When you reserve a car or a hotel room don't you expect that the car or room you reserved will be there for you when you show up? Seems reasonable. That's the point of a reservation. Takes the risk out of meeting your needs.
Yet on one recent trip I had a reservation for a car and there was no car for me and I had a hotel reservation and there was no room for me. The responses to failing to fulfill their promises to me was widely different.
The Thrifty rental car agent in Jackson, MS shrugged at my printed reservation form, said he had no conrol over this happening and there was nothing he could do. Fortunately an agent at Budget was nearby and called me over to help me get a car.
When I arrived at the Marriott in downtown Jackson at nearly midnight, the check-in person told me the hotel was sold out in spite of the fact that I had a reservation. Two sales reps working independently from each other had overbooked the hotel and the last guest to arrive would be the one without a room.
Before I could recover from my shock, she handed me a letter and directions to another hotel that had a room for me that evening. All costs would be covered by Marriott and she assured me that I would be able to check in early the following day for the remaining 6 nights of my stay. Although I was tired and a bit upset, it was hard to be angry because they provided me with an alternative before I even had to ask.
Every business needs its customers. Mistakes or problems happen, and it's how the business responds to them and serves their customers that makes the final and lasting impression. I will never reserve a car at Thrifty again--EVER. I will put the experience at Marriott behind me and focus instead on my overall excellent experiences in Jackson and at other Marriotts.
Whatever your equivalent is of a reservation, do you ensure that you provide alternatives if meeting the original request isn't possible? Do you think of future sales, purchases or events--indeed of your long-term relationship--or only of the current one?
There are always options, if your value your customers. Look for them, have them in place in advance, and offer them with sincerity. When a reservation may not actually be a reservation, you'll still have a satisfied customer.