on average and they will spread the word,' he contends.

Ford says research shows it's five times more expensive to attract a new customer than to keep an old one, so companies are putting more effort into building customer loyalty.

Ford says customers need to realize how much power they have and always speak up if they are not satisfied. If you have a problem, ask to speak to a manager, write a letter or e-mail to corporate about bad experiences. He suggests you take good notes on conversations with customer service agents and always be friendly.

While Way says she wasn't happy with the service from Budget, company spokesperson Alice Pereira says they strive to provide each customer with an outstanding rental experience and that includes making every attempt to have the confirmed truck available when and where each customer has reserved it.

Pereira says the company can't always rely on a preceding renter to return equipment on time.

Budget offered $200 to Ms. Way as a gesture of goodwill.

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