What Customers Want

Do you remember the movie, "What Women Want," starring Mel Gibson, in which Gibson could hear the unspoken thoughts, needs and desires of women? Wouldn't it be very helpful to hear your customer's unspoken thoughts concerning your equipment, employees, facility, policies and procedures?

Most customers and prospects will not verbally volunteer solutions to their future needs beyond an initial question, such as "Do you have a widget to rent?"

There's real value in customer feedback.

A great tool to use is the "customer comment & suggestion card" system, which has many benefits. There are a number of keys to successfully design and implement this tool, so get some advice before you put one of these systems together for your company.

One of the not-so-obvious benefits of these systems is showing customers that you care and value their input. Another hidden benefit is that employees see what they say, how they say it, what they do — and don't do — are all being observed (and evaluated) by more than just their supervisor. This can result in more consistent follow through on the training they receive. For these reasons alone, even if you don't receive a large number of completed comment and suggestion cards, it's worth doing.

Here are a few thoughts:

  • Implement and use a customer feedback system on a regular basis. Don't just try it once and stop. Discontinuing sends the wrong message to your employees.
  • Train your employees to express interest in your customers' needs. (I highly recommend on-site counter personnel training.) Use the comments obtained from the card to reinforce training objectives.
  • Make it brief and easy. Customers will express their opinions and suggestions, but not if it takes too much time.
  • Train employees to use the "missed rental" log. When prospects ask for items you don't stock, be sure this valuable information is documented.

Use the feedback to make changes. Be eager to make changes. Plan now for the future by anticipating what the needs of your customers will be next year and even further into the future. Be willing to change what you are renting and how you're renting it. Recently I made a trip to Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry to view a new exhibit featuring the inventions of Leonardo da Vinci. As you probably know, he designed myriad inventions in the late 1400s that are now in practical use, including a parachute, combat tank and flying machine. Did you know, however, that he anticipated the need for and designed a trenching machine and an excavator?

Additionally, the secret codes that he invented had little to do with the recent "The Da Vinci Code" book or movie. Since he lived before patent and copyright laws, he needed a way to keep competitors from stealing his ideas. On the subjects of dealing with competitors and embracing change, Leonardo da Vinci wrote, "Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else. The trick is the doing something else."

Getting customer comment card feedback is another clue to help you decipher the code of what customers want, so you can make the changes and remain different from your competitors.

Dick Detmer is a nationally recognized consultant, lecturer and writer and has 35 years of experience in the equipment rental industry. He is the author of "The Guide to Great Customer Service" as well as "A Practical Guide to Working in an Equipment Business." For consulting, on-site employee training or to order books, visit www.detmerconsulting.com. Dick can be contacted at dick@detmerconsulting.com or (309) 781-3451.

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