What's your excuse?


We headed down to Hilton Head, South Carolina for the last vacation before school starts, but when we booked our trip we didn't realize that South Carolina was the only state that the Eclipse would appear in its totality.  So, when we arrived at the airport and proceeded to our rental car counter we had no idea what was in store for us. As a Preferred Avis loyalty member we are accustomed to whizzing into our car and driving out of the airport. Nice and easy, right? Well not this time. 

First, this particular Avis location does not have preferred service where you proceed directly to your car; but there is a designated line where they have your car rental agreement and keys waiting and ready to go.  Well, our agreement was there, but no keys.  As the representative was waiting on me, it became clear that there was a shortage of cars.  She assured me there was a car for my family, but because of the Eclipse they were sold out and having a hard time turning the cars around as needed.  She asked us to wait and she'd let us know when to go and get our keys and car.  There was a gentleman that was waited on behind me and he too was waiting for the "high" sign that would indicate that our cars were ready.  I asked if he were Preferred and he said yes. He also voluntarily shared that he never experienced this before. Meanwhile, the customer service person overheard us talking explained once again that they couldn't help it. It's not their fault it's "the Eclipse."

The last Eclipse like this was 99 years ago; so, they knew this one was coming.  It didn't take the world by surprise.  When once in a lifetime world events happen in your business path you best get prepared.  To think you can handle the situation like Christmas or Thanksgiving minimizes the largess of the event.  You not only want to optimize revenues but maintain your customer service levels and protect the integrity of your brand.  Customers are rarely forgiving even if they are loyal.  Customers just want what they want when they want it; and, figure since they paid for it they should get it - no excuses.  

So, while you might not have made excuses about the Eclipse, think back about the last excuse you made to a customer about why your business didn't deliver.  We, of course, knew that the Eclipse was happening later that day but what's that got to do with us not getting our car rental that we booked a month ago?

Customers don't care but here's some tips for Avis or any business facing an external activity that has the potential to compromise your customer service:

  • Get ready and adjust processes for that day
  • Alert customers who might be affected when they book the reservation
  • Remind customers the day before that there might be delays through the volume of Eclipse watchers 
  • If you're face to face thank the customer for their loyalty, reiterate what's happening but don't use it as an excuse 
  • Send them a follow up thanking them, apologizing if the customers experienced delay

So, the next time you're explaining to a customer why they aren't getting "whatever", stop, change the conversation to why you value them, why their loyalty is important to you and your business, and why you will continue to work hard to earn their business.  By the way, viewing the Eclipse (and our vacation) was an amazing and memorable experience, very much worth the wait!


Sonya Ruff Jarvis, is the Managing Member of Jarvis Consultants and Founder of the eRetailer Summit. Sonya has extensive experience in creating original innovative solutions to overcome major business challenges.  Sonya has spent most of her career visiting headquarters across global industries and has built strong business relationships across diverse brands. 

Sonya has a M.B.A. in Marketing. She is married and has a daughter and they live in Fairfield County Connecticut.