Embracing technology

These days, tiny cell phones have hundreds of capabilities, yet there are a surprising number of rental business operators using only the basic features of the technology around them. From your computer system and website to phones and security system, now's a great time to reevaluate how you're using technology.

I've seen the computer system challenges and frustrations some of you are facing. Some of you spend far too much time struggling to extract even the most basic service out of your system. Your computer system shouldn't be a source of continuing frustration. It should help you to make better decisions, save you time, and make you more money.

A few rental computer systems have far more capabilities than most rental business operators are using. While these rental software providers have invested time into adding features, they might need to spend some time making their programs more user friendly.

Some systems are a bit easier to use than others. The degree of sophistication (and ease of use) needed to operate a successful rental business today is forcing rental business operators to consider switching systems.

Cordless phones inside your business could reduce the time it takes to answer the phone and reduce the number of missed calls. It's no use advertising and getting a potential customer to call if you can't get to the phone in time.

New less-obtrusive security systems could replace bars on windows and other security measures to clean up the appearance of your business.

Websites have become an essential part of any business. It might not make sense for you to have a complex online store, but a simple website giving key information can serve you well.

A well-planned, functional site is not as expensive and difficult to develop as you may think. Many (especially younger) customers have become accustomed to finding information online rather than tracking down a phone book or driving to a store to ask questions.

A basic site with information like location, hours of operation and contact info ? as well as a few pictures to show the range and quality of your equipment ? can be a great asset.

Speaking of promoting your business, you should shake up your marketing. Business can change radically, so using the same marketing strategies year after year doesn't make any sense. You shouldn't continue using the same advertising message and same means of keeping the message in front of potential customers. Keep all of your advertising messages fresh.

How do you know which methods of advertising to discontinue and which to attempt? One of the keys to a successful marketing strategy is finding a way to quantify its success so you can do a cost versus benefit analysis. Technology can help. For example, some businesses get a separate phone number for each media outlet and keep a tally of how many calls each one generates.

There can be many benefits in doing things different from how they're being done now. Remember, if you keep trying what you've been doing in the past, it's unlikely that you'll improve your company's results.

Dick Detmer is an expert in the equipment rental industry, as well as an authority in the area of customer service and selling techniques for rental and retail businesses. As the president of Detmer Consulting Inc., he has written monthly and bi-monthly columns for Rental Product News for the last 20 years, and is also the author of a monthly employee newsletter devoted to the subject of customer service and selling excellence. For more information, visit www.detmerconsulting.com.