The service counter is a challenging place to work and I know your customers don’t expect perfection on every visit. However, I recently had an experience where so many things went wrong that I just had to share — so that it doesn’t replicate at your service counter.

In this instance, I was renting a car and had made the reservation 4 weeks prior. I arrived at the service counter only to find that there were no cars available. It may have been due to lack of training, lack of management support, or just careless employees, but the situation went downhill from there.

Throughout the exchange, the person at the desk gave many excuses, everything from I was late (I wasn’t), to there were no cars available anywhere (there were, because I rented from the desk next to them), to the company going through “growing pains” because of a merger (which happened 4 months previous).

Would the situation have been different if they had simply said, “We overbooked and we’re sorry?” I believe so. It would have moved from an “It’s not my fault” scenario to “How can we fix this?”

A similar situation for dealerships could be the lag time for receiving inventory. Do you know how your sales and service teams are explaining to your customers why their equipment is late? Are you giving them enough training and information so that they don’t have to make lame excuses to placate the customer or protect the dealership’s reputation? If you’re not sure, now’s the time to listen in and make changes.

Spring will soon be here and your reputation will be put to the test as customers are anxious to take ownership of new equipment for the season. For commercial landscapers, it’s important to make a timely first cut to set the tone for professionalism and reliability. And, rural lifestylers will be more than ready to shape up their properties if and when this winter ever comes to an end.

Have a plan in place for what you can do and say if inventory doesn’t arrive when you hoped. You can gather some good ideas from dealers who responded to a related question in our 2014 Dealer Business Trends & Outlook Survey. Results from the survey are in the winter issue, which will be arriving in your mailboxes this week.

Sometimes, the best approach is simple, old-fashioned honesty. Here’s what a dealer in Wisconsin shared:

“We have found customers are very understanding when they are informed up front about delays and accept them. If they are told after a sale that there are going to be delays, they tend to be upset about not being informed.”

Do you have good advice to share regarding how not to under-deliver at the service counter? Share your thoughts below or drop me a note.