As part of our research here at Rental Product News, we perform reader calls, where we coordinate visits with you — rental business owners and managers — to learn more about how you run your operation, choose your equipment for inventory and most importantly, what concerns keep you awake at night.
Reader calls help us to understand your point of view, so we can offer more insightful articles and information. When we coordinate a reader call with a rental business, we always identify who we are and what we’re trying to learn. And when we show up at the rental store at the appointed time and date, usually — not always, but usually — the building is in good shape, the equipment is shiny and all the employees have pressed shirts and their name tags smartly displayed.
We decided to try something different. While everyone on staff has rented equipment at one time or another, we decided this time we would take notes while renting carpet cleaning equipment. We wanted to see the rental transaction from your customer’s point of view — warts and all — and relay the information back to you. This effort was designed to help you get inside the minds of your customers and improve your service. Because this article is meant to point out the good, the bad and the ugly, the names of the rental businesses will be withheld.
The staff that participated in this secret shopping expedition included Dave Davel, publisher of Rental Product News, Jenny Lescohier, editor, Nancy Terrill, national advertising sales, and myself. We visited local independent rental businesses as well as hardware chains in order to gather various rental experiences.
Let’s begin with my visit to a local independent rental business. This single-location store is the only independent rental business in a 45-square-mile area with its only competition being chain hardware stores. I’ve rented various types of equipment, including carpet cleaners, from this business for many years. When I called to make my reservation, the person on the phone was very friendly, but only wanted to know how long I would need the carpet cleaner and my last name. I had to ask how much the rental would be as well as the terms of the rental (What is the rate for four hours? How much for a full day? What happens if I bring it back late? Do you have cleaning chemicals?).
I would have liked to have had more questions asked of me by both the person who answered the phone and the counter person. It felt like I was doing all the asking.
— RPN Secret Shopper
When I went to pick the cleaner up, there was one other customer in the store, but the counter person immediately greeted me. When it was my turn, he asked if I had ever used a machine like the commercial cleaner they rented, and I said I hadn’t. He went quickly through the operation and gave me several tips to make cleaning easier, such as keeping the cord behind me as much as possible. He was ready to go back to the counter and finish signing the contract, however, when I said I would need cleaning chemicals and a stair tool if they had one. If I had truly been a novice, I would have left the store without those add-ons, and I would have been $12.50 richer.
The counter person asked if I needed help loading the unit onto the bed of our pickup truck, which I gladly accepted.
Once home, the carpet cleaner performed very well. While it looked like it had some miles on it, it was clean and very easy to operate. When I began cleaning my stairs, I realized the counter person had never given me instructions on how to “plug” the stair tool into the carpet cleaner. Even though I’ve used this accessory before, it took a minute for me to remember all the points that needed to connect for the stair tool to properly work.
Returning the equipment was uneventful. A different counter person was working and asked how the unit operated. I said it did a fine job, and meant it. My husband unloaded the unit from our truck and a staff person whisked it away.